Tierverhaltensforscherin Prof. Margaret Crofoot
Tierverhaltensforscherin Prof. Margaret Crofoot

Humboldt Professorship for M. C. Crofoot

University of Konstanz secures Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for its Collective Behaviour research area

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has awarded a prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Professorship to the University of Konstanz for the internationally acclaimed animal behaviour expert Professor Margaret C. Crofoot, PhD, a pioneer in the data-based analysis of collective animal behaviour. With five million euros, the Humboldt Professorship is the highest endowed research award in Germany. Its objective is to inspire international top-level researchers to carry out their research at German universities and to provide them with financial incentives for selecting Germany. Now that Margaret C. Crofoot has received the Humboldt Professorship offer, she has eight months to decide whether or not to accept this distinguished position. During this time period she will go through a professional appointment process at the University of Konstanz.

“The Humboldt Professorship for Margaret C. Crofoot represents a major success for one of our university’s key research and teaching areas, namely Collective Behaviour, which is dedicated to the data-based analysis of collective decision-making processes. In collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, we are in the process of creating a cutting-edge international research facility to further advance research in this field, the ‘Centre for Visual Computing of Collectives’. With Margaret C. Crofoot on board, we would achieve our goal of bringing together pioneering Collective Behaviour experts from the fields of Biology, Computer Science, Behavioural Economics and Behavioural Psychology as well as the Social and Decision Sciences”, says Professor Ulrich Rüdiger, rector of the University of Konstanz. “Concurrently, 'Collective Behaviour' is one of the University of Konstanz’s three Cluster of Excellence initiatives that has recently been invited to submit a full proposal for funding in the context of the Excellence Strategy of the German Federal and State Governments”, Rüdiger elaborates.

Margaret C. Crofoot is a pioneer in the relatively young discipline of Movement Ecology as well as in the investigation of collective behaviour. The biologist explores how animal groups coordinate their collective movements and decision-making processes in their natural habitats. Using GPS technology, Crofoot was able to solve a crucial problem in field research: How can wild animal herds in their entirety – i.e. the individual behaviour of every single animal in the group – be observed in order to understand how collective behaviour emerges from interactions among individuals? By combining GPS transmitters, which are able to record the split-second location and movement of every single individual within an animal group, with drone footage of the surrounding vegetation and environmental conditions, Margaret C. Crofoot can accurately track every single individual animal in the heard simultaneously. Based on this precision data, she can retrace complex decision-making processes within animal collectives. Margaret C. Crofoot’s 2017 study of the decision-making behaviour of baboons generated considerable recognition. By utilizing a collection of data on the movement of individual baboons within their group, she was able to show, amongst other things, that the group’s decisions and movements were not determined solely by the alpha animal, but were also influenced by the interplay of individual movements of individual animals.

Margaret C. Crofoot currently carries out her research at the University of California, Davis (USA), and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. She is a member of the ICARUS executive board, a space project managed jointly by the University of Konstanz and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell. The ICARUS space module, stationed on the International Space Station ISS, will enable scientists to track animals equipped with special radio transmitters as they traverse the globe.

Facts:

  • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards Alexander von Humboldt Professorship to University of Konstanz for Professor Margaret C. Crofoot, PhD
  • Highest-endowed research award in Germany worth five million euros
  • Margaret C. Crofoot now has eight months to consider the offer of a Humboldt Professorship at the University of Konstanz.
  • Research area: Collective Behaviour
  • Inclusion into a pioneering team of experts carrying out collaborative research at the University of Konstanz and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology’s new cutting-edge research centre “Centre for Visual Computing of Collectives” as well as within the university’s proposed Cluster of Excellence “Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour”