Julia Penndorf

IMPRS Doctoral Student
MPI of Animal Behavior
Research Group Aplin

Main Focus

Social learning and the spread of innovation in urban parrots:

While rapid human-induced environmental changes threaten numerous organisms, pushing them to risk of extinction, some seem to be doing better than others. This raises the question: why do organisms differ in their ability to cope with changing environments? 

During recent years, a growing numbers of studies have found behavioural differences between individuals living in urban and non-urban areas. The underlying mechanisms, however, are still less explored. In some cases, these differences might be the result of natural selection and a non-random assortment of individuals according to traits affecting dispersion and habitat selection. In other cases, some evidence is emerging that social learning and innovative problem-solving might underlie observed changes in behaviour. As the process of urbanization is expected to continue threatening biodiversity in the near future, improving our understanding of what mechanisms of behavioural change help animals to cope with such environmental alterations seem crucial. Thus, this thesis will aim to explore the how social learning and the spread of innovation affect the distribution of an urban parrot, the sulphur-crested cockatoo, along an urban gradient.

I am interested in the evolution of complex cognition, and more particularly in how social and ecological factors shape cognition. Using wild, urban dwelling Sulphur-crested cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) as study species, my current research revolves around two main questions.
(2)  How does the spread of innovation and cultural inheritance of behaviour affect the distribution, persistence and prevalence of an urban parrot, the sulphur crested cockatoo?
(1) Can the patterning of social interactions at group or population level inform us about the underlying  cognition?

Curriculum Vitae

  • 01.2018 - to date: Doctoral student at MPI for Animal Behaviour (Radolfzell, Germany)
  • 03.2017- 01.2018: Volunteer Research Assistant at the  Inkwau Vervet project (South Africa)
  • 2016: MSc in Ecology and Ethology, University Jean Monnet (Saint Etienne, France)
  • 2014: BSc Biology of the Organisms and Ecosystems, University of Bordeaux (Bordeaux, France)
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