Invited Speakers | Track 3

‘Interactions with the environment: for better and for worse’

Tobias Kalenscher

Professor at Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf, DE – Comparative Psychology

Prof. Dr. Tobias Kalenscher has a diploma in psychology. He received a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the Ruhr-University Bochum in 2005. He went to the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for a post-doc position and, later, an independent researcher position on a VENI grant in systems biology. He was appointed professor of Comparative Psychology at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf in 2011. Tobias works on the interface between psychology, neuroscience and economics. His main interest is to understand the psychology and neurobiology of decision-making in general, and deviations from optimal decision-making in particular. Combining in-vivo electrophysiology, psychopharmacology, and neuroimaging techniques with conceptual tools borrowed from psychology, economics, and biology, he employs a multidisciplinary, comparative approach to tackle these issues. Read more

Social preferences in rats and their neural underpinnings

Humans are social animals: social interaction with others is not only crucial for our mental well-being, it is also essential for individual and group survival. Antecedents of human social cognition, including altruism, cooperation, emotional contagion, inequity aversion, other-regarding preferences and much more, can be found in a wide range of non-human social species, too. In my talk, I will present insights gained from research in my lab on social decision-making in rats. I will provide evidence that rats prefer mutual rewards – rewards to both the rat and a conspecific – over own-rewards that leave the conspecific empty-handed, and I will report conformity effects in rats – the overwriting of own food preferences by copying the preferences of a conspecifics. The second part of my talk will cover the neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of these social behaviours. Combining neurophysiological and psychopharmacological methods with economic and psychological theory, I will discuss the role of amygdala and nucleus accumbens in shaping mutual-reward preferences and conformity. I will furthermore consider the moderating role of serotonin and oxytocin in modulating social preferences, and in overwriting own-preferences by social influence. My talk will highlight the value of a comparative approach to understand the behavioral and neural underpinnings of social cognition.

Judy Shamoun-Baranes

Professor at Universiteit van Amsterdam – Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

Judy Shamoun-Baranes is an ecologist whose research focuses on understanding how intrinsic and environmental factors influence animal movement at different scales in space and time and the consequences of movement strategies. After attaining a PhD in Zoology at Tel Aviv University, Israel, she relocated to the University of Amsterdam where she leads research in the field of animal movement ecology and is head of the Department of Computational and Theoretical Ecology. Her work focuses on birds and integrates movement and behavioural data collected using high resolution GPS tracking ( or radar measurements, environmental data and different modelling approaches. Fundamental knowledge about avian movement is also used to better understand human wildlife interactions and help develop solutions when conflicts arise, especially for wind energy development at sea and aviation safety. She was one of the founders and vice-chair of the e-COST Action “the European Network for the Radar Surveillance of Animal Movement” (ENRAM, ) and invests in the development of e-science infrastructure to support collaborative research. Read more

How birds interact with and connect aerial, terrestrial and aquatic environments

Birds are highly mobile organisms with the ability to cross continents and oceans, utilize air currents thousands of meters above the earth surface, and connect distant ecosystems. Biologging technology is used to measure movement and behaviour of individual birds at high spatio-temporal resolutions, whereas different radar technologies are used to quantify the number of birds and their behaviour through a given airspace. These movement data and environmental information are then used to study interactions between birds and the environments they utilize and transverse. During flight, birds move through the aerial environment, an environment whose properties can quickly change in time and space. Birds however, are not simply at the mercy of atmospheric dynamics, they can alter their behaviour to move efficiently. Adaptive flight behaviour results in energy savings, aerial convergence zones, and mass migration events. During their daily search for food, birds connect contrasting habitats, transporting nutrients, seeds and potentially provide early warning signs of changes in different ecosystems. Are these interactions for better or for worse? That depends on the context and the perspective.