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Eva S. J. van Dijk, M.Sc.

Eva obtained both her B.Sc. of Biology and M.Sc. in Behavioural Ecology at Utrecht University. During this time, she collaborated with members of the Animal Behaviour and Cognition group at Utrecht University, investigating the social behaviour and welfare of immature male western lowland gorillas in Dutch zoos and the behaviour, personality and hand preference of Barbary macaques. After obtaining her M.Sc. she briefly worked as a research and education employee at the Animal Behaviour and Cognition group, primarily working with observational behavioural data of multiple macaque species. In January 2024 she started her PhD on “The social cognition of Rüppell’s vultures”. Eva will be studying the social networks and cooperative abilities of Rüppell’s vultures at Rotterdam Zoo and Avifauna Bird Zoo to increase our understanding of the social cognition of these critically endangered vultures. Through behavioural observations and voluntary behavioural experiments, we hope to gain more knowledge about the social lives of vultures and, potentially, the proximate mechanisms that may underlie their prosocial and cooperative tendencies. Moreover, by comparing the Rüppell’s vulture with a solitary vulture species, we hope to investigate the ultimate explanations that may underlie avian cognition.

Debottam Bhattacharjee, Ph.D.


Debottam studied Zoology (B.Sc. and M.Sc., 2008-13) at the Presidency University (erstwhile Presidency College), in Kolkata, India. He was always fascinated by the natural world and had specific interest in wildlife biology. He worked on free-ranging dogs in India during his doctoral studies at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, India. After working for nearly half a decade on intra-specific communication, cognition and behavioural ecology of the Indian free-ranging dogs, he obtained his PhD in 2020.


He received the prestigious EU Marie-Sklodowska Curie Individual Fellowship in 2020 to start his postdoctoral studies at the Animal Ecology group, Utrecht University, the Netherlands. He studied cooperation in different macaque species focussing on various proximate mechanisms, e.g. personality, prosociality, dominance-rank relationships, endocrine, etc. Such an interdisciplinary and comparative approach will largely enable him to understand the evolution of cooperation in animal societies.

After 2.5 years at our group, we were sad to see Debottam leave, but are very happy for him that he got a nice new position at the City University of Hong Kong

Personal website: click here

Lisa Horn, Ph.D.

Lisa Horn studied Zoology at the University of Vienna and Psychology at the University of Western Australia in Perth. She graduated as an MSc in 2007 with a project on individual differences in social learning in dogs. After graduation, she worked as a research assistant in the comparative psychology group at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. During her subsequent PhD project, which she carried out at the University of Vienna and the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, she focused on studying the mechanisms and consequences of social bonding by investigating the link between the dog-human relationship and socio-cognitive abilities in dogs. After finishing her PhD in 2012, she worked at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, investigating social attention to caregivers and unfamiliar people in pet dogs and 2-year-old children.

Currently, she is investigating children’s behavior ‘in the field’, by visiting daycare facilities and schools and studying children’s behavior under naturalistic conditions. Specifically, I am interested in individual variation in prosocial tendencies depending on children’s position in their social network and on in the identity of their interaction partners. Further, I am investigating movement coordination in children and adults, specifically the prerequisites for movement synchrony and its interconnection with social bonding.

Sophie Waasdorp, M.Sc.


Sophie studied Biology at Leiden University and obtained a M.Sc. in Behavioural Ecology at Utrecht University. After her M.Sc., she was part of the Animal Behaviour and Cognition group of Utrecht University as a research and education employee. Since March 2023 she started her PhD on “Social competence in immigrant males and the effect of social competence on introduction and integration success in a group of resident females” at Biomedical Primate Research Centre, in Rijswijk. Therefore, Rhesus and Long-tailed macaques will be studied. Her research focusses on behavioural experiments, behavioural observations, genetic, and hormonal analyses before, during, and after male introduction. With the results, we hope to gain more knowledge about the individual variance of social competence in immigrant males, how social bonds are formed between immigrant males and resident females, and whether there is a correlation between social competence and integration success in two macaque species.

Lisa-Claire Vanhooland, M.Sc.

Lisa-Claire got her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Strasbourg (France) in 2013. She pursued her studies with a Master in “Behaviour, Neurobiology and Cognition” at the University of Vienna, and undertook her Master thesis on Mirror Self-recognition in carrion crows at the department of Cognitive Biology from which she graduated in 2016. From Dec. 2015 up until the start for her PhD, she joined the team of the Haidlhof research station as a Research Assistant / Animal Trainer. Since October 2017, she started her PhD on “Animal Visual Self-recognition and Self-Awareness” funded by a Uni:docs fellowship. Lisa-Claire has a broad interest in comparative psychology, social cognition and communication. Her current research focusses on 3 main topics: 1. investigating the phylogenetic distribution of mirror understanding amongst corvids through mirror use and mirror self-recognition tasks; 2. investigating the ontogenetic development of mirror-self-recognition in common ravens; 3. Establishing new experimental approaches to the study of self-awareness in non-human animals.

Paula Escriche Chova, M.Sc.


Paula Escriche Chova has obtained a B.Sc. in Psychology from the University of Valencia and an M.Sc. in Behavioural Neuroscience from the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. During her minor research project, she completed an internship at the University of California, Davis under the supervision of Prof. dr. Karen Bales, where she studied the neurobiological basis of social attachments in female titi monkeys. This study was the first to combine neural, hormonal, and behavioural responses of pair-bonded female titi monkeys. Currently, she is focusing on exploring animal emotions in their natural group-living settings, specifically investigating the mother-infant emotional relationship in nonhuman primates. She is interested in the hormonal and behavioural responses of these relationships and their implications for the wellbeing of the animals.

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Edwin de Laat, M.Sc.

His interest in primate social learning has two origins: from an early age he is interested in animal behaviour and therefore he studied biology at the Utrecht University. In 1997 he graduated with a study on long-tailed macaques, supervised by Liesbeth Sterck. In 1998 he became a teacher in Biology at a secondary school and after twenty years they were still discussing how to motivate their students. And that is the second reason for his interest: he was wondering how primates learn to use tools and develop difficult techniques. To study this, he received a teachers grant from the NWO to combine his PhD-research with teaching. Currently he is observing long-tailed macaques at the BPRC and testing their prosocial behaviour in a group-service paradigm and he did some behavioural experiments on tolerance. Now he is also investigating social learning in different groups of long-tailed macaques. His main point of interest is which role model is favoured by young individuals, and what kind of relationships determine this choice. Hopefully this leads to a broader insight in social learning in humans as well.

Martina Stocker, M.Sc.

Broadly, Martina is interested in animal (social) behaviour and its interaction with physiology. During her master studies in “Animal Behaviour, Neurobiology and Cognition” she developed a vast interest in the fascinating field of behavioural endocrinology. For that reason, she worked on hormonal responses to experimentally induced fission-fusion dynamics in ravens (Corvus corax) in the course of and master thesis and got an Endocrinology Lab Assistant position at the University of Vienna until she started her PhD.

Currently, she is focusing on the correlation between hormones and cooperative behaviour. Her research goals are directed toward developing a bigger picture of cooperation by investigating cognitive, social and endocrine factors in different corvids (common ravens, azure-winged magpies) and primate species (long-tailed macaques, common marmosets).


Tieme Dolstra, MD

Tieme is a psychiatrist with a background in biology. As a psychiatrist he treats people with a severe mental illness. He works in an assertive community treatment team in Franeker at GGZ Friesland. 
Next to his clinical work he studies mental illness in human and non-human primates at the Animal Behaviour and Cognition Group of Utrecht University (NL)


Tieme received his bachelors degree in life sciences at the University of Groningen, after which he switched to medicine. In 2017 he finished medical school at University of  Groningen. He completed his residency at Parnassia Groep Rotterdam and the University center of psychiatry Groningen. His interdisciplinary research is on the interface between ethology and psychiatry. He is studying the nature and prevalence of severe mental illnesses in primates. Currently his focus is on the nature and prevalence of major depressive disorder in various macaque species living in social conditions. 
His aim is to understand more of the evolutionary history of mental illness and to validate ethological methods to diagnose mental illnesses in human and non-human primates.

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