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Research Group Social Evolution in Primates "excellent"

Evaluation by the Scientific Advisory Board: outstandingly positioned, extraordinarily motivated and competent
Two young Assamese macaques in Thailand. Photo: Kittisak Srithorn
Prof. Dr. Julia Ostner is head of the Research group Social Evolution in Primates since 2014. Photo: Ingo Bulla
Prof. Dr. Julia Ostner is head of the Research group Social Evolution in Primates since 2014. Photo: Ingo Bulla

On March 11, 2019, the Research Group Social Evolution in Primates was routinely evaluated by the Scientific Advisory Board of the DPZ. The Advisory Board consists of external scientists from various disciplines who advise the DPZ on its strategic orientation and regularly evaluate its achievements. The research group led by Julia Ostner had prepared a written evaluation document and presented its work in the form of lectures and posters.

In 2014, the DPZ took over the Thai field station Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary and thus established the research group. In addition to the DPZ research group, Julia Ostner is also head of the Department of Behavioral Ecology at the University of Göttingen.

The research group Social Evolution in Primates investigates the evolution of social relationships and cooperative behavior. The scientists are particularly interested in how close bonds between related and non-related group members are regulated hormonally, genetically and cognitively-emotionally and what benefits individuals derive from social bonds. The investigations are mainly carried out on Assamese macaques in their natural habitat at the research station in Thailand. However, comparative studies are also carried out on Barbary macaques in the field and at the "Affenberg Salem" at Lake Constance.

The continuous presence at the research station in Thailand enables detailed long-term observations on a large number of individually known animals as well as regular non-invasive sampling for physiological and genetic analyses. These data allow the scientists to further develop methods and to create new models and theories for the social evolution of primates.

The Scientific Advisory Board rated the performance of the research group as "excellent". The group is "excellently positioned" and "contributes significantly with its work to the excellent reputation of the DPZ and the campus". The reviewers were "extremely impressed by the scope and quality of the scientific projects and the published data as well as by the many innovative developments" and also emphasized the "extraordinarily high motivation and competence of all members of the working group". They also praised the close networking of the research group within and outside the DPZ and the continuous acquisition of third-party funding. As a result of this extremely positive assessment, Julia Ostner will be reappointed as head of the research group.