Radolfzell / Konstanz: Postdoc (m/f/d)

Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior: Postdoc (m/f/d) on Great Ape Cognition and Curiosity (ORNR-W018)

Postdoc (m/f/d) | Great Ape Cognition and Curiosity

Scientist Radolfzell / Constance

Developmental and Evolutionary Biology & Genetics Behavioral Sciences Microbiology & Ecology

Job Code: ORNR-W0s18
Job Offer from September 03, 2021

The Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior at its sites in Konstanz and Radolfzell offers an international, interdisciplinary, and collaborative environment that opens up unique research opportunities. The goal of our basic research is to develop a quantitative and predictive understanding of the decisions and movements of animals in their natural environment.

For the Development and Evolution of Cognition Research Group at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior we are looking to fill the following position at the latest in January 2022. The workplace will be primarily in Constance.

Postdoc (m/f/d) on Great Ape Cognition and Curiosity<7h3>


This Postdoc project is based at the Development and Evolution of Cognition Research Group at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Konstanz, Germany. Our team is currently being established and to date includes 4 technicians, 1 PhD student as well as Master and Bachelor students. The project is part of a comparative project which is funded partly by the Volkswagenstiftung and aims at testing cognitive performance and curiosity in orangutans, chimpanzees, and humans.


Humans deliberately innovate, even in the absence of any problem to solve. This desire to know and learn, i.e. curiosity, seems to set humans apart from other species. Being curious has powerful consequences on the individual level. Through increased innovation rates, curious individuals transform their cognitive capacity into skills and knowledge faster than uncurious individuals. As such, curiosity may be a key psychological trait that makes cognitive potential visible for natural selection. Therefore, to fully understand cognitive evolution, aside from external actors, it is crucial to take key psychological motivations and their development within individuals into account. This comparative project investigates the interplay of curiosity, cognition, and skill repertoires in great apes (including humans) across different settings. The planned projects will explore which immediate factors suppress and trigger curiosity, and which foster its development. Understanding the interplay of curiosity and cognition across species will shed light on what sparked curiosity during human evolution and on the evolution of humans’ unique cognition. Understanding what underlies innovative tendency will also allow us to foster innovations in our society.

Your tasks and profile

The Postdoc candidate will collect data on cognitive performance and curiosity in captive chimpanzees and orangutans in different European zoos as well as sanctuaries in Uganda and Indonesia. Together with our team’s technicians, at the zoos, the candidate will also collect detailed behavioral data, following our established data collection protocols which we use for wild orangutans. Furthermore, tests with humans in a Western industrialized society and a small-scale society are planned during the extension phase of the project. The timing of the work at the different sites may have to be adjusted according to the Covid situation.

Two PhD students will simultaneously collect behavioral and experimental data on wild chimpanzees and orangutans, following the same protocols. Among the responsibilities of the postdoc is co-supervising these two PhD projects, coordinating the data collection across sites, and integrating the data into our established long-term data base.

Applicants should hold a PhD degree in Biology, Comparative Psychology, or a related field. We seek a highly motivated and productive candidate with an excellent academic track record. Experience in working with great apes in captivity and/or in the wild as well as with analyzing experimental data is required.

Good observation skills, creative problem-solving skills, an eye for detail, and patience are a must for this project. The candidate should be ready to travel, live with limited personal space for limited periods of time and be highly respectful about cultural differences. Note that some of the sanctuaries are remote and difficult to get to. Our research is highly collaborative, and we seek a team player who values the importance of collaborative long-term research projects. Enthusiasm for working as part of an interdisciplinary, international team is expected.

Our offer

The position will start latest in January 2022 while earlier starting dates are also possible. The project is planned for 3 years with a possible extension of 2 more years. The candidate will work with and expand an existing vast long-term dataset which offers many opportunities.

We offer an interesting job in an open-minded team, a responsible and varied workplace in a growing interdisciplinary and international research institute. The payment is made in accordance with your experience and qualification and the collective agreement for the public service (TVöD-Bund).

Questions about this position will be answered by Dr. Caroline Schuppli (cschuppli(at)ab.mpg.de).

The Max Planck Society endeavors to employ more severely disabled people. Applications of severely disabled persons are expressly welcome. The Max Planck Society strives for gender and diversity equality. We welcome applications from all backgrounds.


Are you interested? Then we are looking forward to receiving your application until September 30th, 2021, with your CV containing your academic track record, the contact information of two references, and a short motivation letter.

Please submit your application documents online.

Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior
Am Obstberg 1
78315 Radolfzell / Konstanz
Phone: +49 7732 1501-0

Jetzt online bewerbenhttps://s-lotus.gwdg.de/mpg/maor/perso/ornr_w018.nsf/application

Die Ausschreibung ist auch im Internet unter https://www.mpg.de/17427685/postdoc-great-ape-cognition-and-curiosity abrufbar.

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