Dr Jolle Jolles, lead investigator

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology Department of Collective Behaviour. Recently awarded a von Humboldt research fellowship, I am setting up my own group (the Jolleslab) here in beautiful Southern Germany. My long-term research program focuses on unravelling the link between individual behavioural tendencies, the emergence of collective properties and decision-making, and group functioning. I am a curious naturalist at heart, with a great fascination for our natural world. I love the outdoors and being active, such as going hiking, climbing, doing yoga, watching wildlife, going wild swimming, and working on my VW van!. I am also a web designer and maintain a popular nature blog where I write about unusual animals, nature explorations, and the latest scientific discoveries about our natural world.

I grew up in the Netherlands where I, from a young age, spent as much time as possible exploring the parks and countryside near my house. Climbing trees, building huts, exploring forests and caves, and collecting everything I found. As soon as I finished high school, my fascination for nature intensified when I spent a year abroad, travelling through Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand where I decided to study Biology. Three years later I completed my Bachelor’s degree Cum laude and spent the next six months working as a field assistant in Borneo and South Africa with Orang-Utans, Gibbons and Baboon.

In September 2008 I started my Master’s degree in Neuroscience and Cognition at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, specializing in Behavioural Biology. As part of my degree, I set up a nine-month long study at the Rudolf Magnus Institute, Utrecht, focused on the links between risk-taking behaviour, decision-making, and sex differences in rats, and a six-month study at the University of Cambridge, England. focused on the link between dominance, affiliations, and boldness on social foraging strategies in rooks (see Publications).

In October 2010 I received my Master’s degree (cum laude) and started a research associate job and helped establish a long-term research project to investigate intelligence and culture in wild jackdaws. After two great years working in the field, I was awarded a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) PhD scholarship and started my PhD in the Evolutionary Ecology Group at the University of Cambridge in October 2012. My PhD research focused on the causes and consequences of individual variation in behaviour (personality) in group-living animals.

In January 2016 I successfully defended my PhD Thesis and was awarded a three-month ASAB post-doctoral grant to set-up some exciting further experiments at the University of Cambridge, focused on the functioning of heterogenous animal groups, and from Marc 2016 I have been based at the Department of Collective Behaviour at the Max Planck Institute, Radolfzell, as a Postdoc with Professor Iain Couzin. I have been setting up an exciting range of new experiments on the role of group composition on collective learning and performance, the role of social selection and predator-prey dynamics, and the mechanistic underpinnings of collective behaviour and the role of individual differences.


Pauline Ferreira – MSc student
Research project: consistent behavioural patterns underlying boldness
Apr – Jun 2018
Hello everyone :) ! Like many other people, I really like animals. Therefore, after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biology (“organisms biology, population, environment”) in France (yes, I’m French! and very enthusiastic), I took part in many volunteering projects during 6 months, in various safeguarding and reintroduction structures, such as a project in Thailand. Currently, I’m a master student in Ethology, animal and human behaviour at the university of Rennes, France. I had the great opportunity to do my first-year internship (which lasted 3 months) with Jolle at the University of Konstanz. During my internship I did a mechanistic study of the boldness personality trait and its link to predation risk on three-spined sticklebacks. I had a great time here at Konstanz, I highly recommend it.

Past members

Felicitas Oehler – MSc student
Research project: Schooling in the dark
Nov 2017 – Jan 2018
I am a Masters student in Biology with the focus on Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Constance. Before, I did my Bachelor´s degree in the department of plant ecology where I studied the effect of bioeffectors on native German grassland species in 2016. After one semester abroad in Sweden (where my study focus was on climate and global change) I conducted an internship at the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles. There I worked on conservation and rehabilitation projects focusing on freshwater turtles and sea turtles. My research project at the moment at Jolle Jolles Lab is part of my Master´s degree. I am working for six weeks with Jolle and Jana on the Project “Schooling in the dark”. We will analyse the changes of schooling behavior in sticklebacks under different light intensities, especially in the dark. I am very happy to gain an insight in the working atmosphere in the lab of Jolle Jolles and the collective behavior lab of Ian Couzin and to learn more about collective behavior in animals, about different experimental setups, analysis with R and how to conduct an own short project.

Jana Hörsch – MSc student
Research project: Schooling in the dark
Nov 2017 – Jan 2018
I am a Master student at the University of Konstanz. During my studies I discovered my fascination for animal behaviour and ecology and developed a particular interest in animal cognition and learning. Therefore, I conducted my Bachelor’s thesis in the Department of Collective Behaviour at the Max Plank Institute for Ornithology looking at group composition and collective problem solving in Zebra Finches. As a part of a master course I am working at the moment with Jolle and Felicitas. We are looking at schooling behaviour of sticklebacks at different light conditions, wondering how they can cope with no visible light available.

Selin Ersoy – Research intern
Oct – Dec 2017
My research interests are behavioural ecology, social interactions, cultural behaviour, and cognition. After my BSc I worked as a field assistant for one year at the Kalahari Meerkat Project in South Africa and conducted my own independent analysis project on meerkat behaviour to investigate how social grooming affects social interactions between meerkats. Then, I did a MSc on cognitive biology at the University of Vienna under the supervision of Prof. Thomas Bugnyar. I designed and conducted several observational and experimental studies to investigate social behaviour and cognitive abilities of common ravens. At the moment, I am doing a research internship in Jolle’s group on predator-prey interactions between pikes and shoals of sticklebacks. We will be running several pilot studies to understand the behavioural dynamics between two species and investigate whether individual differences in relation to group composition determine individual survival.

Jonas Bleilevens – MSc student
Research project on individual differences in association and reversal learning in sticklebacks. Co-supervised by Jasminca Behrmann-Godel.
May – Aug 2017
During the first semester of my Masters, I did a research project as part of the Fish Ecology advanced course supervised by Jasminca Behrmann-Godel and Jolle Jolles. I was interested in the role of individual behavioural types of three-spined stickleback and their effects on individual learning capabilities. Together with another masters student I set-up an experiment with 60 sticklebacks that we tested on some classic personality assays and association and reversal learning tasks. It was a great experience for me and I learned important new methods that are important to run a solid and controlled behavioural experiment.

Lauren de Wit – MSc student
Research project: Effects of group composition on group learning in stickleback shoals.
Jan – Jul 2017
Hi everyone! My name is Lauren and I am a master student fascinated by animal behaviour. The last six months I had the pleasure of working with Jolle and his three-spined sticklebacks at the University of Konstanz. I studied the effects of individual behavioural tendencies on group learning performance. Different group compositions were tested in a Y-maze to study group learning and reversal learning. I have learned a lot about individual tendencies and group dynamics by observing stickleback behaviour both during experiments and in their housing tanks.

Marc Oliver Ley – BSc project
Research project: Role of parasite infection on predation in sticklebacks. Co-supervised by Jasminca Behrmann-Godel.
Apr 2016 – Jan 2017
In my Bachelor’s thesis, we looked at the influences on the predator-prey relationship between Esox lucius and Gasterosteus aculeatus, caused by Schistocephalus solidus, a behaviour altering parasite. The experiments were done in April 2016 under laboratory conditions using four pikes as predator and 56 sticklebacks as prey. 25 of the sticklebacks were infected with the parasite. We showed that the parasite changes the infected sticklebacks behaviour towards fish predators like Esox lucius. Different variables such as time spent out of cover or the prey being closer to the predator to further examine our observations and show the difference between infected and non-infected sticklebacks.

Gentijana Gacaferi – MSc student
Joint research project on individual differences in association and reversal learning in sticklebacks.
Co-supervised by Jasminca Behrmann-Godel.

Beth Smith – BSc student
Research project: Boldness-induced morphological changes in three-spined sticklebacks?
University of Cambridge.

Katherine Smith – BSc student
Research project: Boldness-induced morphological changes in three-spined sticklebacks?
University of Cambridge.

Emily Frapwell – BSc student
BSc student, University of Cambridge. The effects of boldness on social foraging and the ideal free distribution.
University of Cambridge.

Joe Painter – BSc student
The effects of boldness on social foraging and the ideal free distribution.
University of Cambridge.

Ben Aaron Taylor – BSc student
Research projects: The effects of recent social conditions on boldness and its repeatability in sticklebacks. & Link between boldness and background-matching for camouflage.
University of Cambridge.