About This Project
We investigate the communication of those social and intelligent mammal predators: wolves, coyotes, dogs, hyenas. By understanding how they cooperate to hunt large prey, we can learn more about how our own human language and society evolved, as well as developing new ways to live in harmony, rather than in conflict with these wild creatures.
We've organised a symposium of animal cognition researchers, and want help to bring scientists that don't have funds of their own to support collaboration.
Ask the ScientistsJoin The Discussion
What is the context of this research?
Many social hunters, like wolves and hyenas, have evolved complex social structures and communication that enables them to cooperate in finding and catching prey. The combination of a complex society and complex communication suggests that these animals have sophisticated cognitive capacities and processes. But how much do wolves and their relatives really "think", and what information are they "communicating"? Recent developments in signal processing algorithms has allowed us to look more deeply into the vocal communication of canids and other animals, and we now have an opportunity to test these questions with experimental data.
What is the significance of this project?
Humans are unique among animals in that we are the only species to possess language. How did this evolve, and why do no other animals "talk"? Even our closest relatives, the great apes, do not show complex cooperation like in canids. Looking at communication and cooperation in wolves and their relatives, we can investigate the evolution of human traits of language and society.
Up until now, research in this new field has been fragmented and carried out in isolation. We have created a consortium of scientists from around the world who are working on many different species, asking many different questions, and using and developing new and creative techniques. By sharing our information and ideas, we leverage the insight of multiple research groups to make new and exciting advances.
What are the goals of the project?
We have created an international consortium, the Cooperative Predator Vocalisastion Consortium http://canids.wix.com/cooperativepredators and are now organising the first global meeting of researchers in this field. This will take place at the Behaviour 2015 conference in Australia. The work of the consortium involves not just established scientists, but also students and wolf conservationists. Not everyone has the funds to travel to a major meeting, but we firmly believe that the contribution of underfunded groups is essential to our work.
We are looking for funding to send three underrepresented scientists to our meeting: (1) a PhD student, (2) a researcher from an underdeveloped country, and (3) a researcher from a teaching university.
Keeping science inclusive benefits all science!
1. PhD students provide a large proportion of the actual work in scientific research, but rarely receive any funding for participating in international conferences.
2. Universities in underdeveloped countries struggle to find funding for basic research, and rarely have budgets for international conferences.
3. Teaching universities hire excellent scientists, but require them to spend almost all of their time teaching rather than doing science, and rarely provide any research or travel funding.
Meet the Team
I research the evolution of acoustic communication systems in different animals, and particularly the role that communication plays in the evolution of cooperation. I work with different species, from wolves to dolphins, in the field and in front of the computer. You can see more about my work, and watch some interviews and talks here: http://www.zoo.cam.ac.uk/directory/dr-arik-kershenbaum
I study animal behavior: particularly vocal and non-vocal social behavior, as well as endocrinology, behavioral neuroscience, and the effect of enriched environments. I'm also interested in conservation behavior, like the effects on animals of anthropogenic disturbances (traffic noise, recreational sports, hunting / fishing).
I study population ecology, carnivore ecology, human-animal conflict and animal behavior. My research species and systems range from turtles in the Himalayan foothills to wolves in semi-arid and trans-Himalayan landscapes, Marcopolo sheep and snow leopard in the Afghan Pamirs to wild dogs in the north-east of India and leopards in north India.
I am currently developing a research project on communication in the Spotted Hyena in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. I previously worked on lekking in male greater sage grouse, and the vocal repertoire of the Southern Resident Killer Whales.
You can also support us by helping to analyse canid vocalisations on our citizen science website: the Canid Howl Project http://howlcoder.appspot.com/
Arik Kershenbaum with a captive British Columbia wolf at the Wolf Mountain Sanctuary in California.
Jessica Owens recording bird calls in the field.
Bilal Habib with a darted tiger.
Kenna Lehmann with a darted spotted hyena in the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya.
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