Thomas Bugnyar is full Professor of Cognitive Ethology and the head of Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna. He conducted his PhD in Vienna in 2001 studying the social foraging in ravens. Thomas Bugnyar worked as an Erwin Schrödinger fellow at the University of Vermont on project “Tactical deception in ravens”. In 2006, he was awarded a Niko Tinbergen Award for outstanding publications. He spent a year as lecturer at the School of Psychology of University of St Andrews. In 2008, he settled in Austria working on his research “Raven politics: understanding and use of social relations” with the help of the prestigious START prize. Thomas Bugnyar is interested in evolution of mind and his research focuses on social behaviour and the evolution of complex cognitive abilities. He pursues an integrative approach, combining concepts and methods of behavioural biology and comparative psychology. He is most renowned for his long-term program on ravens studied under captive and field conditions but currently expands his work to other animals such as primates and parrots. The broad questions are (i) which abilities do individuals require to solve problems in daily life with others, (ii) what types of mental representation underlie these abilities and (iii) how are skills acquired and transmitted. The goal of his research is to investigate social complexity as a driving force for mental evolution, with emphasis on the possibility of a convergent evolution of cognitive traits in phylogenetically distant but socio-ecologically similar species.
Alecia Carter’s research examines animal decision-making, integrating information use, personality and social networks, using a combination of observational and experimental approaches in wild animals. During her PhD at the Australian National University, she investigated a number of fundamental methodological and conceptual issues facing the field of animal personality. Her research questioned assumptions behavioural ecologists make when measuring animal personality; identified the importance of environmental cue reliability for the expression of animal personality in the wild; and identified sampling bias in animal personality studies and how to overcome it. As a Junior Research Fellow at Churchill College in the University of Cambridge, Alecia Carter developed a novel framework for understanding animal decision-making by recognising that the use of social information is a process with several stages – from information acquisition, to its application, and finally its exploitation. Furthermore, she showed that individuals‘ characteristics can limit their success at each of these stages. She is now a CNRS research scientist based at Institut des Sciences de l’Évolution at the University of Montpellier where she aims to understand limitations to the formation of culture due to phenotypic constraints on information use.