Angela Stöger

Dept. of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna

Angela Stöger (AS) received her Master in Zoology in 2002, and her PhD (honored with the "Doc.Award") in 2006 at the Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Vienna, Austria. Since 2009 she is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, where she established and leads the Mammal Communication Lab.
Her broad scientific interest is vocal communication in mammals. Her research aims at understanding both mechanisms and the selective forces that shaped specific signals, skills and communication systems from a variety of perspectives and using a wide array of approaches.

The main line of Angela Stöger's research focuses on various aspects of mammal communication (with elephants L. africana and E. maximus as the main current model species), in particular sound production and perception mechanisms, vocal learning, and the kinds of information vocal signals can provide listeners with (e.g., physical and motivational attributes of the caller). AS broad scientific focus is vocal communication in mammals, particularly the versatility of acoustic signals, evolved perceptual mechanisms and underlying cognitive abilities, studied in many different species. She is head of the Mammal Communication Lab (Faculty of Life Sciences) and her research aims at understanding both mechanisms and the selective forces that shaped specific signals, skills and communication systems. Her main model species are African and Asian elephants, highly social mammals that combine a capacity for vocal learning with complex cognitive skills. AS significantly contributed to the field by demonstrating imitative capacities in both species (Nature 2005/Current Biology 2012). AS is further interested in the potential evolutionary interconnection of vocal learning with other cognitive skills such as, for example, rhythmic entrainment. Vocal learning and rhythm, crucial for human speech and music, might share a common evolutionary origin, a hypothesis that can be empirically tested in living model species that have convergently evolved vocal learning (e.g. parrots), especially those possessing sound production mechanisms similar to ours (e.g., elephants). Current research projects include understanding mechanisms of elephant sound production (Science 2012; joint first author), elephant vocal production learning (Current Biology 2012 and FWF Project P31034_B29), and acoustic information encoding in mammal vocalizations further including, besides elephants, giant pandas, giraffes and, more recently cheetahs and African wild dogs. Finally, AS is interested in vocal ontogeny and in comparing those aspects of vocalizations and communicative behavior that are mainly innate (universal features shared by different species) with features that are strongly shaped by environmental influences, including in some species by vocal production learning and imitation (similar to human speech).

For more information see the website.