Awani Bapat

Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna

Core Facility Konrad Lorenz Research Centre for Behavior and Cognition, Grünau im Almtal

■  Nationality: India

■  Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Thomas Bugnyar, Dr. Palmyre Boucherie

■  Key topics: Social Integration & Social Competence in Free-flying Common Ravens


PhD project:

Individuals in dynamic social groups have to continuously process social information and accordingly have to optimally adapt their social behaviours - an ability called social competence. My PhD thesis focuses on understanding the effect of early life social experiences on the development of social competences in the context of social integration in free-flying common ravens. Specifically, I study the patterns of social integration in juvenile ravens joining a non-breeder flock and if and how they may use object play as a strategy to socialise.

Past experiences:

Growing up in India, I have always been interested in animal behaviour through summer time spent in exploring the wildlife in various National Parks in India. I did an integrated BSc and MSc course in Biology at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali. For my Master's thesis, I looked at within-group competition and foraging behaviour of female Asian elephants in Nagarahole National Park, Southern India. Developing an interest in animal cognition, I then did an internship studying abstract concept learning in African grey parrots at the Max-Planck Comparative Cognition Research Station, Tenerife. Since then, my main research interests have been the ecology and evolution of social behaviour and cognition.

Outside the lab:

Aside from my research, I enjoy exploring new places and cultures: visiting museums, walking along alleys in towns and cities, hiking in the woods, or just spending some time on river banks. I love to read and escape into fantasy fiction. Something new I'm trying currently is to communicate science to the younger generation by acting as a Science Mentor for the Biodiversity section of Frontiers for Young Minds.