Margaret C. Crofoot

Biology / Movement Ecology

When flocks of birds suddenly change direction, but maintain their perfect formation, they do not need a leader to do so. But does this work the same way in groups of animals that are more hierarchically organised, like apes? How do groups of animals move; how do they defend their territory and how do they make decisions? These are the kinds of questions addressed by the young research field of Movement Ecology. It is in this context that the Anthropologist Meg Crofoot studies groups of baboons, using GPS tracking tags to follow and analyse their movements. The results of her work show how complex decision-making in these groups really is and that it is not just the leader of the pack who decides which way to go. Instead, majority decisions are reached, just like in a democracy, although reflex behaviour, whereby the animals orientate themselves according to the distance from various targets, for example, or the group’s angle to them, also plays a role. Meg Crofoot will help to build up the focus in Movement Ecology at the University of Konstanz and expand the research field that currently concentrates on fish and birds to embrace social groups like apes.

Nominating University: University of Konstanz

Prof. Dr. Margaret C. Crofoot

was born in the United States in 1980. Since 2017, she has been an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis, USA, and, since 2010, a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, where she had previously worked as a postdoc. Before studying and completing her doctorate at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2008, she was an undergraduate at Stanford University in California. Meg Crofoot has received many honours, including the University of California’s Provost’s Fellowship for Diversity in Teaching in 2016. She is a member of numerous scientific bodies such as the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the International Primatological Society and the Animal Behavior Society. She also sits on the Executive Board of the ICARUS Initiative, which is chaired by the Max Planck Research award winner Martin Wikelski.