Social dynamics of sleep in baboons – from the lab to the field

Supervisor: Meg Crofoot & Roi Harel, Universität Konstanz & Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

The Universität Konstanz is one of eleven Universities of Excellence in Germany. Since 2007 it has been successful in the German Excellence Initiative and its follow-up programme, the Excellence Strategy.

We are seeking a highly motivated doctoral student to join a recently funded ERC project (CO-SLEEP) centered around studying the collective dynamics of sleep in wild baboons. The position is based at the Ecology of Animal Societies lab in Konstanz, Germany and field work will take place in Kenya. The student will collect and analyze data on sleep in captive and wild olive baboons (Papio anubis). The project will involve field work which will be done at Institute of Primate Research, Nairobi, Kenya, and Mpala Research Center, Laikipia, Kenya. The student will collaborate with an international team of researchers to develop their own research project. The position is open to students of any nationality.

Sleep is a biological imperative: all animal sleep and insufficient sleep has detrimental effects on individuals’ health, cognition, social functioning, and overall fitness. For animals that live in groups, sleep inevitably occurs in a social context and recent work has yielded tantalizing hints that sleep is not only a physiological imperative of individuals, but must also be understood as a social process that plays out at the group and population levels. Nonetheless, to date, sleep research has overwhelmingly focused on lone individuals in laboratory settings. In the CO-SLEEP project, our team will explore the collective dynamics of sleep, leveraging technological innovations to bring sleep research into socially, ecologically and thus evolutionarily relevant, field contexts. By combining observational and experimental methods, and building tools to map the sleep patterns of wild baboons through space and time, we aim to elucidate the feedbacks between social behavior and sleep, linking (typically unstudied) night behavior and decisions to the social dynamics that play out during daylight hours. More specifically, we will investigate questions like: How much does sleep quality vary among group-mates and what proportion of this variation is due to individual traits versus the social decisions individuals make about where and with whom to sleep? In deciding where to sleep, how do baboons weigh the trade-offs that define their sleep ‘micro-climate’, including exposure to the elements, risk of falling, availability of co-sleeping partners and relative safety from predators? (How) does sleep quality impact patterns of social interaction and group decision-making during the day?  Ultimately, our research aims to understand how social environments shape (and are shaped by) the sleep patterns of their members.


Your responsibilities

Your Competencies

We Offer

Conducting interdisciplinary research on the sleep behavior of baboons

Collect and analyze biotelemetry (EEG, ACC, GPS) and behavioral data recorded from individuals and entire social groups

Write and publish research papers and present research outputs at conferences

Actively engage with and contribute to the scientific community within our department and institute, as well as more broadly

Collaborate with an interdisciplinary and international research team


MSc degree in any scientific discipline including biology, computer science, biophysics, anthropology, (students with only a BSc may be considered but need to complete additional coursework)

Strong programming skills (R, Python) and enthusiasm for tackling challenging analytical problems, such as sleep state, behavior data and network data

Independence and the ability to proactively develop and implement research ideas

Experience in field research and working with wild animals desirable, but not necessary

Strong written and oral English skills

Interpersonal and intercultural skills

The student will join a team led by Meg Crofoot, Roi Harel and Niels Rattenborg.

They will integrate into a diverse, interdisciplinary, international, collaborative, and friendly community of researchers studying animal behavior.

They will join the International Max Planck Research School for Quantitative Behaviour, Ecology, and Evolution (, a doctoral program between the MPI-AB and University of Konstanz.

The position is initially limited to three years, with an option to extend for one year. The payment is made in accordance with your qualification and the collective agreement for the public service (TV-L E13 65 %).

Are you interested? Then we are looking forward to receiving your application until November 20, 2023 through our online portal. If you have any questions, please contact to Roi Harel ( or Meg Crofoot (

We look forward to receiving your application with the following documents via our Online Application Portal.

  • Letter of motivation / research statement (2-3 pages) addressing the following points:
    • Describe your main scientific interests, how they developed, and how they relate to the proposed research project. Explain what scientific questions most motivate you and why. (1 page)
    • Describe 1-2 biological questions you would like to ask or hypotheses you would like to test on the collective dynamics of sleep, and explain the analytical approach(es) you would use to address them (1 page). You can find an example for data in a previous publication by our group (
  • Curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Academic transcripts for your BSc and MSc degrees (can be unofficial at this stage – official records will be required before acceptance)
  • Contact information for 2-3 personal references (we will contact them if you are short-listed)
  • A sample of your scientific writing (e.g. publication or manuscript in prep, thesis, term paper, etc.)

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