Lena Jeanson

February till July 2016
Contact lenajeanson@gmail.com
Project at the WSC Training and behavioural coding of wolves and dogs running on a treadmill
Favourite wolf book Wolfsblut (Jack London)
Favourite animal at the WSC Geronimo

I am from Germany and I grew up in Munich. Since I was a child I always wanted to have a dog as a pet. Unfortunately, this was not possible for me so for a couple of years I had gerbils, which I could take care of. Additionally, I did a lot of horseback riding, took care of cats and dogs in the neighbourhood and whenever I got the chance to I walked the dogs in the park. I always looked for close contact to the animals and I found it in different ways.

When it came to decide which kind of studies I wanted to do, it was quite clear that I wanted to start my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. These studies are broadly based at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich and I had a lot of lectures in different areas. This was interesting since I got a good overview about various topics in biology. However, it became quite clear that I would like to go into the zoological direction.

Hence, I would like to do my Master’s Degree in behavioural biology. I became more and more aware of the fact, that I would like to learn more about the behaviour of animals and in particular about the cognitive, communicative and social characteristics of animals living in groups. I am particularly interested in canids, like wolves and dogs, and I am fascinated by their social structure and their outstanding abilities. I therefore decided to do a research internship before starting my Masters to gain first insights into working with the animals and into the scientific methods used. Here at the Wolf Science Center, all my interests are combined: the research is about wolves and dogs, their similarities and differences and the research focus is on social behaviour and cognition.

Now I am here at the WSC and I am really looking forward to the next six months. During this time, I will support Kim Kortekaas with carrying out her experiments for her PhD thesis and will be coached by her and Prof. Dr. Kurt Kotrschal. With our project we would like to test if a shared experience of two animals will strengthen their bond and encourage cooperative behaviours. We let two animals run together on a treadmill (the longest in the world) and analyse how the animals behave during running. Afterwards we test if they are more likely to share food after their experience of running together. Additionally, we want to check if there are differences between wolf pairs and dog pairs.

I really like this project because it is about many characteristics shown by social living animals such as: cooperation, communication and tolerance. All these characteristics are essential for living in a social group and we want to test if they are expressed to a different amount within the animals, how they change during the experiments and if they are dependent on external factors. At the moment I am just at the beginning of my internship and I have to learn a lot but I am already curious about how the next months will be and which results our project will bring.