Michelle Lampe

February 2015 - November 2015
Contact mhj.lampe@gmail.com
University Radboud University of Nijmegen
Project at the WSC Communicative comprehension and causal reasoning in dogs and wolves
With us since mid of February 2015
Favourite wolf song Two wolves (a Cherokee Indian legend)
Favourite animal at the WSC I love all of them! But Geronimo, Yukon, Amarok, Chitto and Banzai have a special place in my heart ☺
Favourite howling Amarok

As a kid I had one very strong dream: becoming a wolf. I practiced my howls, my growls and my facial expressions. I was very serious about my dream, until I reached a certain age and my dreams altered bit by bit. I realized I couldn’t become a wolf, so instead I decided I wanted to be among them. This dream was a bit more realistic, but could still use a lot of luck and required a high dose of persistence.

It was during high school that I was struck by disaster and got a chronic disease in my feet. For a long time I went through life in wheelchairs, on crutches and suffering immense pains. Most of my time was spent fighting my disease in rehabilitation centers, in hospitals and at home. I held on to the believe I would one day be able to travel and find the wolves that had been calling out to me since childhood. I kept up with school work and managed to graduate from high school, while conquering my disease. As soon as I got my life back on track, I had to make a hard decision: going to an art academy where I would further develop my artistic skills, or going for the opposite, chasing after my beloved wolves by pursuing a scientific study. I chose the latter and ended up studying Biology at the Radboud University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands. After a broad introduction into the world of biology, I started specializing in animal behavior, ecology, genetics and evolution. I chose to stay in the Netherlands for my bachelor thesis, studying the influence of airplanes on the prey delivery of kestrels in the Haarlemmermeerpolder, an area around Schiphol Airport.

However, I hadn’t forgotten about the wolves. I had been following the Wolf Science Center for several years, keeping up with their findings and their projects. I was waiting for the right time to apply. In the summer of 2014, I suddenly got the urge to write. I collected all the necessary documents and waited in suspense. Not long after I sent my application, I got the message that I was accepted. I cried tears of joy, as I would finally see my dream become reality. I was about to pluck the fruits of my hard labor.

Initially, I was supposed to research the origin of aggression in dog and wolf pups. The plan for this year was to get wolf puppies of our own wolves, to compare them with the dog pups from the previous year. Unfortunately, despite all efforts of the WSC, we couldn’t get puppies this year. Without the wolf puppy data, my project was lost and I had to quickly decide on keeping hold of the project or to start over completely. I realized holding onto my puppy project would harm me more than benefit me, and with a bleeding heart I abandoned my first topic to start with a new project.

Although it had been a tough decision, looking back on it now, I’m glad I did it in the end. Right now I am leading my own project, dubbed the Inference Test, a continuation of the paper “making inferences about the location of hidden food: social dog, causal ape” from 2006, conducted at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig. The difference with my test is that I will test pack dogs and wolves on their reasoning abilities, instead of pet dogs and apes. I especially love the close contact with the animals during my test and spending time on watching them trying to figure out my hints and cues. It’s a beautiful project and I adore the cueing part, in which I have to act things out all the time. If everything goes well, you will soon be able to read about my results in a scientific paper. Or at least, that’s the ultimate goal. Let’s see how far I’ll come ;)