Scientific Internships

Please contact one of the CRC Research Staff members below for information on internship possibilities.


We currently have three MSc projects available:

TOPIC 1 – Minor/Major project (Contact: Nicky Staes)
Structural comparison of stress behavior in human’s two closest living primate relatives
Bonobos and chimpanzees are equally closely related to humans genetically speaking, but nonetheless show some fascinating differences in their social behavior. It has been suggested that this is due to selective pressures acting against aggression in bonobos, a hypothesis known as the self-domestication hypothesis, which may have caused a suite of correlated traits to change alongside reduced levels of aggressiveness very similar to the domestication process in domesticated species. However, the domestication syndrome typically also includes a reduction in anxiety, but a systematic comparison of anxiety-related behaviors between bonobos and chimpanzees is currently lacking. Some literature even suggests that opposite to expectations, bonobos act more nervous than chimpanzees. The aim of this study is to collect behavioral data in chimpanzees living in two European zoos (locations to be determined) to compare with previously collected bonobo behavioral datasets to investigate whether chimpanzees indeed show higher levels of anxiety-related behaviors, like rough self-scratching, than bonobos.  

•    Behavioral data collection is planned in the course of 2023-2024 (period is flexible) 
•    2 weeks of training is planned in Antwerp Zoo (Belgium) to learn the ethogram and protocol, after which another week of training will happen in the respective zoo where behavioral data will be collected (under supervision) 
•    Per zoo uninterrupted availability is required for 2.5 consecutive months, five days a week, to collect data. You will need a personal laptop to install observer software and fast and blind typing is crucial for successful completion of this project. 
•    This project can serve as a minor project (3 months of data collection in one zoo) or major (6 months of data collection spread across two zoos). 
•    Potential locations include Beekse Bergen (Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands), ZooParc de Beauval  (Saint-Aignan, France), Parc Natura Viva (Bussolengo, Italy), Tierpark Schwaigern (Schwaigern, Germany), Wingham Wildlife Park (Wingham, United Kingdom), Attica Zoological Park (Athens , Greece) and Edinburgh Zoo (Edinburgh, Scotland)

TOPIC 2 – Minor project (Contact: Jonas Verspeek or Daan Laméris)
Compatibility assessment of a mixed-species enclosure with orangutans, gibbons, and otters
Mixed species enclosures are regularly found in modern zoos. In addition to the visitor experience, housing compatible taxa together in one enclosure can have a range of benefits for the animals themselves. In Zoo Planckendael, 6 orangutans, 2 gibbons and 6 otters are housed in a large enclosure consisting of multiple rooms and islands. This project will examine the compatibility of the mixed-species enclosure, using novel statistical approaches. 
The timing of this study is flexible.
-    Behavioral observations of orangutans, gibbons and otters in Zoo Planckendael in Belgium
-    Uninterrupted availability for 4 consecutive months to collect data
-    Own laptop to install observer software
-    Fast and blind typing – this is CRUCIAL for success of this project

TOPIC 3 – Major project (Contact: Jonas Verspeek)
Cooperative strategies in a social context: do bonobos outperform chimpanzees in an identical cooperation task?
Humans stand out as being a highly cooperative species. Studying cooperation in our closest living relatives, bonobos and chimpanzees, can help to unravel potential shared proximate mechanisms to overcome certain challenges of cooperation. In this study we will use an identical paradigm to study cooperation in bonobos and chimpanzees in a social context. The cooperation paradigm will consist of a free-standing set-up that will be accessible throughout the day. The timing of this study is flexible.
-    Behavioral observations of bonobos in Zoo Planckendael and chimpanzees in Zoo Antwerpen in Belgium.
-    Uninterrupted availability for 7 consecutive months to collect data
-    Own laptop to install observer software
-    Fast and blind typing – this is CRUCIAL for success of this project