Meg Crofoot receives ERC Consolidator Grant

Professor Meg Crofoot and Professor Timo Müller, a biologist and literary scholar respectively at the University of Konstanz, each receive an ERC Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council funding their research for five years.

In her "CO-SLEEP" project, Meg Crofoot, executive board member of the Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour, develops a new perspective in studying sleep: she and her team examine the social aspects of sleep in groups. They combine traditional field-observation methods with cutting-edge technologies for their studies on wild baboons in Kenya.

CO-SLEEP – Sleep as a collective behaviour

How do group-living animals overcome conflicts of interest to achieve shared goals? How do groups make decisions, and are there universal rules by which animal societies organize themselves? These are some of the questions Meg Crofoot addresses in her research. She is a professor of Organismal Interactions at the University of Konstanz’s Department of Biology, Alexander von Humboldt Professor and Director of the Department of Ecology of Animal Societies at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior.

With her "CO-SLEEP" project, for which she was recently awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant in the amount of € 2,900,000, Professor Crofoot aims to change the way we think about and study sleep. “Animals that live in groups, don’t sleep in isolation, but because most sleep research is conducted in laboratory settings, almost nothing is known about the social dynamics of sleep,” Crofoot explains.

Her CO-SLEEP project explicitly aims to bring the study sleep behavior into a collective context. "My goal is to understand how social environments shape – and are shaped by– the sleep patterns of their members. To achieve this, we have to take sleep research out of the lab and into the field," says Meg Crofoot.

Fieldwork using state-of-the-art technology
To do this, Meg Crofoot and her team will combine traditional field-observation methods with cutting-edge technologies for their studies on wild baboons in Kenya. These technologies include collars with GPS transmitters and acceleration sensors that record the movements of individual animals, as well as thermal imaging cameras for behavioral monitoring at night. In this way, the movement patterns and sleeping behaviour of 30 baboon troops – about 900 individuals – will be studied at the same time; an unprecedented scale for such a field study.

Using advanced computational modelling, the researchers will then analyse the collected data to explore how complex social relationships shape individual and collective sleep decisions, and how these, in turn, interact with social dynamics. "The project has the potential to provide entirely new insights into the social and ecological trade-offs that gregarious species – like us – must make to satisfy their essential need for sleep," concludes Meg Crofoot.

Further award for the University of Konstanz
Also Professor Timo Müller from the University of Konstanz receives an ERC Consolidator Grant. The literary scholar examines the early phase of automobility, seen as an aesthetic experience, in his project "Off the Road: The Environmental Aesthetics of Early Automobility". In the interdisciplinary collaboration project, involving researchers in the fields of knowledge and environmental history, he compiles a corpus of American literature on automobility and analyzes its specific perception of the environment.

About the ERC Consolidator Grant
With the Consolidator Grant, the European Research Council supports excellent Principal Investigators in consolidating their own independent research team or programme and continuing to develop a successful academic career in Europe. ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded up to a maximum of € 2,000,000 for a period of 5 years. An additional € 1,000,000 can be applied for to cover eligible “start-up” costs, such as equipment purchases, or fieldwork costs. To be considered for an ERC grant, Principal Investigators must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of their scientific project.

Key facts:

  • Two ERC Consolidator Grants from the European Research Council for the University of Konstanz
  • Funding for the projects
    • "CO-SLEEP" of Meg Crofoot, Professor of Organismal Interactions and Director of the Department of Ecology of Animal Societies at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in the amount of 2.9 million euros
    • "Off the Road: The Environmental Aesthetics of Early Automobility" of Timo Müller, Professor of America.n Studies in the amount of around 2 million euros
  • Funding period: five years.

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