Keynote Speakers

PD Dr. Judith Maria Burkart

University of Zurich, Switzerland

PD Dr. Judith Burkart studied psychology and neurobiology at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, where she earned her licenciée degree with a thesis on mirror self-recognition and mirror-related cognitive abilities in marmosets. She obtained her PhD in psychology at the University of Zürich, Switzerland in April 2004. Currently, she is a senior lecturer and the head of Evolutionary Cognition Group at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Her research interests include cognitive and psychological consequences of cooperative breeding, primate cognitive evolution, evolution of prosociality and cooperative breeding hypothesis.

PD Dr. Burkart’s group tries to contribute to a better understanding of the evolutionary origin of the human mind. To do so, they identify both similarities and differences in social, motivational and cognitive processes in human and nonhuman primates. One of unique human features, relative to the great apes, is cooperative breeding. A main focus therefore concerns the role of cooperative breeding, which human share with more distantly related primates. By studying the cooperatively breeding common marmosets and systematically comparing them with more independently breeding species, PD Dr. Burkart’s group aims at identifying processes that are systematically associated with shared infant care.


Raoul Schwing, PhD

University of Veterinary Medicine, Austria

Raoul Schwing completed his Bachelor of Science (cum laude) at the University of Utrecht’s University College Roosevelt in the Netherlands, with a honors thesis on the habitat distribution of the European lobster. He then came to the kea lab in Vienna (at the time still housed at the KLIVV) and did a pilot study the vocalizations of captive kea. Subsequently he joined a University of Vienna field study in the mountains of New Zealand on the cognitive abilities of wild kea. He continued his studies at the University of Auckland with a full scholarship, and from there researched the vocal communication system of the kea over the next 4 years. His work also included an examination of the syrinx (anatomy lab in Auckland) and the hearing range (Haidlhof research station) of kea. Shortly before handing in his thesis he stepped in as kea lab manager at the Messerli Research Institute, to replace Dr. Gajdon during his parental leave. After Dr. Gajdon left the Messerli Research Institute in 2016 he continues his work as head of the kea lab to date, and oversees the care of the kea group and the scientific projects on site at the Haidlhof Research Station.

Main fields of research

  • Communication
  • Play behavior

Selected publications

Schwing, R./Parsons, S./Nelson, X. J. (2012): Vocal repertoire of the New Zealand kea parrot Nestor notabilis. In: Current Zoology, 58(5), 727-740.

Schwing, R. (2010): Scavenging behaviour of kea (Nestor notabilis). In: Notornis, 57(2), 98-99.


Dr. Angela Stöger

University of Vienna, Austria

Dr. Angela Stöger received her master in Zoology in 2002, and her PhD (honored with the Doc.Award) in 2006 at the Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Vienna. Since 2009 she is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Cognitive Biology. Her broad scientific focus is vocal communication in mammals, particularly the versatility of acoustic signals, evolved perceptual mechanisms and underlying cognitive abilities. Dr. Stöger’s main model species are African and Asian elephants, highly social mammals that combine a capacity for vocal learning with complex cognitive skills; in particular sound production and perception mechanisms, vocal imitation, and the kinds of information vocal signals can provide listeners with (e.g., physical and motivational attributes of the caller).

For her research, Dr. Stöger was awarded with the Bank Austria Award for Innovative Research, the Elisabeth-Lutz Award from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Focus of Excellence from the University of Vienna, and with the Research Award from the City of Vienna in 2015. She further received the L’Oreal Scholarship (ÖAW) in 2013, and is currently the PI of the FWF grant P 31034-B29 focussing on vocal leanring in elephants. She is supervising students conducting observational and experimental research on captive and free ranging animals such as giant pandas, giraffes and felids.


Dr. Anna Kis

Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Dr. Anna Kis received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest in 2010, her master’s degree in Cognitive Sciences from Budapest University of Technology and Economics in 2012, and her PhD in 2014 from the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, supervised by Márta Gácsi. Since 2014 she has been a research fellow at Psychobiological Research Group, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology at Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in Budapest, Hungary. Dr. Kis has authored 22 research articles (14 of which first-authored) and 3 book chapters. She is a recent winner of the Nestlé-Purina sponsorship for studies in cat and dog emotional well-being, as well as recipient of several other research grants.

Her broad scientific focus lies in behavioural, genetic and neurohormonal components of comparative social cognition, and her main model systems have been companionship animals (cats, dogs) and humans. As the results of several comparative studies indicate that the dogs have similar socio-cognitive skills as 1-2 years old children, Dr. Kis studies behavioural manifestations of these skills and tests dogs and humans in a number of tests. The key question of her research is to develop new methodological approaches to the topic, including effect of candidate genes (OXTR, WFS1, OPRM), measuring neurohormones (oxytocin) and non-invasive brain imaging procedures (EEG, fMRI).