2012 Alumnus Spotlight: Dr. Ben Dantzer
Zoology alumnus Ben Dantzer (PhD '12) is currently working at the University of Cambridge, as a postdoctoral research associate for the Large Animal Research Group, Department of Zoology.
Dr. Dantzer's work is broadly focused on understanding the origins of individual differences in cooperative behavior in meerkats in the Kalahari.
"Meerkats are a highly social species that live in groups ranging from 3-50 inviduals and engages in cooperative breeding," says Dantzer. "Within each group, a dominant female and male produce the majority (80-90%) of all offspring, which are largely cared for by subordinate males and females in the group."
The Kalahari Meerkat Project is a long-term study of individual meerkats. Documented over the past 15 years, studies show that some individuals exhibit high levels of cooperative behavior whereas others exhibit low levels of cooperative behavior.
Dr. Dantzer's work will focus on understanding how and why such individual variation in cooperative behavior exists, the causes and consequences of individual variation in cooperative behavior, and the hormonal mechanisms that mediate cooperative behavior. His work will involve collecting data in the field from wild meerkats in the Kalahari, laboratory work to measure physiological characteristics of meerkats, as well as analyses of long-term data collected over the last 15 years.
Dr. Dantzer is currently working with Dr. Tim Clutton-Brock, a Prince Philip Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Cambridge, Fellow of the Royal Society and a recent recipient of the Darwin Medal.