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Prof. Andrea Migliano (Department of Anthropology, University of Zurich) has been awarded an ERC consolidator grant called COLLABORO: Adaptive history of human socio-cognitive development. This project will add to other successful past and current research projects carried out the Human Evolutionary Ecology Group at UZH.

We are now looking for five funded PhD students (4 year-scholarship, at SNF rates = 48000 Swiss Francs/ year) to study the evolution of human cumulative culture, social networks and social cognitive development in hunter-gatherer groups. In principle, we favour candidates interested in joining our long-term field sites in Congo Brazzaville and the Philippines; however, we are happy to consider proposals for alternative field sites. Travelling expenses will be covered by the project.
Project Abstract:
The secret of human evolutionary success is a unique ability to collaborate to solve complex tasks together. In WEIRD societies, key socio-cognitive skills (theory of mind, prosociality, overimitation, teaching, moral judgment among others) develop at similar ages, being often interpreted as general socio-cognitive regularities. However, cross-cultural studies revealed striking exceptions to such regularities. COLLABORO will for the first time compare the ontogeny of children aged 0-17 in traditional hunter gatherer groups, using standard socio-cognitive tests, focal follows, contact tracing and longitudinal surveys. Blending anthropological depth with psychological breadth, to provide insights into possible general socio-cognitive adaptations and ontogenetic variation triggered by local socio-cultural factors.
Candidate profile:
Required skills:
  • Interest in long-term fieldwork with hunter-gatherer groups (approximately one year) and application of multiple methodologies including interviews, camp scans, focal follows, and socio cognitive tests.
  • Interest in and basic knowledge of quantitative methods and R.
  • Degree in Biology, Biological Anthropology, Experimental Psychology, Natural Sciences or any scientific related field.
  • Proficiency in English (an official language at the University of Zurich).
  • Teamwork and collaborative skills, willingness to travel together and collaborate in multiple steps of data analyses and publications with other students, postdocs and senior staff in the research group.
  • Good scientific writing skills.
Desired skills:
  • Proficiency in French (for candidates interested in field work in Congo Brazzaville).
  • Experience in fieldwork in tropical forests, developing countries, and under challenging conditions
Applications should be submitted to Prof Andrea Migliano ( and include:
  • CV
  • Cover letter explaining why you are interested in the position, and how would you approach the topic from an experimental and theoretical perspective
  • Two reference letters
The desirable starting date is January 2023, however applications will be considered until all five positions are filled. For any further information please contact ( 

PhD position using mountain gorillas as a study system to examine the evolution of flexible dispersal patterns


Topic: The predictors and consequences of dispersal in a flexible social system



This position provides an opportunity to work with one of the largest and most detailed datasets on the behaviour of a wild ape. Through working closely with experts in both ape and human social behaviour, and by combining long-term data with intensively sampled physiological data they will be well positioned to investigate research questions at the intersection of biological anthropology, psychology, animal behaviour and conservation. The ideal candidate should have a background in one or more of these areas and enthusiasm for developing expertise in the others. The PhD student will receive training in Social Network Analysis, GIS analysis, fecal hormone extraction, fecal hormone assays and scientific writing. They will also have opportunities to visit, work with and learn from collaborators in the USA (in Dr Stacy Rosenbaum’s Lab at University of Michigan) and in Rwanda (at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund). They will work closely with Dr Robin Morrison on their project but be part of a wider team within Prof. Andrea Migliano’s Human Evolutionary Ecology group, including an incoming cohort of 5 PhD students on Prof. Migliano’s COLLABORO ERC project.


Supervisors: Dr Robin Morrison and Prof. Andrea Migliano

Location: Human Evolutionary Ecology Group, Department of Anthropology, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Timescale: 4-year PhD beginning around September 2023

Funding: 4-year scholarship starting at CHF 47,040 with annual increase (~CHF 1,500)

        CHF 5,000 for conference attendance, CHF 8,000 for fieldwork/collaboration costs

Eligibility: Applicants from all countries can apply. A masters’ degree in a scientific field and English proficiency at CEFR C1 or higher are required. Due to the timeframe of the wider project and its funding, the position must be full time.

Candidate profile: 

  • Good quantitative skills and the ability to handle large datasets (e.g. in R, python etc.) or basic knowledge of quantitative methods and R and the capacity and enthusiasm to develop them further.

  • Interest in social evolution and animal behaviour and an enthusiasm for hypothesis-driven research using data from long-term studies of wild animals.

  • Good scientific writing skills and proficiency in English (an official language at the University of Zurich).

  • Teamwork and collaborative skills – you will be working with an international team of researchers based across Switzerland, Rwanda and the United States.

  • Degree in Biology, Biological Anthropology, Zoology, Psychology, Natural Sciences or any scientific related field.

  • Master’s degree in a scientific discipline.


Any one of these would be a bonus (but is not a requirement – please don’t be put off applying if you do not have experience in any of these):

  • Field skills, particularly experience studying animal behaviour in the field.

  • Lab skills, particularly in running hormone assays.

  • Knowledge of bioacoustics, particularly experience in acoustic monitoring of wild animals.

  • Experience working with long-term behavioural datasets from a wild social animal.



Applications should be submitted to Robin Morrison at and include:

  • CV 

  • Cover letter detailing your motivation for applying to the position, and how you fit the candidate profile (max 800 words)

  • Names and contact details for two referees (e.g. masters supervisor). They will only be contacted at the shortlisting stage.



Please feel free to reach out beforehand if you are unsure about whether to apply, have any questions or would like further information on the project. -




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