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Prof. Dr. Kurt Kotrschal

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This is me in a nutshell:

I was born as a biologist, reportedly collecting bugs and slugs from very early age. Clearly, there was no other option for me than study biology. The University of Salzburg was a good choice, because in the 1970ies and 1980ies it provided a degree of freedom and support to an ambitious and interested student, which allowed early scientific development, supported and supervised by Prof. H. Adam and Prof. A. Goldschmid.

This kind of academic freedom continued after my PhD, 1981 and allowed productive research in functional comparative vertebrate anatomy (fish jaws and fish chemosensory systems), at the University of Salzburg and in the course of two post docs in the USA (UA, Tucson and UCHSC, Denver). Of course, all this would not have been possible without the supportive participation of my wife Rosemarie.

1990 I was hired as an Assistant Prof at the University of Vienna, Department of Behavioural biology (headed by Prof. John Dittami), to run the KLF. In fact, John caught me during my post doc period in Denver. When the phone rang at 3 o´clock in the morning I was immediately decided to take this opportunity.

Over the years and with the help of Dr. J. Hemetsberger and many productive and creative masters and PhD students and PostDocs, we developed the KLF from a local institution into a known factor in international behavioural biology and cognition research. Now well acknowledged young researchers, such as Dr. Thomas Bugnyar or Dr. Isabella Scheiber maintain work groups of their own at the KLF. Most recently, the KLF in collaboration with Dr. F. Range, Dr. Z. Viranyi, the University of Vienna and the Cumberland Game Park sprouted a new Wolf Science Center.

The positive development of the KLF is reflected by both, scientific output and by our competence to win competitive grants necessary to support this level of research. This allows state-of-the-art work within a network of national and international collaborations. Most importantly, we increasingly attract an international crowd of bright and dedicated students and scholars.

At any time now, the KLF hosts 12-20 students (from the Univ. Vienna and other European Universities) and research fellows who are mainly funded by grants held by myself and increasingly, also by grants held by associated post docs and research fellows. My continuing responsibility is the strategic positioning of the KLF. This includes making the best of the opportunity to work comparatively with a variety of model birds. At present, for example, the KLF is the only institution worldwide where experimental work with ravens, the bird equivalents of chimpanzees, is possible. In spring 2008, the range of model systems is extended to wolves (cognition and cooperation).

Together with a crowd of able students and collaborators we have developed KLF research at the interface between behavioural functions and its proximate causes and towards linking social organization and cognition. This resulted in more than 100 publications in peer reviewed journals (as a first or last author) and handbooks in the last 10 years. The career of a fair number of internationally successful PhD and postdoctoral students (including T. Bugnyar, I. Scheiber, K. Hirschenhauser) is based on the research opportunities created at the KLF.

In parallel to pure science, I am keenly interested in the societal embedding of science and in the relationships between science, humanities and religion. Not the least, I consider it important and challenging communicating science to the public. Hence, media appearances of myself and a number of collaborators and newspaper articles and commentaries, notably my regular comment column in the newspaper “Die Presse”.     fileadmin/user_upload/p_klf/KotrschalCV_May2008.pdf   



  • Social Mechanisms
  • Social Energetics
  • Social Complexity and Cognition
  • Hormones and Behaviour
  • Behavioural Phenotypes
  • Human-Animal Companionship
  • Research Models: Fish, Birds (Greylag Geese, Corvids, Northern Bald Ibis), Mammals (Cats, Dogs, Wolves, Humans).


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