Palmyre Boucherie PhD



My main research interest consists in studying animal societies and the proximate mechanisms underlying social structures and their dynamics. In particular, I aim at investigating the emergence and maintenance of different levels of social organisation, and understanding how different categories of social relationships underlie group structures.  

This interest is born from the social observation of a captive group of rooks over several years, during my Master degree and my PhD, which I recently completed at the University of Strasbourg in France (“Layers of social organisation in rooks, a monogamous bird species”, supervised by Dr. Valérie Dufour). The main line of my PhD focused on the diversity and dynamic of social relationships in rooks, investigating in particular the behavioral mechanisms underlying pair bonding and extra-pair relationships - from emergence to dissolution -; and the structural processes shaping the network of relationships and ensuring its stability across time and demographic changes.  

I am now currently working as a post-doc with Thomas Bugnyar in the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna, where I focus on the nature of social relationships in ravens and crows, and on the behavioral patterns structuring the resulting social networks, using a comparative approach including both captive (hand and parent raised; Haidlhof Research Station) and wild groups (Konrad Lorenz Research Station in Grunau).  

In parallel, I’m also interested in the prevalence and strength of dominance hierarchies in corvids, considering in particular the determinants of dominance relationships and their dynamic over time, and as a consequence, the stability of dominance hierarchies characteristics (e.g. linearity, steepness, directionality of conflicts).

Overall, by fostering our knowledge of corvids’ social organisations, my research project aims at identifying key components of corvids’ socials structures, contributing to the establishment of a comparative framework necessary to a better understanding of the evolution of animal sociality. To compare social organisations across species, and more precisely the processes that modulate and stabilise them over time, can indeed provide valuable insights to better understand the different mechanisms sustaining intra- and inter-specific variations of social organisations.