Barbara Hellriegel

Barbara Hellriegel, Prof. Dr.

Tel.: +41 44 635 54 35

Fax.: +41 44 635 68 04


Research projects

My research interests concern biological interactions (social learning, cooperation, competition, host-parasite) and the resulting conflicts of interest at the respective biological levels (gametes, individuals, groups of individuals, species) with their evolutionary and ecological consequences, e.g. for the spread of innovations, behavioral strategies and population dynamics.
Current work focuses
(i) on identifying conditions that are favorable for the evolution of social learning and
(ii) on understanding the spread of innovations and the observed distributions of cultural variants in non-human primates on ecological as well as historical time scales and in space. Simulation models are developed to investigate how different assumptions, e.g. about learning mechanisms, habitat structure and dispersal patterns, impact the spread of cultural traits. As future directions I intend to also include
(iii) game theoretical approaches to study the evolution of behavioral strategies, for instance, (pre-)cooperative behavior in primates and
(iv) epidemiological modeling to aid our understanding of the spread of diseases within and between populations of non-human primates and the possible impact of their interactions with humans. Methodologically, my approach combines the strengths of mathematical modeling and computer simulations in dealing with complexity with the realism of data from the field and from experimental studies. Although naturally most of the data will come from field studies and from experimental studies in captivity carried out by other members of our research group, I also plan to conduct and supervise experimental studies myself.

Past research had centered on:
(i) host-parasite dynamics within and between hosts,
(ii) sexual parasitism and population dynamics in species with hybridogenetic reproduction,
(iii) population regulation in organisms with complex life cycles,
(iv) sexual conflict over paternity in animals and plants and
(v) predicting the natural history of complex diseases.