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Topics in February

Feb 23, 2011


Animals Have Personalities, Too

Many properties used to describe personality differences in humans also apply to nonhuman primates.

People are different. Animals are, too. Researchers at Freie Universität Berlin study what individual characteristics combine to form personality in apes – and what that tells us about ourselves.

Bebe, Gorgo, and Viringika are gorillas. But they’re also TV stars: When the great apes at the Leipzig Zoo tussle, play, or take care of their young in front of the cameras in the documentary series Elefant, Tiger & Co., more than two million viewers tune in. Only a handful of them know that the three gorillas are also stars of another kind, playing a major role in personality research as well. Psychologist Jana Uher is an expert on comparative differential and personality psychology at Freie Universität Berlin. The behavioral researcher has been studying the individuality of apes for a long time now.

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Keeping Everything Flowing

Traveling by plane or train often requires a lot of patience. Information systems specialist Natalia Kliewer and her team develop strategies to optimize transport plans and staff.

Information systems specialists optimize bus, train, and airplane routes and schedules.

Is my train actually going to come on time today? The same question was on the minds of many Berlin residents this winter. The situation, dubbed “commuter rail chaos” in the media, prompted even the Senate to take action about the train cancellations and constant late arrivals. While passengers do not always have to show as much patience as those taking the commuter train in Berlin, it is rare for everything to go smoothly when we travel. Buses, trains, and airplanes often arrive later than the scheduled time. Sometimes natural forces are to blame, but often enough it is also the fault of poor planning on the part of transit companies and airlines that do not deploy their vehicles and staff in the best possible way to keep schedules working smoothly.

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How Intelligent Is a Pine Tree?

How intelligent is a pine tree? Researchers in the Applied Zoology / Animal Ecology Group are addressing this question.

Biologist Ivo Beyaert studies smart trees and plants

It is often said of human beings that we are intelligent life forms. In the animal kingdom, foxes, at least, are considered clever. But what about plants? Are they smart, too? Do they perhaps even have a brain? And feelings? How do they process stimuli from their environments? Ivo Beyaert of the Institute of Biology at Freie Universität Berlin is studying how clever a pine tree is.

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