Elizabeth A. Hobson            

Contact Information
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Twitter: @HobsonEA
Skype: EAHobson
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Postdoctoral Fellow
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS)
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN USA

Starting July, 2016:
Postdoctoral Fellow
ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems
Santa Fe Institute & Arizona State University

Summary of research interests & projects

I am a biologist who specializes in investigating questions about behavioral ecology, especially those that increase our understanding of animal social interactions. I use a combination of observational, experimental, computational and theoretical techniques to determine how the behavior of individuals leads to the formation of group-level social structures.

Research Interests

Evolution of social structure and complex sociality, social network analysis, animal cognition, temporal dynamics of network structure, dominance hierarchies, social learning, fission-fusion dynamics.

Hobson research overview

Current & upcoming projects
I am a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee where I am developing methods to define, quantify, and compare aspects of social complexity across a wide range of species.

My Ph.D. research focused on sociality in a small parrot species (the monk parakeet). I expanded on several aspects of my dissertation work during a short-term postdoc position with Simon DeDeo (Indiana University & Santa Fe Institute). We investigated how individual actions such as aggression contribute to the formation of emergent global social properties such as rank in a dominance hierarchy. Now at NIMBioS, I am adapting these methods to detect the level of social knowledge in many different species in order to link social interaction patterns with group social complexity.

Please visit this page for more information on my research projects.

Upcoming events 

  • I will be an invited speaker at a symposium in Copenhagen, Denmark, called "Experiments & Models of Social Networks - Cooperation, Conflict and Trust" in May.
  • I will be presenting at the NAOC conference in August as part of the Network Theory in Ornithology symposium organized by Iris Levin and Dai Shizuka.
News & Updates

March / April 2016
  • My review of the new book Animal Social Networks for TREE was published online [link].
  • Eleanor Brush visited me at NIMBioS to work on setting up a project focused on the evolution of signaling systems.
January / February 2016
  • I had a wonderful visit to the Santa Fe Institute in January to interview for a postdoc fellowship. I gave a talk called "Understanding the evolution of social knowledge through conflict".
December 2015
  • I had a great time taking part in a NIMBioS Working Group focused on cooperation and cognition in the context of social hunting. We are putting together a really nice suite of approaches to begin to answer how complex cognitive skills benefit individuals, when animals should be smarter, and how this varies across different species and ecological niches, using the example of collective/cooperative hunting. More detailed overview is here. It's been fun to branch out into thinking about carnivores for a change -- and also has me pondering... why aren't more parrots carnivorous?
November 2015
  • I wrote a new tutorial about describing how to score behavioral events as music, using the program LilyPond
Behavior as music