Voles are everywhere where agriculture florishes. During years of high plant productivity, population densities of voles can reach up to 1300 animals per hectar. In contrast, the populations usually crash to a few animals per hectar during winter. Thus, voles are an interesting system to study the effect of group living on various aspects of an individuals life.
Common voles can be either solitary or social, depending on the level of competition within the population. I am interested in what causes the switch from solitary to social life style and which physiological and behavioural factors are associated with it.
At the University of Potsdam, Germany, I currently work on the effect of population density on the personality of vole pups. Depending on the number of conspecifics around, certain personality types (shy, bold, active, calm, explorative) might have advantages when in comes to survival and reproduction.
Currently, my master student Maria Kochs runs personality tests on common voles (Microtus arvalis) born in high and low density.