PhD program in cooperation with SUPERFLEX, Jordan Lab MPI and Alligator Head Foundation

Photo: David Lee, F-Stop Movies.
Photo: David Lee, F-Stop Movies.
Photo: David Lee, F-Stop Movies.

TBA21–Academy, Jordan Lab at Max Planck Institute and SUPERFLEX have designed a PhD programme based within the Integrative Field Biology Lab at the Max Planck Institute Department of Collective Behaviour, bringing together expertise from architecture, conservation policy, art, and science. Working between the MPI Institute in Konstanz, Germany and SUPERFLEX studio in Copenhagen, Denmark, the programme is situated within the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Organismal Biology, with extended periods of fieldwork at the Alligator Head Foundation in Jamaica.

Studying the way the social lives of marine fish are mediated by the physical structures they inhabit, this PhD project conducted by Anja Wegner will first examine how the structure and arrangement of natural corals facilitate and mediate social behaviour, and will extend to more derived and artistic structures as the project develops. Ultimately, the project hopes to answer questions at the interface of human and non-human centred design.
The field-based project includes observations and experiments conducted with SCUBA employing underwater videography in marine and freshwater environments over long fieldwork periods, drawing on machine-learning based animal tracking, behavioural decomposition, and social network analysis. 

During the first research trip to the Alligator Head Foundation in November 2019, SUPERFLEX's Pink Elements were placed on the seafloor. Within hours, Tobacco Basslets had taken up residence on the structure, exploring the tunnels, caves, and other shelters it provided. Using machine-learning-based 3D tracking, the team will monitor the ways how various species use natural and constructed elements of their physical environment.
Jordan Lab at Max Planck Institute

The Jordan lab aims to situate behaviour in the relevant social context using advanced visual and analytical techniques. All animals are at some point in their lives social – through reproduction, competition, development, and many other processes – and these social interactions can change the expression of behaviour, as well as the selection regime in which it occurs.

The lab seeks to understand how behaviour is affected by the social environment, how animals perceive and process social cues, and how environments – both social and physical – change as a consequence of individual behaviour. We take a broad approach, combining proximate neurobiological and genetic mechanisms of social behaviour with large-scale ecological outcomes of social influence and collective behaviour.


SUPERFLEX is an artist group founded in 1993 by Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, Jakob Fenger and Rasmus Nielsen, based in Copenhagen. With a diverse practice spanning a wide range of media and interests, they challenge the role of the artist in contemporary society and explore the nature of systems of power. 

Alligator Head Foundation

Alligator Head Foundation (AHF) is a Jamaican-based project initiated by TBA21–Academy, focusing on the intersection of science, art and community. With a collaborative approach to protecting fish stocks, restoring habitats and regenerating local economies, AHF supports the local communities in Portland that depend on fishing as a livelihood. Along with managing the East Portland Fish Sanctuary, the Foundation is dedicated to supporting cultural production and commissioning ambitious projects that raise ecological, economic and social issues to the general public.