Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Pietro D'Amelio

  Dr Pietro D'Amelio
  PhD (Ludwig Maximilian University of
  Munich / Max Planck Institute for

  John Day Building Room 2.20


Passionate naturalist and birder since a young age, Pietro obtained his ringing permit before his driving license. For his BSc and MSc he studied at the University of Pisa (Italy). His Bachelor degree was in “Ecology and Biodiversity” and Master in “Conservation and Evolution”. For both thesis projects, Pietro chose laboratory projects to complement field skills developed in his free time, but he naively really wanted to “do an experiment”. For his master project, he was awarded the “Erasmus placement” grant to join the Behavioral Neurobiology group led by Prof. Manfred Gahr at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen. (

At the end of his internship, Pietro applied for a PhD position in the same group under the supervision of Dr. Andries ter Maat and Lisa Trost and joined the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Organismal Biology. (

During his PhD, Pietro explored the vocalizations of Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). He aimed to study when bird use vocalizations during pair formation, with a precision never attempted before and to understand how they are controlled at the brain level. He did not focus on the predominant and loud “song” but on the shorter and softer “calls”. These calls are very simple and believed to be innate but produced in thousands every day. During this time, he developed a passion for clean and high-quality audio recordings :). Pietro defended his PhD titled “Vocal communication in Zebra finches: a focused description of pair vocal activity” in early 2019. Studying the mechanisms of pair formation in ebra finches was fascinating but he was frustrated to not be able to generalise his findings because of the restrictions posed by the captive environment. Therefore, Pietro went to the field! He joined Prof. B. Kampenaers group (Max Planck Institute for Ornithology) as a Research Assistant for Arctic shorebirds ecology in Barrow, Alaska, where they studied breeding and movement ecology of Red phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius). 

In September 2018, Pietro joined the “Sociable Weaver Project” led by Dr. Rita Covas and Dr. Claire Doutrelant. He started his experience by spending five months in the field at the Benfontein Nature Reserve. Meanwhile, he was awarded the Claude Leon Post-doctoral fellowship from April 2019 at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. Under the supervision of the aforementioned researchers he plans to study mate choice from different angles, to understand in the context of a cooperative species, how a certain mate is chosen and whether staying together for long time is advantageous.

Pietro's long-term goal is to integrate mechanistic and ultimate question maintaining a naturalistic eye, a holistic understanding and strong collaborations with experts of different fields.

Peer-reviewed publications

Gill, L.F.*, D’Amelio, P.B.*, Adreani, N.M.*, Sagunsky, H., Gahr, C.M., ter Maat, A. 2016. A minimum-impact, flexible tool to study vocal communication of small animals with precise individual-level resolution. Methods Ecol Evol. 7(11), 1349-1358; *joint first authors

D’Amelio, P.B., Trost, L., ter Maat, A. 2017. Vocal exchanges during pair formation and maintenance in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). Frontiers in Zoology 14(1), 13.

D’Amelio, P.B., Klumb, M., Adreani, N.M., Gahr, C.M., ter Maat, A. 2017. Individual recognition of opposite sex vocalizations in the Zebra Finch. Scientific Reports 7(1), 5579.

Carbeck, K., DeMoranville, K., D'Amelio, P., Goymann, G., Trost, L., Pierce, B., Bryła, A, Dzialo, M., Bauchinger, U., McWilliams, S. 2018. Environmental cues and dietary antioxidants affect breeding behavior and testosterone of male European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Hormones and Behavior 103, 36–44.