Personal profile

Research overview

Professor Christian Rutz FRSE has broad interests in animal behaviour and cognition, human evolution, advanced animal tracking technologies, conservation science, policy making, and research practice and reproducibility. He is well-known for his visionary, blue-skies work, employing innovative conceptual and methodological approaches to solve long-standing challenges, unlock new research opportunities, and positively disrupt conventional thinking. He feels passionate about building diverse, inclusive and empowered teams and communities, and harnessing the broader societal and conservation benefits of scientific research. Rutz is currently preparing the launch of the Urban Exploration Project, in close partnership with the National Geographic Society: this global-scale, community-driven initiative will collaboratively track animals across gradients of urbanization worldwide, to produce a holistic understanding of animal behaviour in human-modified landscapes that can, in turn, be used to develop evidence-based approaches to achieving sustainable human-wildlife coexistence.

Rutz has made important contributions to understanding the biological drivers of technological innovation and progress, with his long-term studies of two remarkable tool-using bird species – the famous New Caledonian crow and the near-extinct Hawaiian crow. The challenges of studying elusive wildlife sparked an interest in cutting-edge data collection approaches, including miniature wearables for animals (‘bio-logging’). Rutz led the teams that pioneered two transformative bio-logging technologies for studying wild birds: miniature video-cameras, to obtain a bird’s-eye view of undisturbed behaviour, and proximity-loggers, to autonomously record encounters in highly dynamic avian social networks.

As Founding President of the International Bio-Logging Society, he helped build a community of >1,200 field biologists, conservation practitioners, micro-electronics engineers, data scientists and other experts, who share an interest in using state-of-the-art technology for wildlife research and conservation. Rutz is also Co-Founder and Chair of the COVID-19 Bio-Logging Initiative – a UN-endorsed global research consortium of >600 collaborators analysing animal tracking data collected before, during and after lockdowns, to advance our understanding of human–wildlife interactions and identify pathways towards sustainable coexistence. Rutz and his collaborators coined the now widely used term ‘anthropause’, which was selected by the Oxford English Dictionary as one of the words of 2020, and he recently introduced the complementary concept of the ‘anthropulse’.

Rutz relishes working at the science–policy interface. He contributes to work conducted under the United Nations Environment Programme’s ‘Bonn Convention’ (CMS), to recognise more fully the conservation-relevance of animals’ complex social lives, and co-developed a highly successful framework (STRANGE), to help researchers identify, mitigate and report sampling biases in studies of animal behaviour. Both of these initiatives have developed real-world impact, with CMS signatory states passing a Concerted Action for protecting tool-using chimpanzees in Western Africa at COP13 in 2020 in India, and STRANGE being adopted as a policy initiative by the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN). Most recently, Rutz has proposed an innovative strategy for harnessing the full conservation potential of animal-tracking data (TRACK = Tag Registry for Advancing Conservation Knowledge), and has become involved in work of the Policy Team of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Strategic Group on Environment, Bioeconomy and Sustainability of SULSA (Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance).

Many of Rutz’s projects involve cross-, multi- and inter-disciplinary collaboration with national and international partners, including universities (Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Yale, Hawaii, Washington, Vienna, Leon, Los Banos, Griffiths, Tokyo), research institutions (NASA, Max Planck, Smithsonian Institution, Marine Biological Association, Senckenberg), and other initiatives and consortia (Movebank, Earth Species Project, WILDLABS, Peregrine Fund, Vertebrate Genomes Project, Move BON). His research has attracted some £3.4 million of grant funding since 2005, and is currently supported by the BBSRC, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and National Geographic Society.

Rutz is a National Geographic Explorer, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) and International Fellow of the Explorers Club, as well as a former Rhodes Scholar (Oxford), BBSRC David Phillips Fellow (St Andrews), and Radcliffe Fellow (Harvard). He has held numerous leadership positions, advisory roles, editorships and visiting appointments (Oxford, Tokyo, New South Wales), and received a string of prestigious academic awards and prizes, in recognition of his scientific achievements, service to the research community, and commitment to public engagement (for a selection, see below). His work is regularly published in leading scientific journals, including Nature (4) and Science (5), attracting world-wide media attention (recent Altmetric scores of 1981, 1785, 1685, and 1038). Rutz is a seasoned and sought-after public speaker, commentator, interviewee and discussant.

Selected leadership and other professional roles

  • 2023–24  Member, Strategic Group, Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance
  • 2022–      Contributor, Policy Team, Royal Society of Edinburgh, UK
  • 2021–      Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Global Anthropause Raptor Research Network (GARRN)
  • 2021–      Member of Advisory Board, WILDLABS horizon scan (movement ecology)
  • 2020–      Co-Founder and Chair, COVID-19 Bio-Logging Initiative
  • 2020–      Co-Founder, STRANGE Initiative (animal behaviour research)
  • 2019–24  Senior Editor, eLife
  • 2017–24  Founding President, International Bio-Logging Society
  • 2015–      Scientific Adviser, UN ‘Bonn Convention’ (animal cultures)
  • 2014–19  Co-Director, Institute of Behavioural and Neural Sciences (IBANS), St Andrews, UK

Selected awards, prizes and other honours

  • 2023        Explorers Club 50 Award (Fifty People Changing the World, the World needs to Know About)
  • 2022–      Fellow (elected), Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE), UK
  • 2022        Finalist, Falling Walls Science Breakthrough of the Year (Life Sciences), Germany
  • 2022        Explorer, Global Exploration Summit (GLEX), Explorers Club, Azores, Portugal
  • 2021        Endorsed Project (COVID-19 Bio-Logging Initiative), UN Oceans Decade
  • 2020–      National Geographic Explorer, USA
  • 2019–20  Radcliffe Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, USA
  • 2017        Exhibit, Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, London, UK
  • 2014        Hans Löhrl Prize, German Ornithologists’ Union (DO-G), Germany
  • 2014        Exhibit, Great British Bioscience Festival, London and Edinburgh, UK
  • 2014        Isambard–Kingdom–Brunel Award, British Science Association (BSA), UK
  • 2013        Marsh Award for Innovative Ornithology, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), UK
  • 2013–18  Member (elected), Young Academy of Scotland, UK
  • 2009–15  BBSRC David Phillips Fellow, Universities of Oxford and St Andrews, UK
  • 2008        Finalist, Technology and Innovation Awards (Environmental Technology), UK
  • 2006        Exhibit, Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, London/Glasgow, UK
  • 2006–08  Junior Research Fellow, Linacre College, University of Oxford, UK
  • 2004        Oxford University Vice Chancellors’ Fund Award
  • 2001–04  Rhodes Scholar, University of Oxford, UK
  • 1995–01  Scholar, ‘Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes’

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

Founding President, International Bio-Logging Society

Co-Founder and Chair, COVID-19 Bio-Logging Initiative

Co-Chair, Global Anthropause Raptor Research Network (GARRN)

Advisory Board, WILDLABS horizon scan (movement ecology)

Founder and Project Lead, Urban Exploration Project

Editor, Ethology


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • Fitness benefits of alternated chick provisioning in cooperatively breeding carrion crows

    Trapote Villalaín, E. (Creator), Moreno-González, V. (Creator), Canestrari, D. (Creator), Rutz, C. (Creator) & Baglione, V. (Creator), Dryad, 19 Nov 2023


  • Behavioral responses of terrestrial mammals to COVID-19 lockdowns

    Tucker, M. (Creator), Schipper, A. (Creator), Adams, T. (Creator), Attias, N. (Creator), Avgar, T. (Creator), Babic, N. (Creator), Barker, K. (Creator), Bastille-Rousseau, G. (Creator), Behr, D. (Creator), Belant, J. (Creator), Beyer, D. (Creator), Blaum, N. (Creator), Blount, J. D. (Creator), Bockmühl, D. (Creator), Luiz Pires Boulhosa, R. (Creator), Brown, M. (Creator), Buuveibaatar, B. (Creator), Cagnacci, F. (Creator), Calabrese, J. (Creator), Černe, R. (Creator), Chamaillé-Jammes, S. (Creator), Nyein Chan, A. (Creator), Chase, M. (Creator), Chaval, Y. (Creator), Chenaux-Ibrahim, Y. (Creator), Cherry, S. (Creator), Ćirović, D. (Creator), Çoban, E. (Creator), Cole, E. (Creator), Conlee, L. (Creator), Courtemanch, A. (Creator), Cozzi, G. (Creator), Davidson, S. (Creator), DeBloois, D. (Creator), Dejid, N. (Creator), DeNicola, V. (Creator), Desbiez, A. (Creator), Douglas-Hamilton, I. (Creator), Drake, D. (Creator), Egan, M. (Creator), Eikelboom, J. (Creator), Fagen, W. (Creator), Farmer, M. (Creator), Fennessy, J. (Creator), Finnegan, S. (Creator), Fleming, C. (Creator), Fournier, B. (Creator), Fowler, N. (Creator), Gantchoff, M. (Creator), Garnier, A. (Creator), Gehr, B. (Creator), Geremia, C. (Creator), Goheen, J. (Creator), Hauptfleisch, M. (Creator), Hebblewhite, M. (Creator), Heim, M. (Creator), Hertel, A. (Creator), Heurich, M. (Creator), Hewison, A. J. M. (Creator), Hodson, J. (Creator), Hoffman, N. (Creator), Hopcraft, G. (Creator), Huber, D. (Creator), Isaac, E. (Creator), Janik, K. (Creator), Ježek, M. (Creator), Johansson, Ö. (Creator), Jordan, N. (Creator), Kaczensky, P. (Creator), Kamaru, D. (Creator), Kauffman, M. (Creator), Kautz, T. (Creator), Kays, R. (Creator), Kelly, A. (Creator), Kindberg, J. (Creator), Krofel, M. (Creator), Kusak, J. (Creator), Lamb, C. (Creator), LaSharr, T. (Creator), Leimgruber, P. (Creator), Leitner, H. (Creator), Lierz, M. (Creator), Linnell, J. (Creator), Lkhagvaja, P. (Creator), Long, R. (Creator), López-Bao, J. V. (Creator), Loretto, M. (Creator), Marchand, P. (Creator), Martin, H. (Creator), Martinez, L. (Creator), McBride Jr, R. (Creator), McLaren, A. (Creator), Meisingset, E. (Creator), Melzheimer, J. (Creator), Merrill, E. (Creator), Middleton, A. (Creator), Monteith, K. (Creator), Moore, S. (Creator), Van Moorter, B. (Creator), Morellet, N. (Creator), Morrison, T. (Creator), Müller, R. (Creator), Mysterud, A. (Creator), Noonan, M. (Creator), O'Connor, D. (Creator), Olson, D. (Creator), Olson, K. (Creator), Ortega, A. (Creator), Ossi, F. (Creator), Panzacchi, M. (Creator), Pratchett, R. (Creator), Patterson, B. (Creator), Cunha De Paula, R. (Creator), Payne, J. (Creator), Peters, W. (Creator), Petroelje, T. (Creator), Pitcher, B. (Creator), Pokorny, B. (Creator), Poole, K. (Creator), Potočnik, H. (Creator), Poulin, M. (Creator), Pringle, R. (Creator), Prins, H. (Creator), Ranc, N. (Creator), Reljić, S. (Creator), Robb, B. (Creator), Röder, R. (Creator), Rolandsen, C. (Creator), Rutz, C. (Creator), Salemgareyev, A. (Creator), Samelius, G. (Creator), Sayine-Crawford, H. (Creator), Schooler, S. (Creator), Şekercioğlu, Ç. (Creator), Selva, N. (Creator), Samenzato, P. (Creator), Sergiel, A. (Creator), Sharma, K. (Creator), Shawler, A. (Creator), Signer, J. (Creator), Silovský, V. (Creator), Silva, J. P. (Creator), Simon, R. (Creator), Smiley, R. (Creator), Smith, D. (Creator), Solberg, E. (Creator), Ellis-Soto, D. (Creator), Spiegel, O. (Creator), Stabach, J. (Creator), Stacy-Dawes, J. (Creator), Stahler, D. (Creator), Stephenson, J. (Creator), Stewart, C. (Creator), Strand, O. (Creator), Sunde, P. (Creator), Svoboda, N. (Creator), Swart, J. (Creator), Thompson, J. (Creator), Toal, K. (Creator), Uiseb, K. (Creator), VanAcker, M. (Creator), Velilla, M. (Creator), Verzuh, T. (Creator), Wachter, B. (Creator), Whittington, J. (Creator), Wikelski, M. (Creator), Wilmers, C. (Creator), Wittemyer, G. (Creator), Young, J. (Creator), Zięba, F. (Creator), Zwijacz-Kozica, T. (Creator), Huijbregts, M. (Creator) & Mueller, T. (Creator), Dryad, 2022


  • Calibrating animal-borne proximity loggers (dataset)

    Rutz, C. (Creator), Burns, Z. (Creator), Burt, J. (Creator), Otis, B. (Creator) & James, R. (Creator), Dryad, 2015