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Past NIMBioS Postdoctoral Fellow

Amiyaal Ilany

Amiyaal Ilany photo. Dates: October 2012 – January 2015
Personal website
Twitter: @amiyaal
Project Title: Modeling causes and consequences of temporal change in animal social networks

Amiyaal Ilany (Ph.D. Zoology, Tel Aviv Univ., 2012) studied the social networks of animals. Dr. Ilany uses theoretical and empirical approaches to identify the factors that determine the social structure of animals. In particular, he applied methods and theory from sociology and biology to data from a 25-year study of spotted hyena in Kenya, and found that many factors influence social network dynamics, including environmental causes, individual traits, and also structural constraints that limit the possible social structures. Dr. Ilany also developed general models of social structure in animals, as most of the work in this field has been empirical. Upon completing his fellowship at NIMBioS, Dr. Ilany accepted a position as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Erol Akçay (also a former NIMBioS postdoctoral fellow) at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Ilany will continue to develop the theory of social structure in animals and apply it to data from long-term studies of wild animals.

LiveScience Profile Q&A with Dr. Ilany: Social networking animal style

Video Interview: Animal networks

Video icon. NIMBioS Seminar: Social networks in the hyrax and the hyena: from static to dynamic

Feature Story: Can the friend of my friend be my enemy? Choice affects stability of the social network

Publications while at NIMBioS

​Chen S, Ilany A, White BJ, Sanderson MW, Lanzas C. 2015. Spatial-Temporal Dynamics of High-Resolution Animal Networks: What Can We Learn from Domestic Animals?. PLOS One, 10(6)​. [Online]​

​Ilany A, Booms AS, Holekamp KE. 2015. ​​Topological effects of network structure on long-term social network dynamics in a wild mammal​. Ecology Letters, 18(7): 687-695. [Online]

Chen S, White BJ, Sanderson MW, Amrine DE, Ilany A, Lanzas C. 2014. Highly dynamic animal contact network and implications on disease transmission. Scientific Reports, 4: 4472. [Online] [PDF]

Demartsev V, Kershenbaum A, Ilany A, Barocas A, Bar Ziv E, Koren L, Geffen E. 2014. Male hyraxes increase song complexity and duration in the presence of alert individuals. Behavioral Ecology. [Online]

Kershenbaum et al. 2014. Acoustic sequences in non-human animals: A tutorial review and prospectus. Biological Reviews. [Online]

Ilany A, Barocas A, Koren L, Kam M, Geffen E. 2013. Structural balance in the social networks of a wild mammal. Animal Behaviour, 85(6): 1397-1405. [Online]

Ilany A, Barocas A, Kam M, Ilany T, Geffen E. 2013. The energy cost of singing in wild rock hyrax males: Evidence for an index signal. Animal Behaviour, 85(5): 995-1001. [Online]

Pienaar J, Ilany A, Geffen E, Yom-Tov Y. 2013. Macroevolution of life-history traits in passerine birds: Adaptation and phylogenetic inertia. Ecology Letters, 16(5): 571-576. [Online]

Presentations while at NIMBioS

Ilany A. August 2014. Multiple factors affect social network dynamics in a wild spotted hyena population. 51st Annual Conference of the Animal Behavior Society, Princeton University.

Ilany A. June 2014. How do animals choose their allies? Stochastic actor-based models reveal long term social network dynamics in a wild mammal population. Statistical Inference for Network Model, a NetSci 2014 Satellite Symposium, University of California, Berkeley.

Ilany A. May 2014. Static and dynamic social network in hyrax and hyena. Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University.

Ilany A. May 2014. Static and dynamic social network in hyrax and hyena. Dept. of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers University.

Beckmann C and Ilany A. November 2013, Social structure and rank predict fitness in spotted hyenas, 5th Annual Undergraduate Research Conference at the Interface of Biology and Mathematics, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Ilany A. July 2013. Modeling social network dynamics over 22 years in a wild spotted hyena population. 50th Annual Conference of the Animal Behavior Society, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Ilany A. 2 April 2013. Social networks in the hyrax and the hyena: From static to dynamic. NIMBioS Seminar Series, NIMBioS, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. [Online].

Ilany A. February 2013. Modeling animal social networks. Bioinformatics Colloquium, University of Texas, El Paso.


Kay Holekamp, Michigan State Univ. Ongoing collaboration on spotted hyena sociality, including work with her students linking social structure to hormone levels and epigenetics.

Erol Akcay, Univ. of Pennsylvania. Collaboration on theory of social structure.

Cristina Lanzas and Shi Chen, NIMBioS/University of Tennessee. We studied social networks in cattle, resulting in two manuscripts.

Invited and joined the IUCN SSC Afrotheria specialist group; built a new website for the Afrotheria group.

NIMBioS Working Group/Workshop Participation

NIMBioS Investigative Workshop: Animal Social Networks, co-organizer, Mar 6-8, 2014

NIMBioS Investigative Workshop: Analyzing Animal Vocal Communication Sequences, Oct. 21-23, 2013

NIMBioS Investigative Workshop: Systems and Synthetic Microbiology, Mar 11-13, 2013

Education, Outreach and Training

Mentored undergraduate students for the 2013 NIMBioS SRE project on hyena social networks

Collaborated with Catherine Crawley on press release about a paper

Participated in a 2014 NIMBioS Education and Outreach event for Tennessee middle school student visitors

Attended 2012 grant-writing workshop at Univ. of Tennessee

Attended 2014 NIMBioS Tutorial: Computing in the Cloud tutorial

Attended 2013 supercomputing crash course at Univ. of Tennessee

Attended NIMBioS and EEB department seminars

Organized a 2014 NIMBioS postdoc career development session on selecting a team and participated in most other sessions for postdocs

Participated in lab meetings of Sergey Gavrilets and Todd Freeberg

Joined the Behavior seminar and led one of the discussions

Media Coverage

Hyena society is founded on friendship. Science (15 May 2015)

Hyenas prefer to buddy up with 'friends of friends'. Headline News Global News (15 May 2015)

Scientists puzzled by 'social network' of spotted hyenas. (18 May 2015)

Structural balance: Rock hyrax has frenemies too. Science 2.0 (22 April 2013).

For the rock hyrax, a balanced triad is best within the social group. Red Orbit (23 April 2013).

Friend or foe? Choice affects stability of the social network. ScienceBlog (22 April 2013)

Hyraxes sing better for attentive audiences. Wired (3 September 2014).

Wail, chuck, snort: Rock hyraxes sing complex songs. LiveScience (17 April 2012).

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From 2008 until early 2021, NIMBioS was supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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