Meet the team

Our research group is based in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland. We study the ethology of wild animals to gain a better understanding of their and our behaviour and minds. Ethology is the process of ‘interviewing’ an animal in their own language (Tinbergen). Our research spans great apes – chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orang-utans, and humans – and focuses on long-term field studies in the wild.

Here’s a bit more about our research team…

Principal Investigator

Catherine Hobaiter 

Cat is a lecturer at the University of St Andrews. She studies the evolution of communication and social behaviour in wild apes. Her work on gesture focuses on wild apes across Africa, and she is often based in Budongo, or at her new field-site in Bugoma, Uganda. You can find Cat’s list of publications here and the group GitHub here.


Current Researchers

Gal Badihi

Gal is a graduate research student at the University of St Andrews. Her research looks at how the social dynamics of chimpanzees in Budongo impact the rates of aggression and lethal aggression in the community.

Gabriela Bezerra de Melo Daly

Gabriela is a visiting scholar at the University of Saint Andrews. She is a social anthropologist trained in primatology.  She completed her PhD at École Normale Supérieure in 2018, studying human-chimpanzee social relations at a research institution in Japan. Her ongoing research focuses on cross-cultural differences in social learning and interaction between humans and chimpanzees.

Vesta Eleuteri

Vesta completed her MSc at the University of St Andrews in 2019. Her current research explores the form and function of chimpanzee buttress-drumming in five communities of wild chimpanzees across three populations in East and West Africa.

Kirsty Graham 

Kirsty completed her PhD at the University of St Andrews in 2016. She studies the gestures of wild bonobos at Wamba, DRCongo. You can find Kirsty’s publications here.

Charlotte Grund

Charlotte is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews. Her current research investigates the natural gestural repertoire of wild mountain gorillas in Bwindi, Uganda and assesses the gestures’ communicative function across individuals, age-sex groups, and behavioural contexts.

Matt  Henderson

Matt is a graduate research student at the University of St Andrews. He previously studied the vocal communication of chimpanzees in Budongo, and his PhD will investigate gesture use in human children.

Daniela Rodrigues

Daniela is a PhD student at the ISPA in Portugal. Her research explores the development of communication and accommodation in human and chimpanzee gestures.

Alexandra Safryghin

Alexandra is a graduate research student at the University of St Andrews. Her research looks into the presence of human language laws in chimpanzee gestural communication, with a focus on how familiarity and context affect the duration and frequency of gestural performances.

Charlotte Wiltshire

Charlotte is a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of St Andrews. Her research focses on chimpanzee lip smack rhythm variation and she is exploring machine learning approaches to automate feature tracking and behaviour coding.





Richard Byrne

Dick is an emeritus professor at the University of St Andrews. He studies communication and cognition across numerous taxa. You can find Dick’s publications here.

Erica Cartmill

Erica is a Professor at UCLA. She studies the role of gesture in language evolution and acquisition. Her lab conducts research on both human children and non-human great apes (orangutans and chimpanzees). More here.

Brittany Fallon

Brittany completed her PhD at St Andrews in 2016, studying gesture in chimpanzee sexual displays. Her research includes facial expression use in American Sign Language and parallels with chimpanzee facial expression. More here.

Emilie Genty

Emilie is currently studying joint action coordination in chimpanzees, bonobos, and human children, focusing on communicative signals (gestures, vocalisations, and other visual signals). Emilie’s research here & photography here.

Lisa Orr

Lisa studied the gestural communication of captive bonobos at the Milwaukee Zoo, 2011-2012.  She is currently living in Portland, Oregon, working as a data scientist at Urban Airship. Find out more about Lisa’s work here.

Hella Péter

Hella is a PhD student at the University of Kent. Her project focuses on leaf-tools in wild chimpanzees, especially leaf- and moss-sponge use and construction.

Adrian Soldati

Adrian is a PhD student at Budongo, Uganda. His ongoing research includes chimpanzee vocalisations, multi-signal and multi-modal communication, and the social aspect of communication. More here.

Joanne Tanner

Joanne completed her PhD at St Andrews in 1998, studying the untaught gestural communication of gorillas at San Francisco Zoo. Joanne continues to research and write as an independent researcher. More about Joanne here.