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 – as well as elephants and more, and focuses on long-term field studies in the wild.
Here’s a bit more about our research team…
Cat is a Reader 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-sites in Bugoma, Uganda, and Moyen-Bafing, Guinea. You can find Cat’s publications here and the lab GitHub here.
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.
Dr. Gabriela Bezerra de Melo Daly
Gabriela holds a Fyssen Fellowship. She is a social anthropologist trained in primatology. She completed her PhD at École Normale Supérieure in 2018, studying human-chimpanzee social relations in Japan. Her work focuses on cross-cultural differences in social learning and interaction between humans and chimpanzees.
Dr. Leveda Cheng
Leveda conducted her PhD on bonobo inter-group behaviour and social strategies in Kokolopori. She is currently collaborating with us to explore how social context shapes bonobo gestural behaviour.
Vesta completed her MSc exploring the form and function of buttress-drumming in five communities of wild chimpanzees across populations in East and West Africa. She is now extending her work on gesture to include elephant communication in a collaboration with our lab and the University of Vienna.
Elodie is studying for her PhD at the University of Oxford with Susana Carvalho and Mike Huffman (Kyoto University), and is collaborating with our lab on a study of self medicative behaviour and its acquisition in the Budongo chimpanzees. Read about Elodie’s pathway to science here..
Dr. Kirsty Graham
Kirsty completed her PhD at the University of St Andrews in 2016. She studies the gestures of wild bonobos at Wamba, DRCongo and her current postdoctoral research focuses on incorporating philosophical and linguistic approaches to ape communication. You can find Kirsty’s publications here and her brilliant comic versions here
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 is a graduate research student at the University of St Andrews. He previously studied the vocal communication of chimpanzees in Budongo, and his PhD investigates gesture use around the world in pre-linguistic human children and through online playback studies.
Harmonie is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews. She has studied wild chimpanzee behaviour since 2017. Her previous work focused on hunting and food sharing in Central African chimpanzees in Gabon. Her current research compares social dynamics in three chimpanzee communities (Sonso, Waibira, and Mwera) in Uganda in two different field sites (Budongo and Bugoma).
Viola studied for her MSc at the University of St Andrews and is working on a systematic study of perishable tools. You can help contribute to her work by filling in her survey on leaf tools! She is currently working as a research assistant with the chimpanzees at our site in Moyen Bafing.
Dr. Alexander Mielke
Alex holds a post-doctoral Leverhulme Fellowship exploring syntactic structures in ape communication. His previous work includes studies of mangabey social behaviour and chimpanzee facial expressions and play.
Daniela is a PhD student at the ISPA in Portugal. Her research collaboration with our lab explores the development of communication and accommodation in human and chimpanzee gestures.
Alexandra is a PhD 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.
Tapinder is conducting her PhD on elephant emotion and wellbeing at the University of Portsmouth in collaboration with the Wild Minds lab to develop machine learning models for the automated detection of elephant postures and behaviour.
Dr. Adrian Soldati
Adrian conducted his PhD at Budongo, Uganda. His ongoing research includes chimpanzee vocalisations, multi-signal and multi-modal communication, and the social aspect of communication. More here.
Charlotte is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews. Her research focuses on exploring machine learning approaches to automate feature tracking and behaviour coding in ape gesture and tool using.
Prof. 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.
Prof. 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 (orang-utans and chimpanzees). More here.
Dr. 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.
Dr. 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 & photography.
Dr. Eve Holden
Eve is a lecturer in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews, and works on chimpanzee behaviour, like female vocal communication, and cross-cultural human development.
Hella is a PhD student at the University of Kent. Her projects include work on leaf-tools in wild chimpanzees, especially leaf- and moss-sponge use and construction, and on female social relationships.
Dr. Liran Samuni
Liran studies the intersection between intergroup dynamics, cooperation, and social bonds in chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest living relatives, as windows into our past. She is especially interested in questions like what shapes collective action and the emergence of group-level cooperative actions? How does cooperation and social bond maintenance support costly life history trajectories? She is a co-director of the Tai Chimpanzee Project and the Moyen Bafing Chimpanzee Project and currently holds a Royal Society Newton International Fellowship at the University of St Andrews.
Dr. 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.
Dr. Erin Wessling
Erin completed her dissertation on environmental constraints in savanna chimpanzees living at the Western edge of their biogeographical range in Senegal. Her main research interests orbit around questions related to ecology, behavior, biogeography, and evolution. She studies these processes focusing on Pan species and is particularly interested in how Pan evolutionary patterns can inform us on similar processes during human evolution. She is one of the co-directors of the Moyen Bafing Chimpanzee Project.