My research concerns the evolution of cognitive abilities involved in primate cooperation and communication. My PhD was focused on understanding the differences in the social systems of sooty mangabeys and Western chimpanzees in the Tai Forest in Ivory Coast, with special focus on grooming as a way for primates to make friends and protect their friendships. I also conducted snake experiments with mangabeys to understand the mechanisms underlying cooperation in species with large but coherent social groups. Afterwards, I developed statistical analyses tools based on network analysis for facial expression data in humans and nonhuman primates as part of the NetFACS project at the University of Portsmouth. As a Newton International Fellow, funded by the British Academy, at the University of Oxford, I developed a project entitled ‘Monkeying around: Complexity, cognition, and culture in chimpanzee play’. Currently, I am a Lecturer of Psychology at Queen Mary University London and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, affiliated with the Wild Minds Lab at the University of St Andrews, studying syntactical structures in wild ape gesture sequences.
PhD in Biology, 2018
MPI Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig
MSc in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology, 2012
University of St Andrews
BSc in Psychology, 2010
Freie Universität Berlin
I recently gave a talk on my current project on chimpanzee play behaviour for the Primate Conversations Seminar Series, here in Oxford. As talks are now virtual, you can watch the talk here:
Every year on 14th July, we celebrate World Chimpanzee Day to commemorate the day that Jane Goodall first followed the Gombe chimpanzees, but more importantly we want to raise awareness for the horrible fact that chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, face extinction in the wild across Africa. This year, our lab in Oxford (https://primobevolab.web.ox.ac.uk/) teamed up with a group from the University of Exeter and the Bulindi Chimpanzee & Community Project to create a series of videos that are supposed to inform a general public about chimpanzees and the many wonderful people who study them.
Now that everyone is talking about keeping association between people as small as possible, it feels good to talk about association in our sooty mangabeys, and our new paper in ‘Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology’ (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00265-020-2829-y ). Mangabey groups are fairly large; in 2014-2017, the time of this study, our group consisted of 50-70 individuals, give or take. The group moves through the forest as a whole, so usually we all end up in the same place; but that does not mean that you can see everyone all the time: the forest is dense, and the group is spread out, so while the group does not get torn into clear smaller groups, they are stretched out over a large area.