Meet The Team
PhD student, Unviersity of California, Santa Cruz
September '21-January 2022
I am a PhD candidate in the Anthropology Department at the University of California Santa Cruz. I am returning to the Issa Valley to complete data collection for my investigation into how the seasonal ecology of Macrotermes termites influences Issa chimpanzee termite-fishing behavior. Myself and my field assistant will be monitoring daily changes in termite activity at Macrotermes mounds and experimentally termite-fishing in the style of Issa chimpanzees. Additionally, I am closely analyzing chimpanzee termite-fishing behavior from camera trap footage at these mounds over multiple years. This data will help us to assess how fluctuations in Macrotermes activity near the surface of mounds may influence the ability and manner in which chimpanzees exploit this ephemeral resource. I am thrilled to have to privilege to return to the Issa Valley and work alongside friends old and new.
Msc student, Unviersity College London
I am a Human Evolution and Behaviour MSc student at University College London (UCL). I work in sustainable social development and I’m interested in how a good understanding of humans (and their closest living relatives) can be leveraged to create effective policy. For my dissertation, I am looking into the space-use patterns of female chimpanzees at Issa Valley Research Station in Western Tanzania.
In rain-forested study communities, females’ core areas have been shown to vary in quality, with more dominant females having ‘higher quality’ core areas. However, it is not well-understood whether this takes place in a savannah landscape like Issa: even though the ecological conditions bear more similarity to what is thought to be the evolutionary conditions of early humans, chimpanzees are rarely studied in a mosaic environment like Issa, which comprises woodlands, grasslands, and riverine forests. My study will investigate the foraging quality of female's ‘core areas’.
Msc student, University College London
I am a Msc student in the Department of Anthropology at University College London. The main goal of my research is to categorise the distinct styles and variations of the Grooming Hand Clasp (GHC) in the Issa community, whilst identifying any associations between social variables (sex and rank). The GHC is a culturally transmitted custom whereby two individuals engage in a grooming bout with one arm raised and linked, whilst the other is used to groom. It has been observed in communities of common eastern and western chimpanzees, as well as bonobos. A community-wide proliferation inevitably produces clasp variation, variants that occur not just between but also within communities. At Issa, I will use behavioural observation and video documentation to investigate the broader context of GHC.
Project Manager (2020-2021)
Since December 2020 I have been the project manager at Issa, supporting ongoing and new research projects. In 2016 I obtained my Master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Leipzig and continued my work as a research assistant for the biobanking of the long-term database of the Taï Chimpanzee Project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. The opportunities lying in the combination of field work, good data management and new technologies intrigued me. In 2019/2020 I became a field research assistant for the Taï Chimpanzee Project in Ivory Coast focusing on behavioural data collection and data editing.
I am interested in the behavioural ecology of chimpanzees and how they respond to challenging habitats. Understanding behavioural adaptions of wildlife will play a key role in future conservation work. My goal is to continue this path in applied conservation and field management while supporting international research.
PhD student, University of St. Andrews (Scotland)
June - August 2021
I’m a PhD researcher from the University of St Andrews. My main
interest is in the ways animal sociality shapes behaviour. Currently,
my research focuses on the use of gestural communication of East
African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). I am
particularly interested in how individual differences in socio-ecology
influence the use of gestures within and across different chimpanzee
communities in Tanzania and Uganda.
June - September 2021
My background is in Conservation Biology and Ecology. My research
interests are wide and varied, however I have a particular interest in
African forest systems and primate-plant interactions. My PhD focussed
on seed dispersal services of samango monkeys (Cercopithecus
albogularis schwarzi) in South Africa. My research at GMERC aims to
expand on my PhD and I hope to delve into fire ecology of Miombo
woodlands and how the fires affect animal behaviour.
November 2020 - May 2021
I am a conservationist “in the making”, with a specific interest for the behaviour and ecology of large African mammals. I started my field work in 2013 as an undergraduate at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, investigating the foraging behaviour of eland antelopes in the Magaliesberg mountains of South Africa. I then moved to the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg), where I completed my Masters in Animal Ecology on ungulate seasonal movements and landscape-scale resource selection. I have recently completed my PhD project at the University of Liverpool (UK), which focused on the vocalizations of impala, topi, and other antelopes. Over the course of my doctoral studies, I have led the field component of the Maasai Mara Herbivore Project (Kenya), and taken part in other projects across East and southern Africa, targeting large carnivore conservation, human-wildlife conflicts, and community outreach.
At Issa, I coordinated the on-going behavioural research on chimpanzees, yellow baboons, and red-tailed monkeys, and oversaw the ecological monitoring of the study area. In particular, I developed a large-scale camera trap project aimed at estimating the abundance and distribution of large mammals (lion, leopard, hyena, buffalo, roan antelope, etc.), in order to inform suitable conservation and management strategies for these species in the Greater Mahale Ecosystem.
Researcher, Chimpanzee positional behaviour
January - November 2020
My fascination with apes started whilst studying for a masters in Palaeobiology at University College London (UK), where I studied ape dental morphology as a means to place fossil apes into ape taxonomy. After graduating in 2013, I wanted to explore the relationship between form and function further, leading me to seek work opportunities with living apes. I have since worked in chimpanzee conservation and research in Guinea and The Ivory Coast, and in 2020 undertook my own independent project at Issa, studying chimpanzee positional behaviour and habitat use, also investigating how/if their habitat use and behaviour changes in response to seasonal fires. I am currently a PhD student at the University of Kent working under Tracy Kivell.
Research and Project Manager
December 2019 - September 2020
I have an MSc in Primate Conservation from Oxford Brookes University. Carrying out my thesis research in Uganda’s Budongo Forest Reserve, I focused on chimpanzee stress hormone responses to fragmented, anthropogenic landscapes. Before completing my MSc, I worked with the Borneo Nature Foundation contributing to biodiversity surveys and long-term orangutan, gibbon and red-langur behaviour projects. From 2016 onward I have worked as the Research Officer for a zoological park and as a Lecturer in Higher education, specialising in wildlife conservation. My particular interests revolve around the anthropogenic impacts humans can present to wild primates and how humans may alter zoo-housed primate behaviour, both impacting species conservation status and welfare. I began a PhD in Fall 2020 at the University of Lisbon.
Chimpanzee Project Coordinator
May 2019 - July 2020
I received my Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Strasbourg (France) in 2016, focusing on lizard sociality for her master’s thesis. Since graduating I have worked at the Tuanan Orangutan Research Project (TORP) in Borneo, Indonesia. My interests lie in primatology and social behaviour. I oversaw the chimpanzee project at Issa, making this the second great ape species on which I have worked. I have recently collated observations of chimpanzees and cattle, submitted for publication in December 2020 and am currently a PhD student at the Unviersity of Neuchatel.
Research and Project Manager
January 2019 - November 2019
I received my Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Sheffield in 2016, focussing on behaviour and genetics in zebrafish. My interests strongly lie within the behavioural ecology of social species as well as related human-wildlife conflict issues. Since graduating, I have assisted on various research projects across Africa including spotted hyena feeding ecology in Zimbabwe, large carnivore behavioural ecology in Kasungu National Park, Malawi and chacma baboon social networking in Tsaobis, Namibia. With Bethan Mason, I over-saw research at GMERC until November 2019 when I was offered a PhD position with Simone Pika in the Comparative BioCognition (CBC) Group, Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Osnabrück in Germany.
Red-tailed monkey feeding ecology
August 2018 - February 2019
I led an intensive study of red-tailed monkey feeding ecology, collecting botanical specimens to improve our understanding of their dietary diversity and especially overlap with sympatric chimpanzees and baboons. Whilst at Issa, I published two articles: the first on red-tailed monkey preying on birds, which you can read in Primates, here, and later I was invited to describe my research work in an article for the Zoological Association of America. Our work on feeding ecology is currently in prep!
Researcher, University of Oslo (Norway)
August 2018 - February 2019
Anita always had a strong interest for nature and wildlife, resulting in many adventures into nature in all corners of the world. She achieved a bachelor’s degree in biology: a combination of theoretical biology at the University of Oslo, Norway, and wildlife management and conservation at Stellenbosch University, Western Cape South Africa, and completed a master’s degree, on foraging ecology in gelada monkeys, Guassa Ethiopia, in September 2017. Her passion for primate conservation continues and at Issa, she worked on foraging strategies in yellow baboons and worked in paternship with Camille Giuliano (LJMU). Anita wishes to pursue a career in African wildlife management and conservation.
Researcher, Swarthmore College (USA)
Landscapes of fear in red-tailed monkeys
July - August 2018
I conducted research for my undergraduate honors thesis at Issa Valley. My thesis examined the 'landscape of fear' of red-tailed monkeys (Cercopithecus ascanius), which models the spatial distribution of safe and risky regions from predation in a prey's home range. Working with the GMERC team, I was able to collect data on multiple antipredator behaviors to create distinct LOF models for each behavior, a feat not yet done in LOF research. Antipredator behaviors not only created spatially unique LOFs, but were also predicted differently by other environmental and demographic data. These findings challenge whether only one of multiple antipredator behaviors can accurately portray a landscape of the predation risk prey face. I presented preliminary results at the 2019 AAPA meetings, here. Currently I am a PhD student at Harvard University, and preparing these results for publication.
Researcher, Landscape chimpanzee surveys
May - October 2018
Becki led surveys of chimpanzees and other biodiversity across the northern Masito-Ugalla Ecosystem (MUE). She developed interests in tropical ecology, and particularly primate behavioural ecology and conservation throughout her life. In 2013 she received her bachelor’s degree in Geography (University of Birmingham, UK), completing her thesis on human-wildlife conflict (with a focus on the Buton macaque) on Buton island in Indonesia. Following this, she took up a year-long position with the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Project, assisting with research of wild Bornean orangutans in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. In 2016, she completed a masters of research in Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation (Roehampton University, UK), spending three months in Nigeria studying olive baboons for her thesis, and returning to Gashaka Gumti National Park in 2018 for an expedition to explore as of yet unknown areas around the Gangirwal escarpment. Becki spent almost two years working for Natural England, advising the English government on issues relating to wildlife conservation and land use, before taking up the role to lead wildlife surveys in Tanzania.
PhD student, Purdue University (USA)
April - June 2018
Laura is a PhD student in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University (USA). Prior to her time at Purdue, Laura completed a bachelor’s degree in music from Alma College, a master’s degree in biology from Eastern Kentucky University, and worked for the US Forest Service as a natural resources trainee. Now, Laura is studying how the sounds of animals, streams, and weather vary with vegetation phenology and structure. She plans to develop methods for remotely sensing habitat type and biodiversity using acoustics.
Msc student; Research and Project Manager, Liverpool John Moores University
March 2018; September 2018 - July 2019
As a wildlife conservation student my project combined primate parasitology with human disturbance research. I collected faecal samples from multiple yellow baboon troops, located both around the GMERC research centre and near the closest town, Uvinza. These faecal samples were later analysed for parasite presence, providing an insight into the gastrointestinal parasite load of all the sampled troops. Alongside the faecal collections, transects were used to determine the level of human disturbance to the environment at each troops location. I aimed to show an indication of the potential influence of human disturbance on primate parasite load. Results have been submitted for publication and are expected out in early 2021.
Researcher, University of Texas, Austin (USA)
May - July 2018
PhD student, Liverpool John Moores University (UK)
Understanding Issa ecology from aerial (drone) data
May - October 2018
The main area of focus for my research surrounds the following proposals;
1) To classify tree species in the miombo woodland using multispectral data from a UAV
2) To compare tree species classification using multispectral UAV and satellite data
3) To use multispectral UAV data to identify fig trees in miombo woodland
PhD student, Liverpool John Moores University (UK)
Chimpanzee behavioural ecology
April 2018- May 2019
My PhD research investigates how Issa's chimpanzees adapt to the dry, open, and highly seasonal environment of the Issa valley, western Tanzania. More precisely, my project examines chimpanzee responses to periods of resource scarcity by examining season-specific changes in diet, physiology, sociality and ranging. Two primary objectives drive this project (1) redress profound and longstanding biases in our knowledge of chimpanzee species by studying a population living in a marginal environment (2) infer early hominin adaptations to a similar environment and provide testable hypotheses to paleoanthropologists. The first chapter from the work is under revision and due out in early 2021.
Researcher, Liverpool John Moores University
Chimpanzee Distribution, Mahale Mountains National Park
February 2018- February 2019
With Adrienne Chitayat, Matthew led a survey of chimpanzees and other biodiversity in Mahale Mountains National Park. He developed interests in tropical ecology and the conservation of African wildlife, nurtured during part of his childhood spent in southern Tanzania. In 2015 he received his bachelor’s degree in Zoology (Trinity College, Dublin), swiftly taking up a position with the Max Planck Institute studying population dynamics of central African chimpanzees and western lowland gorillas in Loango National Park, Gabon. He then spent a further year in Gabon, as a team leader for the forest elephant movement and behavioural ecology project with Duke University in Ivindo National Park, following which he returned to Tanzania.
Msc student, University of Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Chimpanzee party size dynamics
January - May 2018
Daphne was a master student from the University of Amsterdam, interested in the behavioural ecology of primates. In her previous research projects she examined the functional diversity of primates across the world, and the link between colour vision in primates and the colour of palm fruits (available here). At Issa, she studied what environmental and methodological (camera traps, nest parties, and direct observations) factors influence chimpanzee party count estimates. This work was published as part of a Special Issue on Savanna Chimpanzees (with an Issa chimpanzee on the cover!) in the International J of Primatology, which you can read here.
Researcher, University of California, Santa Cruz
Chimpanzee Termite Fishing Ecology
December 2017 - May 2018
Seth Phillips is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University of California Santa Cruz. He is working with Dr. Vicky Oelze to investigate the interaction between the ecology of Macrotermes prey and chimpanzee termite-fishing behavior in the Issa Valley. He is primarily interested in how Issa chimpanzees effectively forage for this ephemeral resource. Seth was on site for most of 2018 monitoring the ecological conditions of termite mounds, experimentally replicating Issa termite-fishing behavior, and observing chimpanzee termite-fishing behavior firsthand. He continues to collect data remotely with help from GMERC staff, having presented preliminary results at the 2019 AJPA meeting (here) and recently published in PLOS ONE (link coming soon!).
Intern, Utrecht University (Netherlands)
I am a behavioural ecologist interested in primates and their behaviour. During my Masters programme in behavioural ecology, at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, I completed a study on social behaviour in captive Barbary macaques at a sanctuary in the Netherlands and antipredator behaviour of wild Barbary ground squirrels on Fuerteventura. After obtaining my degree, I wanted to gain more experience with wild primates in Africa. At GMERC I began an inter-specific dietary comparison between baboons, red-tailed monkeys and chimpanzees
August 2017 - June 2018
Kyle conducted his studies in National University of Ireland, Galway, specialising in Zoology. Following this he went on to complete further study in Primate Ethology and Conservation at the Universidad de San Andres (La Paz, Bolivia). Since then he has worked at a variety of field sites, most recently looking at behaviour, diet and home range of the western lowland gorilla in Loango national park, Gabon. At Issa, he helped finalise habituation, before moving on to a Masters at Université de Bourgogne Franche-Comté.
Researcher and Project Manager
August 2017 - September 2018
Allison is broadly interested in the behavioral ecology and conservation of African wildlife and the effects of human activity on animal behavior and ecology. She received her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology from Duke University after developing a passion for field research in South Africa and Madagascar, and completing an undergraduate thesis on chimpanzee social relationships. Before joining the team at Issa, Allison assisted with projects studying chacma baboons in western South Africa and blue monkeys in the rainforest of Kenya. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
PhD student, Liverpool John Moores University (UK)
May-July 2017; March-December 2018; July-October 2019
My research interests focused on animal communication and primate conservation. My PhD investigated acoustic communication and how to use passive acoustic monitoring as a non-invasive tool for ape conservation. Specifically, I am interested in developing and testing a new method to acoustically estimate chimpanzee density and compare results with more traditional methods. Another part of my project was to investigate the potential effect of silent chimpanzee on their distribution estimation when using passive acoustic vs camera trap monitoring (see here). I was interested in detecting and localising chimpanzees at their nesting site to further investigate the possibility of predicting party size from bioacoustics data. I completed my viva at LJMU in December 2020 and left immediately for Kokolopro, DRC where I will be working on bonobo nutrition.
Intern, Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Science (Netherlands)
I was a fourth year student of the Bachelor Wildlife Management at the Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Science in the Netherlands when I visited GMERC. For my second internship, I was happy to return to East Africa where I had already spent my first internship, doing field research with bats and spotted hyenas in Malawi. At Issa, I was excited to see more of the different primates in their natural habitat
Intern, University of Oxford (UK)
Georgia came to Issa the summer before starting her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Oxford. This was her first experience of wild chimpanzeee field research, although previously she had worked with chimpanzees during an internship at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University. Whilst at Issa, Georgia focussed on tracking chimpanzees as part of the habituation process, and investigating their habitat use by looking at long term data. She also participated in other aspects of research at Issa, such as following habituated yellow baboons and walking lines transects to monitor large mammal densities. Georgia began Bachelor’s work at Oxford University in Fall 2017 and was graduated in 2020.
Msc student, Liverpool John Moores University (UK)
Yellow baboon leadership
For Alex’s masters dissertation in primate behaviour and conservation at LJMU, she looked into leadership behaviour and progression positions in Issa's yellow baboons, particularly the leadership style of the camp troop of baboons, the pre departure body language of members of the troop and the influences on departure time. As well as this, Alex looked into what may affect the progression positions of this troop of baboons. Alex is hoping to continue studying primates and begin a PhD in the near future.
Kelly van Leeuwen
PhD student, Bournemouth University (UK)
Agent-based modelling and chimpanzee behavioural ecology
Kelly's PhD research was a combination of fieldwork and agent-based modelling. She used individual-based and referential modelling to explore hominid (i.e. chimpanzee, Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus anamensis/ afarensis) landscape use along an environmental gradient from forests to savannahs to determine their adaptability to change. The first paper from her PhD, published in IJP in 2020 as part of a Special Issue on "Savanna Chimpanzees", was an assessment of 'savanna' landscapes, and can be found here. She received her PhD from Bournemouth Univ in 2019.
Intern, University of Cambridge (UK)
January - March 2017
Finnoula, or Finny, started off her academic career as a Geographer at Cambridge University. However, after sneaking into a primatology lecture with one of her friends, she realised that the study of primates and behavioural sciences was for her and soon changed over to Biological Anthropology and Archaeology. Finny’s other experience in the field includes working at the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya with the anti-elephant poaching charity “Space for Giants”.
Intern, Liverpool John Moores University (UK)
January - March 2017
Claire graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a BSc Animal Behaviour, and was particularly taken by the Primate Biology and Animal Social Systems modules. Currently a member of the Discovery and Learning department at Chester Zoo, Claire investigated the wild and captive chimpanzee behaviours, and is hoping to enrich her knowledge of behaviour in wild primates.
Researcher, University of Bern (Norway)
Baboon sleeping site selection
Ket was at Issa to collect data for her masters in Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution in Bergen, Norway. Her thesis addressed the ecological characteristics of sleeping sites used by the yellow baboon (Papio cynecephalus) in Issa. She conducted her undergraduate work in Zoology in Australia including a semester in Hawaii where she did obtained advanced diving certificates. She is unsure what sub-field of biology that she will pursue , but primatology, population genetics and wildlife conservation are of central interest! Her Masters work is scheduled to be published in a forthcoming book on baboon phytogeography, behaviour, and ecology. Stay tuned!
Intern, Liverpool John Moores University
Red-tailed monkey vocalisation repertoire
Tifany’s long interest in animals first led her to the national parc of Mercantour (France), to learn more about wolf conservation in high school. After studying in France, Tifany enrolled in a BSc in Animal Behaviour at Liverpool John Moores University (Liverpool) in 2014, and was graduated in 2017. She observed red-tailed monkeys (Cercopithecus ascanius) at Issa to establish call types and uses for her third year dissertation. She hopes to increase her knowledge on different wildlife species as well as their conservation status and priority simultaneously. She later plans to complete a PhD in Ethology focusing on communication.
Researcher, Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (TZ)
Nutrient hotspots for woodland ungulates
Gabriel was a PhD candidate at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania, supervised by Prof Anna Treydte and Alex Piel. For his thesis he investigated the importance of termite mounds and other nutrient hotspots for ungulates at Issa valley ecosystem. See the publications that have resulted from this work here on the importance of nutrient hotspots for ungulates and nutrient re-distrubution here. Gabriel is now a Lecturer at the College of African Wildlife Management (MWEKA) in Tanzania.
Researcher and Project Manager
Survey Leader, Mahale Mountains National Park
March 2016-March 2017
Adrienne’s interests are centered on the behavioral ecology of tropical mammals, human impacts on wildlife behavior, and conservation. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Boston College she pursued her passion for field research by participating in projects that brought to a rainforest in Mexico to study howler monkeys, the bush of South Africa to study large carnivores, and the temperate forests of North America to research song birds. Adrienne then returned to school to obtain her M.S. degree in Conservation Biology from Antioch University New England where her master’s research took her to Rwanda to study the impacts of forest fragmentation on chimpanzee behavior. She completed her research at Issa and shortly afterwards began a PhD at the University of Amsterdam leading a survey of chimpanzees and other wildlife in Mahale Mountains National Park. The initial results are due to be published early in 2021, stay tuned!
Intern, Ruaha Carnivore Project
February - May 2016
Michael Kimaro joined GMERC in February as a Research Assistant (Intern) who is eager to better understand the ecology of primates (chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys and yellow baboons) after working with the Tanzania Forest Community Network (2012) as a volunteer by providing conservation education to local communities in Northern Zone of Tanzania; Tanzania Water Sanitation and Hygiene (IWASH) as an Intern (2013) to collect ecological data at Ruvu River Estuary, Tanzania and later as a Senior Research Assistant at the Ruaha Carnivore Project (2013-2015) researching behavioural ecology of large carnivores and reducing human-carnivore conflict in Ruaha ecosystem, Tanzania. Michael later earned a diploma from WildCru at Oxford University
Intern, University of Liverpool (UK)
Whilst studying for her BSc Zoology at the University of Reading, Lizzie developed a great interest in ethology, and through completing her final year project, realized a passion for behavioural research. Lizzie is currently studying for her Masters in Advanced Biological Sciences at the University of Liverpool, and she joined GMERC as a work experience student. Here, she utilised a variety of research methods, primarily focusing on chimpanzee and baboon behavioural research. Having increased her knowledge of different data collection methods and behavioural patterns, Lizzie plans to persue a PhD and career in ethology upon completion of her Masters.
Msc student, Universite de Poitiers (France)
Red-tailed monkey male tenure
Camille has always been passionate about African wildlife, and nature more generally. After her masters, for which she studied paternity and male-relatedness in Issa’s red-tailed monkeys for her Msc at University of Poitiers, she may continue with a PhD in behaviour or genetics. At least, she hopes to continue working in wildlife conservation.