Meet The Team

Current Researchers and Students

Giacomo D'Ammando


December 2020 - Present

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 coordinate the on-going behavioural research on chimpanzees, yellow baboons, and red-tailed monkeys, and oversee the overall ecological monitoring of the study area. In particular, I am developing 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. 

Frauke Olthoff

Researcher & Project Manager

December 2020 - present

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.