I study the evolution of communication and social behaviour, in particular through long-term field studies of wild chimpanzees. During my PhD I conducted the first systematic study of gestural communication in a wild ape, working in the Budongo Forest Reserve in Uganda with the Sonso chimpanzee community. We have recently extended this research to include multi-modal communication. Like humans, apes do not gesture or vocalize in isolation - their communication combines calls, gestures, facial expressions, and body postures; in order to better understand their communication and cognition we have integrated the study of all of these separate modalities into a single study of communication. Through this work we hope not only to advance our understanding of great ape communication but also by looking at areas of overlap or species specific traits, we hope to gain an understanding of the evolutionary origins of language.
In addition to this work I study the acquisition and flexibility of social behaivour. I have recently set up the habituation of a new neighbouring community at the Budongo Conservation Field Station, the Waibira chimpanzee community, while still in the process of habituation, we are now able to look at the effect of female immigration on their behavioural repertoires and to compare and contrast technology such as leaf-sponging in the two communities.
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