24th July 2017 – Cat Hobaiter, University of St Andrews & Kirsty Graham, University of York

Hi Biotweeps!

Catherine Hobatier.pngCat (@nakedprimate)

I’ve been a field primatologist with the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews for the past 12-years. Much of that time has been spent living and working with the chimpanzees at the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda, but I’ve also worked with baboons and gorillas, and at other sites across Africa.

These days I’m a full time lecturer, but I still get to spend around 5-months a year in the field. My main area of research is ape communication – in particular gestures; but I moonlight on other topics including social learning, tool use, and life history. Much of my work takes a comparative perspective on cognition – looking at the behaviour of modern species of apes (including us) for areas of similarity and distinction that might give us clues about its evolutionary origins.

Around 6-years ago I started the habituation of a new chimpanzee community in Budongo – the Waibira group – with over 30 independent males (10-15 being typical) it’s a whole new world of fun/data collection chaos! This summer I’m piloting a gesture project with the mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, which is where I’ll be tweeting from during our Biotweeps week (apologies in advance for some *very* excited tweets/unnecessarily frequent pictures of infant gorilla floof).

Outside of my day job I’m the VP for Communications for the International Primatological Society and if I’m really not working you can usually find me trying to climb up something (mountains, rocks, trees), or with a nice cup of tea and the world service on the radio.

Kirsty Graham.jpgKirsty (@kirstyegraham)

I’m basically a younger, taller version of Cat (we both have bizarre multinational accents and love rock climbing) who does the same research but with bonobos, the chimpanzee’s sexy cousin. I just finished my PhD at the University of St Andrews looking at how bonobos use gestures, what the gestures mean, and how their gestures compare to those used by chimpanzees.

At the beginning of this month, I started a postdoc at the University of York, UK. So while Cat will be tweeting from the field (note to Cat: NEVER apologise about pictures of infant gorilla floof), I will be tweeting from my office plotting my next fieldwork at Tangkoko, Indonesia, in January. From bonobos to Sulawesi crested macaques!

Last week, we launched an online experiment testing human understanding of great ape gestures. Cat and I found that bonobos and chimpanzees share most of their gestures and gesture meanings, and we want to know whether untrained humans give the same responses to the gestures as a bonobo or chimpanzee would.

So that’s us! We’re really looking forward to a Biotweeps week full of primate facts, fieldwork stories, online experiments, and gorilla floof!

Advertisements

30th May 2016 – Sally Faulkner, Queen Mary University

Sally FaulknerI spent most of my twenties, running round the world, testing my parents sanity to the brink with harebrained hippy ideas and avoiding any sort of responsibilities. All of a sudden reality hit home – I don’t remember the impact – all I knew I was suddenly applying for university, aged 30 3/4. I haven’t actually left university since. I did my undergraduate degree in Zoology, a masters in Primatology, and I am currently in my 2nd (maybe…they all seem to merge into one when you don’t have a summer holiday) year of my 4 year PhD. I have been on a steep learning curve over the last 6 years. I had never really used computers before, let alone opened an excel spread sheet and now I spend my days coding spatial models and actually understanding it – mostly. I was very lucky to be able to spend three seasons (May to August) living and working in the Indonesian tropics – mostly chasing small, elusive, nocturnal primates and trying to avoid reticulated pythons and bird eating spiders. It was my first real scientist job, and I got a thrill every time I was introduced to the students as the tarsier scientist.  But thats all behind me now, I am now a computer scientist and people send me data that they have collected whilst avoiding near death experiences in dangerous places. I use a method called geographic profiling. It is a technique commonly used in criminology to locate serial killers, arsonists and rapists. We are applying this technique to biological data sets – sources of invasive species,  disease outbreaks, animal roosts (for example: small, elusive nocturnal primates) to name a few. It has also been used to locate and identify Banksy from the location of his art.

Follow me @Tarsiussallius