The primary investigators below are those who have spent the most amount of time in the region, having conducted extensive fieldwork at the Issa valley research station and also peripheral areas where chimpanzees range across the Greater Mahale Ecosystem. Together, they oversee the research conducted at Issa and are broadly responsible for the administration and coordination of the site.
With the honorary members, who were the first of the group to survey and study in the region, this group represents the core members of the Anthropogeny Research Group (ARG), a non-profit organisation based in California, to whom tax-deductible contributions can be made to support related activities. Further, in 2017, we also incorporated in Tanzania, as GMERC, LTD, for our focus on Greater Mahale Ecosystem Research and Conservation.
Alex Piel, Director, A.K.Piel@ljmu.ac.uk
Alex is a lecturer in Animal Behaviour at Liverpool John Moores University, UK. His Bachelors degree is in Animal Behavior (Bucknell University) and as an undergraduate he worked with captive, socially housed, hamadryas baboons, and in the field surveyed Madagascar teal. He managed a long-term study of blue monkeys in the Kakamega rainforest, western Kenya, before conducting Masters work at Iowa State University working with the Fongoli chimpanzees in southeastern Senegal. He has been working in western Tanzania since 2005, initially participating in a regional biodiversity survey. He returned in 2006 to pilot test an acoustic monitoring system (ARUs), before designing a modified version of the ARUs for his dissertation, which he received in 2014 from the University of California, San Diego. His specific interests centre on primate vocalisation behaviour and overall primate adaptations to a savanna-woodland environment. In addition to directing research at Issa, Alex and Fiona (see below) coordinate region-wide survey and monitoring of chimpanzees and chimpanzee habitat within the Greater Mahale Ecosystem. Email him here.
Fiona Stewart, Co-Director, F.A.Stewart@ljmu.ac.uk
Fiona is currently a visiting lecturer in Animal Behaviour at Liverpool John Moores University, UK and formerly the Wheldale-Onslow Research Fellow at Newnham College, University of Cambridge, from where she received her PhD in 2011. Her first degree is in Zoology from the University of Glasgow, where she developed initial interests in tropical biology studying dominance interactions of wild hummingbirds in Ecuador. Fiona’s M. Sci research took her to Fongoli, Senegal, where she managed the study site and conducted research into savanna chimpanzee nest-building behaviour. She has since worked across Tanzania, surveying new areas and provided the nest decay rate data necessary to calculate chimpanzee density in the region. Her PhD compared nest-building behaviour between these two savanna research sites, Fongoli, and Issa. Her current research investigates gene flow across the Greater Mahale Ecosystem, and uses genetics to study social behaviour of the Issa chimpanzees. Email her here.
Adriana is a biological anthropologist, currently a researcher at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) at the University of Oslo, Norway. Before joining CEES she was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge (Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies). She received her first degree in archaeology from the Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia in Mexico City, where she first became interested in the use of chimpanzee archaeology for modelling early hominin behavior. She conducted behavioral research and environmental enrichment with captive, socially housed, monkeys in Mexico. She undertook masters and doctoral studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, completing her PhD in 2006. She began researching in Ugalla in 1998 where she established a temporary camp at the north end of the valley in 2001 and carried out a study collecting data for two consecutive years. Her work focuses on the use of ecological and archaeological techniques to study these savanna chimpanzees.
Jim is a professor Emeritus at UCSD. He received his Ph. D. in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University in 1985, the year he first visited Ugalla to investigate the area’s potential for long-term fieldwork. His research has examined the interaction of ecology and demography in establishing the context for complex social behavior. This has led to work on (1) the reasons for sociality in primates and more specifically (2) the relationship among dispersal, inbreeding avoidance and nepotism; (3) the interaction of population density and male infanticidal behavior; and (4) the use of comparisons between savanna- and forest-living chimpanzees to examine the nature of chimpanzee sociality and model early hominin adaptations to open environments. See Jim’s page here.
Mashaka joined us in Fall 2012 after working with Alex & Fiona on the survey of the GME from summer 2011.
We first met Godfrey at the Forest Scout Training in September 2013, before Godfrey came to Issa to help Lucy Tibble locate loud calling greater galagos in summer 2014. After that, we just didn’t let him leave! Godfrey will coordinate surveys of Mahale Mountains Nat Park beginning in early 2018.
Patrick began work on the GME survey led by Alex and Fiona in February 2012, and worked periodically for us until 2015 when his patience and hard work paid off and he joined permanently!
Balu began work with the team in 2014, first as a temporary staff member, contributing at Issa and also on surveys to peripheral areas for monitoring of chimpanzee habitat. He joined the permanent team in January 2017.
Simon began work with at Issa in January 2017, and is using skills acquired from working in the Bugwe village forest reserve to help him adjust to the work at Issa.
Like Godfrey and Patrick above, Mariana has also completed Pasiansi Wildlife Training Institute (PWTI) and began work with us in June 2017. She is learning quickly about the terrain, protocols, and overall project procedures at Issa.
Also a graduate of Passiansi Ranger School in Mwanza, Arcado joined the team in May 2017, and has quickly become an integral part of the team.
Jonas has been working periodically for us since 2012. He has recently joined the staff full-time.
Researchers and students
Seth Phillips (Dec 2017 – present) – Seth received his B.A. in Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. There he developed interests in the evolution of tool use, primate culture, and great ape insectivory. Seth is investigating chimpanzee termite-fishing. Specifically, he is collecting data on mound selectivity by chimpanzees, ecological factors that may affect termite accessibility, and how experimental fishing techniques and tool use affect termite yields. He will also be conducting a systematic survey of Macrotermes mounds in the area in order to asses the availability of this resource.
Allison Rogers (Sept 2017 – present) – 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.
Sonja Greil (Sept -Nov 2017) I am a fourth year student of the Bachelor Wildlife Management at the Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Science in the Netherlands. For my second internship, I am happy to return to East Africa where I had already spent my first internship, doing field research with bats and spotted hyenas in Malawi. Currently I am exploring the different sub-projects at Issa before leading my own investigation on a topic of interest. I am excited to see more of the different primates in their natural habitat as so far my experience with them comes only from captive situations such as in wildlife rescue centres.
Elise Koole (Sept -Nov 2017)
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 UPP I will look at the differences and overlap in the diet of the baboons, red-tailed monkeys and chimpanzees
Kyle Sweeney (August 2017 – present)
Georgia Sandars (June-August 2017)
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.
Bethan Harries (June-July 2017) – I am an Undergraduate Student studying Biological Sciences at Bournemouth University, with a particular interest Primatology and Human Evolution. Here at UPP I assisted with a variety of studies, with the intention of learning the techniques and skills necessary to continue my studies to Masters and PhD level and to forge a successful career in the field of Primatology. I especially loved the chimpanzee walks, but have also enjoyed measuring vegetation plots as they have given me a real insight into what fieldwork is like.
Arron Mallory (June-August 2017) – I am an undergraduate student of Ecology and Wildlife Conservation at Bournemouth University (UK). My project at Issa involved collecting data for my undergraduate dissertation, addressing the anti-vector hypothesis in explaining chimpanzee nest building. This hypothesis suggests that chimpanzees specifically select nest sites for properties that reduce densities of mosquitoes and biting insects, subsequently improve sleep quality and reducing the spread of diseases.
Kelly van Leeuwen (May – July 2017) – Kelly is a PhD student at Bournemouth University, studying the landscape use of chimpanzees and early hominins. During her fieldwork period in Issa, she will investigate how the chimpanzees use their landscape in relation to present vegetation features (e.g. tree height, canopy cover, tree density), and micro-climate characteristics (e.g. temperature, luminosity). Together with information obtained from published literature and long-term UPP data, she will then create an individual-based simulation model (IBM) on chimpanzee landscape use in different environments. She hopes to use this individual-based model for predictive modelling, testing how chimpanzees will cope with future environmental changes. The model could also be used as a proxy for the landscape use of early hominins.
Before starting her PhD, Kelly obtained a M.Sc. degree in environmental biology, specialisation behavioural ecology, at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. During her masters’ study, she got the opportunity to do two field-based research projects: Kelly spent 9 months in the Nimba Mountains, Guinea to study the behavioural ecology of chimpanzees, and 6 months at the Inkawu Vervet Project in South Africa to study the social intelligence of vervet monkeys. Kelly is passionate about primates and fieldwork, and is very excited to work with UPP at Issa Valley.
Alex Robinson (April – June 2017)
For Alex’s masters dissertation in primate behaviour and conservation at Liverpool John Moores university, she looked into leadership behaviour and progression positions in baboons at Issa. 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.
David Alila is an Assistant Lecturer in the department of Biological Sciences at the University of Dar es salaam (Muce)-Tanzania. He is conducting research on the role of chimpanzees seed dispersers for forest regeneration in the Issa Valley.
Ailsa Henderson (March – May 2017)- Ailsa is a conservation biologist with a particular interest in wildlife and habitat conservation.
Her Bachelor’s degree is in zoology (Royal Holloway, University of London) and her Master’s degree is in Biodiversity and conservation (University of Leeds). Ailsa has a participated in a variety of Research and Conservation projects; from Baboon’s in Namibia, to Lemurs in Madagascar and Bats in the UK. Most recently she worked as a project officer for the Wildlife Trust movement in the UK managing a number of conservation projects with a wide range of objectives, from locally focused river restoration projects to landscape scale Invasive Species management.
Finnoula Taylor (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”.
Claire Rigby (January 2017 – 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 is looking at the comparisons between wild and captive Chimpanzee behaviours, and is hoping to enrich her knowledge of behaviour in wild primates.
Elizabeth Yarwood (September 2016)- 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 UPP 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.
Tifany Volle (June – August 2016)
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.
Ket Fossen (June – August 2016)- Ket was at Issa to collect data for her masters in Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution in Bergen, Norway. Her thesis addresses the ecological characteristics of sleeping sites used by the yellow baboon (Papio cynecephalus) here 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!
Gabriel Mayengo (May; September 2016;
January-Aug 2017)– Gabriel is a PhD candidate at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania. He is supervised by Anna Treydte and Alex Piel. For his thesis he will investigate the importance of termite mounds and other nutrient hotspots for ungulates at Issa valley ecosystem.
Adrienne Chitayat (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.
Michael Kimaro (February 2016 – May 2016)-
Michael Kimaro joined UPP 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.
Camille Vitet (February-April 2016) – 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.
Noémie Bonnin (April 2015 – July 2015; June 2017)
Passionate about monkeys since her childhood, Noémie first conducted an internship in Brazil, where for over three months she studied the impact of human activities on common marmoset spatial distribution and diet. She then began a research proect on tool-manipulation strategies in Golden-bellied capuchins. As part of her Masters degree in Biology, Ecology and Evolution at University of Poitiers (France), she completed three months lab work with the UPP in Cambridge (right), investigating gene flow and gene diversity of chimpanzees across western Tanzania. She then complimented that lab work with fieldwork at Issa for three months. In Spring 2016, Noemie began her PhD at LJMU, where she continues her work on population genetics, as well as assess UAV data to estimate chimpanzee density among others.
Sebastian Ramirez Amaya (January 2015 – December 2015)
Sebastian obtained a B.S. degree in biology from Universidad de Los Andes (Bogota, COL), and since then worked in remote field sites on the western Amazon of Ecuador and Colombia. He has focused his research on exploring the social behavior and the sociality of the dispersal sex of wild populations of spider monkeys in both fragmented (Santander-Colombia) and pristine habitats(Yasuni-Ecuador). As a collaborator he was part of a long term socioecological study on the white bellied spider monkey in Tiputini Biodiversity Station. He joined the UPP as the project coordinator for 2015 to oversee administration, data collection, and research. In Fall 2017, he will begin his PhD at Arizona State University.
Edward Mclester (January 2015 – December 2015)
Edward completed his bachelor’s (honours) in Zoology between the University of Nottingham and the National University of Singapore, with interests in species ecology and subsequent implications for conservation. At Issa, he lead the UPP’s projects investigating red-tailed monkey ranging patterns and resource utilisation. Ed began his PhD at LJMU in Spring 2016, comparing Ngogo red-tailed monkeys in Kibale National Park with those at Issa.
Eden Wondra first gained experience with primates and research while studying for her Bachelors degree in Animal Behavior at Bucknell University and while abroad with the School for International Training in Australia. She now continues her focus on primates into the field at Issa with chimpanzees looking at habitat use and nesting behavior. She hopes to further pursue her passion in wildlife conservation and carry on with work in the natural world afterwards
Vetle Stigum (November 2014 – December 2014)
Vetle Stigum, biologist, don’t know what kind yet. Nature enthusiast, interested in prehistoric humans. Went to Africa to explore his inner primate.
Mohamed’s research interests cut across primatology and animal behavior, including community-based natural resources management, human-environmental interactions and better understanding contemporary approach towards wildlife management and conservation. Currently, he is a Site Manager for Pan African Great Ape Surveillance Program in Tanzania (MPI-EVA, Leipzig, Germany). Mohamed co-coordinates collection of organic samples and other ecological parameters such as phenology with the overarching goal of studying culture dynamics of the Issa chimpanzees. More on this work can be found here.
Rebecca Zulueta (May 2014 – August 2014)
Rebecca’s interest in wildlife conservation has taken her on adventures through the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California to study carnivores, the jungles of Thailand to follow primates, and the remote bush of Alaska to study moose and bears. Her education includes a B.S. in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution from the University of California San Diego as well as a Joint M.S. degree in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development & Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin Madison.
Naomi Cohen (July 2013 – June 2014)
Naomi received her bachelor’s in Anthropology from the University of Calgary and her Masters in Primate Conservation from Oxford Brooks. She has worked in Belize, Domincan Republic, Gabon, Nigeria, Republic of Congo and Kenya and will be overseeing the Project at Issa, especially our environmental education components.
Parag Kadam (April 2013 – March 2014)
Parag received his bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from Visvesvaraya Inst. in Nagpur (India), before obtaining his graduate diploma in Anthropology from the U of Aukland. He joined the UPP in April 2013 and co-coordinated the “Pan African” collaboration with the Max Plank Institute (Leipzig). As of Spring 2017, he is currently a Masters student at the University of Toronto.
Moritz Rahlfs (July 2012 – June 2013)
Moritz received his Masters in Biology (specializing in Behavioural Ecology & Wildlife Management) from the University of Goettingen, Germany in 2008. He then worked for 2 years on red deer (Cervus elaphus), censusing populations in SW Germany, before conducting research on the fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox) in the Kirindy Forest, Western Madagascar. There, he was interested in a genetic population census and conservation outreach in villages peripheral to the forest. At Ugalla, Moritz will oversee research and overall site coordination.
Wakuru Kushota (summer 2012)
Wakuru recently completed her advanced diploma in wildlife management at Mweka College, Tanzania. Whilst there, she assessed the efficacy of sustainably using natural resources to improve community livelihoods in Nyaminywili village near Selous Game Reserve, compared bird abundance between agroforest and cultivated areas in Mweka village, and studied human-wildlife conflict in the Tarangire/Manyara ecosystem. She spent her time at Issa working on the redtail monkey and baboon behavioural ecology projects.
Alexander Vining (summer 2012)
Whilst in the Animal Behavior Program at Bucknell, Alexander has worked on various projects across four species of primate: hamadryas baboons, lion tailed macaques, squirrel monkeys, and tufted capuchins. With the macaques, he has assessed absolute numerousness judgments, and with the capuchins, participated in studies examining impulse control, bartering, and a study he designed based on the effects of simultaneous brightness contrast. At Issa, Alexander spent most of his days with the redtail monkeys, although also contributed to all aspects of the UPP.
Caspian Johnson (Aug 2011 – Jul 2012)Caspian received a First Class Bachelors degree (honors) in Zoology at the University of Swansea, UK and led the UPP’s project investigating baboon ranging and diet. Caspian coordinated all ongoing research projects at Issa, in addition to organizing camp logistics and assisting overall project administration. He is currently writing up his data for his PhD at Swansea. Read more about Caspian’s research and interests here on his webpage.
Simon Tapper (May 2011 – Apr 2012)Simon received his Bachelors degree (honors) in Biological Anthropology and Psychology (minor in Zoology) at the University of Toronto, Canada. He led the UPP’s project investigating red-tail monkey behavioural ecology. He began graduate work at the University of Roehampton, UK in Fall 2012.
Samantha Russak (October 2010 – October 2011)
Samantha successfully defended her PhD from Arizona State University in April 213, and was at the Issa field site from 2010-2011 collecting her PhD dissertation data. Her project centered on identifying the ecological role, or niche, that a species occupies within their larger community. She was also investigating the occupied niche of Issa by examining the main components of the chimpanzee niche: patterns of resource utilization (space and food) and interspecific interactions.
Instead of actively following the chimpanzees, data were collected using ‘resource patch focals’ at Issa, Ugalla. This methodology resulted in data for both chimpanzees and other faunal species, providing a more complete understanding of the chimpanzee role within its larger faunal community.
Deborah Moore (July 2009 – May 2010)
Deborah is a PhD student in the Anthropology Department at the University of Texas, San Antonio, who conducted her PhD dissertation field season in Ugalla from 2009-2010, under the advisement of Carolyn Ehardt. She studied free-ranging capuchins at La Suerte Biological Field Station in Costa Rica, and worked with chimpanzees at Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, under the direction of Frans de Waal.
Her research applied current methods in genetics to the investigation of an unhabituated chimpanzee population occupying a little-understood niche of their ecological range. The goal of this project was to determine population size and density, community size and structure, home range area, and dispersal and ranging data for this little understood chimpanzee population, through the collection and analysis of genetic material from a large portion of the Ugalla region in western Tanzania.
Click here to go to the collaborators page.