About me

I am a behavioral and infectious disease ecologist and biological anthropologist. I am broadly interested in how primates and other group-living animals respond and adapt to changing environments, and the effects of animal sociality and group-living on infectious disease risk. Specifically I investigate the impact of both extrinsic factors such as environmental variables and anthropogenic change, as well as intrinsic biological characteristics such as animals’ life-history and evolutionary history, on the links between animal social life, human-wildlife interactions, and microbial (infectious disease) ecology. My research draws on theory, field-work, laboratory techniques, and data (and in particular network-based) analytical approaches from across a range of interdosciplinary sciences - including animal behaviour evolutionary genetics, microbial ecology and epidemiology, and coupled natural-human systems. 

To-date I have largely focused on nonhuman primates, specifically multiple species of macaques (Macaca spp.) across South and East Asia. I have also recently commenced collaborative, comparative research on wild meerkats (Suricatta suricata) at the Kalahari Research Centre (KRC: https://kalahariresearchcentre.org/ ) in South Africa. Macaques and meerkats are well-suited model systems to realise my research goals. Aside from close evolutionary histories, macaques also share ecological niche-space and form synanthropic associations with humans, which have consequences for zoonotic (wildlife -> humans, and within humans) and anthropozoonotic (humans -> wildlife, and within wildlife) disease risk. Meerkats are cooperatively (rather than communal) breeding meso-carnivores, that live in smaller groups than macaques, show reproductive suppression of subordinates by dominants, and consequently higher degrees of relatedness. 30+ years of data on the life-history and behavior of the Kalahari meerkat population has laid strong foundations for assessing the impact of the ‘Anthropocene’ era on the survival of these animals that live in challenging and changing environments. 

Thus the significance of my research two-fold: gaining insights into the evolutionary origins of why humans are social, and moving human-wildlife interactions from conflict towards co-existence through evaluating the hidden or subtle behavioral and disease-related aspects and outcomes of these interactions. 

Download my CV here

Hear more about my research through this podcast