Current PhD students:

Ed collecting primate feces samples in Issa (June 2015)

Edward McLester



2016-present: PhD Animal Behaviour, Liverpool John Moores University

2011-14: BSc Zoology, University of Nottingham & National University of Singapore (joint)

Research Interests: behavioural ecology; primate sociality; movement ecology

My research focuses on habitat-specific behavioural adaptations in a social primate species, the red-tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius). Specifically, I am interested in the extent to which this species exhibits variation in strategies of coordinating group movement across a distribution that spans two environmental extremes – homogeneous, tropical forest and heterogeneous, savanna-mosaic landscapes. I use a range of tools including agent-based models, geographic information systems (GIS) and acoustic analyses, to contextualise group movements against behaviour at the individual level. By comparing red-tailed monkey populations at both Issa and Kibale National Park (Uganda), this research will inform on 1) our reconstructions of early hominin adaptations to similar environments, and 2) our implementation of conservation measures, which must account for differences in behavioural adaptations where species ranges extend into marginal habitats.

Above video: How social affiliations and spatial aggregations mediate reduced intra-group feeding competition and predation risk is a key question in Ed’s work


  • McLester E. & Piel A. K. (2016). Alarm callers are females with greatest genetic representation. In: Shackelford T. K. & Weekes‐Shackelford V. A. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Berlin, Germany.
  • McLester E., Stewart F. A. & Piel A. K. (2016). Observation of an encounter between African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) and a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in the Issa Valley, Tanzania. African Primates. 11(1): 27-36.
  • Ramirez-Amaya S., McLester E., Stewart F. A. & Piel A. K. (2016). Savanna chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) consume and share blue duiker (Philantomba monticola) meat in the Issa Valley, Ugalla western Tanzania. Pan Africa News. 22(2): 6-11.


  • McLester E., Stewart F. A. & Piel A. K. (2016). Mahale’s Monkeys: Cercopithecine and Colobine abundance and distribution across unprotected land in the Greater Mahale Ecosystem, western Tanzania. Oral presentation. IPS/ASP Joint Meeting, Chicago, USA.
  • McLester E., Stewart F.A. & Piel A.K. (2016). Red-tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius) ranging behaviour in a mosaic landscape as a response to food availability, seasonality and weather. Poster presentation. IPS/ASP Joint Meeting, Chicago, USA.



Noemie at Issa (Summer 2015)

Noemie Bonnin



2016-present: PhD Animal Behaviour, Liverpool John Moores University

2013-15: Msc of Ecology and Population Biology (with honours),  University of Poitiers, France

2010-2013: Bachelors of Science, Technology, and Health (with honours),  University of Poitiers, France

Research Interests: behavioural ecology, conservation, primates, UAVs

My research interests are focused on primate conservation and human impacts on wildlife behaviour. My passion for primates first brought me to Brazil where for over 3 months I studied the impact of human activity on common marmoset spatial distribution, behavior, and diet. I then studied tool-manipulation strategies in a group of Golden-Bellied capuchins and finally landed in Tanzania studying gene flow and genetic diversity of chimpanzees.

For my PhD, I’m investigating chimpanzee distribution and threats in western Tanzania using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The aim of this investigation is to integrate UAV-acquired datasets to answer questions about (1) chimpanzee nest detectability, (2) key environmental factors that explain chimpanzee distribution in Tanzania (e.g. landscape changes specifically due to illegal herding, agricultural expansion and deforestation), (3) plant phenological patterns impact on chimpanzee distribution and (4) the origin and pattern of grass fires and their influence on chimpanzee spatio-temporal distribution.


  • Bonnin N. & Piel A.K. (2016). Nonhuman Reactions to Death. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science.


  • Bonnin, N, Piel, AK, Ramirez, MA, Li Y, Loy, E, Crystal, P, Hahn, B, Knapp, LA, Stewart, FA. 2015.  Gene Flow and Genetic Diversity of Tanzania’s Greater Mahale Ecosystem Chimpanzees. Folia Primatologica. 86 :249-249. Presented at the 6th European Federation for Primatology Meeting, Rome, Italy.
  • Bonnin N, Decotte JB, Castro CSS. Human influence on the activity pattern of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) at the botanic garden , João pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil. Folia Primatologica. 86 :249-250. Presented at the 6th European Federation for Primatology Meeting, Rome, Italy
  • Bonnin N, Piel AK, Ramirez MA, Li Y, Loy E, Crystal P, Hahn B, Knapp LA, Stewart FA. 2015. Genetic variation and connectivity of chimpanzee populations across western Tanzania. Presented at 28th symposium of the SFDP (Francophone Society of Primatology), Strasbourg, France



Anne-Sophie Crunchant

Anne-Sophie Crunchant

CV: Here


From 2017: PhD Animal Behaviour, Liverpool John Moores University

2014: Msc, Biology-Ecology, University of Poitiers, France

Research Interests: behavioural ecology; primate sociality; movement ecology

Previous works and research interests

My research interests are ecology and species conservation, especially problematics dealing with species threatened by extinction. I thus took part in the kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) preservation plan, relative to an endangered emblematic and endemic bird of New Caledonia. We carried out field missions in the Caledonian mountain to detect the remaining populations with automated acoustic recorders and analysed data to draw presence/absence maps.

However my interests focus more specifically on primate ecology. For my master degree, I estimated socio-demographic structure of chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) communities from camera traps using biometric approaches, thanks a face detection software. The key conclusion of this study is that using semi-automated ape face detection technology for processing camera trap footage requires only 2-4% of the time compared to manual analysis and allows to estimate site use by chimpanzees relatively reliably. After watching chimp videos during many hours, I had the opportunity to observe directly and face-to-face wild chimpanzees at the Taï National Park in Ivory Coast: I spent six months as field assistant for a PhD student to follow two chimpanzee communities, where we collected behavioural data and urine samples for cortisol and oxytocin analyses to study mechanisms of conflict resolution on male chimpanzees. Furthermore I took part in a gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) habituation program for touristic purposes at Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Congo (see video below).



Current research

Aerial vehicles as data mules in conducting rapid acoustic biodiversity surveys in western Tanzania

Remote acoustic monitoring of animals allow biodiversity assessments as well as studies of elusive animal behaviour. However, retrieving data from acoustic recorders in the canopy is arduous when on a tight time schedule and costly.

For my PhD project, with the collaboration of a team of experts, I aim to develop a novel non-invasive method utilizable by field workers to evaluate biodiversity and conduct population surveys in remote areas. This tool will overcome traditional limitations by the deployment of wireless acoustic sensor networks that transmit, via radio, acoustic data to UAVs (acting as “data mules”). By integrating acoustic monitoring with aerial vehicle technological innovations, we aim to provide rapid baseline data for wildlife monitoring. It opens up the field of many ecological implications.

The method will be tested and hopefully validated in two areas in western Tanzania, to assess the relationship between biodiversity and human settlement.


  • Crunchant A, Egerer M, Loos A, Burghardt T, Zuberbühler K, Corogenes K, Leinert V, Kulik L, Kühl HS. 2016. Automated face detection for occurrence and occupancy estimation in chimpanzees. American Journal of Primatology (in press).



In 2016, UPP hosted the first cohort of LJMU Msc students in Primate Behaviour and Conservation (PBC), but that was just the beginning. Now, students from both the Msc in PBC and also those enrolled in the Msc in Wildlife Conservation/UAV spend two weeks at Issa as part of a module in field skills during the Spring of their 2nd semester. Below are photos and comments from students.


Coming Spring 2017!


Simon Stringer“I was looking at vigilance behaviour of Cercopithecus ascanius (red tailed monkey) within the riverine forests of the Issa study site. I hypothesised that when feeding, social monitoring would be lowest due to the attention feeding requires, and because previous studies have observed that social vigilance behaviour is observed greatest when red tails are resting.” – Simon Stringer



“During my time at Ugalla, I studied yellow baboon responses to predator and conspecific vocalisations and the differences between female and male reactions. During my analysis, I will also look at any differences between adult, sub-adult and juvenile baboons.” – Catherine Baker-Wood


Hannah Stein


“During my time at UPP, my study was to follow the camp troop of yellow baboons -Papio cynocephalus- and to observe their foraging behaviours, comparing the frequency of foraging between adult and juveniles. I also collected faecal samples to identify diet.”  – Hannah Stein



“For my field study at UPP I was interested in how termite mounds affect the surrounding flora and fauna. I visited termite mounds that had camera traps, collecting vegetation and animal presence data then watched the camera trap footage to check for animal presence. ” – Laura Gatti



Sub-group on plateau

Simon, Abdalla, Busoti, and Hannah


Hannah, Laura, Catherine, Alex & Simon