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I have spent some 12 years studying wild animals at night in Africa since leaving the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth, where I read zoology, geology and botany.Starting in South Africa, I did an MSc and PhD on the ecology and behaviour of two species of bushbabies (galagos) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (Psychology Department).
I then studied spotted hyaenas near the Kruger National Park for two years as Senior Research Fellow at the Mammal Research Institute, before joining Bob Martin to do a two-year radio-tracking study of lesser bushbabies in the Northern Transvaal.
After that, I returned with my family to England and worked first as a Research Fellow at London Zoo and then as a lecturer in Physical Anthropology at Oxford Polytechnic, before it became Oxford Brookes.
This enabled me to consolidate a programme of research on nocturnal primates, with work in 17 African countries (and one trip to Brazil). This culminated in the formation of the Nocturnal Primate Research Group, starting with an enthusiastic group of PhD students and building to an international collaborative group of scientists working on bushbabies and lorises – from bones to biochemistry via biogeography and behaviour.
Over the years I have had the great pleasure of helping to run eight Conservation Summer Schools at the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust (now the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust).
I have been conducting field research on lemur behavioural ecology since 1996 with a special focus on activity patterns and its ecological correlates.
I was trained as a Biological Anthropologist at the University of Pisa, where I got my Master degree, and then I continued my studies at the University of Florence, where I carried out my PhD.
I investigated determinants and correlates of cathemerality, the impressive characteristic of some primates to be routinely active at regular intervals during the 24-hour cycle. For this, I worked around the clock in three different habitats of Madagascar (deciduous, gallery and littoral forest) in order to describe the behavioural ecology of two brown lemur species, Eulemur fulvus rufus and Eulemur collaris. By comparing the 24-hour activity patterns of brown lemurs and relating these with abiotic and biotic variables I was, together with my team, able to find out some of the proximate factors and ultimate determinants of this apparently odd behaviour.
The study of the evolutionary causes of cathemerality and its relationship with the ecological matrix represents an important step for understanding the trade-off of costs and benefits which characterized the passage from a nocturnal to a diurnal life-style in primates.
Over the years, I have developed an ecological approach that aims at a better understanding of the habitat requirements of lemurs. Even though I started my studies as an ethologist, working in the field has increasingly involved me to deal with ecological aspects. Given its importance for lemur evolutionary strategies, I compared, together with my colleagues, variations in food availability in different Malagasy forests. We also explored other ecological topics such as fruit traits (morphological, biochemical, etc.) at the basis of food choice in frugivorous lemurs.
After the completion of my PhD, I expanded my interests toward more conservation oriented researches with a special attention for the dramatic situation of Madagascar. Thus, via the support of various conservation grants (Rufford, Rio Tinto), I focussed my field studies on the behavioural flexibility of collared lemurs to deliberate relocation and their ability to cope with habitats at various levels of degradation. As native habitats are being destroyed but surrogate habitats are being created or other parts of the native habitat are being protected effectively, translocations and re-introductions of primates are becoming increasingly important as a tool for species conservation.
I'm currently following a post-monitoring project of a relocated population of Eulemur collaris in the Mandena area, south-eastern Madagascar. In particular, I'm supervising a long-term data collection (currently undertaken by a Malagasy team) on population dynamics and behavioural ecology of the relocated lemurs in their new environment.
My main goal in Brookes is broadening the competences of the NPRG by integrating and comparing "my view of the lemur world" into the established research lines on the two other prosimian groups, the galagos and the lorises. This effort will range from student supervision to joint publications.
BA in Biological Anthropology, University of Missouri, Columbia, USA.
Certificat de Primatologie, Universite Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France.
MPhil and DPhil in Biological Anthropology, Washington University, St Louis.
My main research interests fall under the areas conservation, phylogenetics and speciation. To study various aspects of these fields, my fieldwork has taken me to Trinidad, Senegal, Utah, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Indonesia, Uganda and Kenya.
Although I have conducted fieldwork on bats, small carnivores (including civets and cats), mouse deer, and giant squirrels, my primary research focus is on primates. I have conducted long-term studies of Indian and Sri Lankan slender lorises. Amongst others, research topics have included: behavioural ecology, life history and foraging behaviour. I have also looked at the community ecology of Sri Lanka's rainforest primates, including toque macaques and purple-faced leaf monkeys. In particular I have examined the effects of fragmentation on populations throughout Sri Lanka's sparse remaining rainforests.
I have had extensive training in Distance sampling, census techniques and home range analysis and have applied this to my primate research. Census techniques is a key area that teach on the MSc in Primate Conservation.
My current research project looks at the diversity of Asian slow lorises, both in the field and using museum specimens. This and last year, my research takes me to Java, Sumatra, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and Vietnam, where at least five species of slow loris are found. Morphological, behavioural and vocal analyses are being used to uncover diversity within this group.