Current Lab Members
Noëlle Gunst, Ph.D. (Adjunct Assistant Professor)
After a M.Sc. in Ecophysiology and Ethology (2002), Noëlle received a
Ph.D. in Ecology (2008) from the University of Georgia (USA) under the
supervision of Dr. Dorothy Fragaszy. During her Ph.D., Noëlle studied the
development of foraging competence in the wild brown capuchin monkeys of
Raleighvallen Nature Reserve, Suriname. From 2011 to 2015, Noëlle did a
post-doctorate at the University of Lethbridge (Canada) under the supervision
of Dr. Paul Vasey, during which she studied the
development of sexual behaviors in Japanese macaques. Since 2016, she is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the U of L.
Noëlle and I have been working together since 1996 on several research
projects (group movement in white-faced capuchins, fur rubbing in white-faced
and brown capuchins, development of extractive foraging in brown capuchins,
stone handling and fish eating in Japanese macaques, as well as stone handling,
eye covering play, and robbing/bartering practice in Balinese long-tailed
macaques), and conservation projects (population density of ebony leaf-eating
monkeys and mona monkeys).
Since September 2015, Noëlle has been studying female-male mounting,
monkey-deer mounting, and all-male groups in Japanese macaques, as well as the
development of extractive foraging in Balinese long-tailed macaques. She is also setting up a project on the sustainable wildlife-human coexistence on the island of Grenada (West Indies), with an emphasis on the community-based conservation of the introduced mona monkeys.
Amanda Pelletier, B.A. (M.Sc. student)
Amanda received a B.A. in Psychology (2013) from the University of
Regina (Canada) and took additional course work towards a B.Sc. in Neuroscience
at the University of Lethbridge (Canada). She has an extensive work and
volunteer experience with people suffering from mental health disorders, developmental disorders,
and addictions. She is familiar with procedures related suicide assessment and intervention. In 2014, she worked for "Volunteer Eco Students Abroad" in a wildlife rehabilitation center in South Africa.
In January 2016, she started a M.Sc. in Psychology, under my supervision, focusing on the comparative structural and functional analysis of the stone handling behavior and extractive foraging in Balinese long-tailed macaques
Amanda Pelletier (right behind the croc)
After a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences (2014) from the University of Bologna (Italy), Camilla joined the German Primate Centre and participated in several research projects focusing on color vision, olfactory communication, and cognition in captive and wild mouse lemurs and red-fronted lemurs. Part of these studies involved field observational and experimental work in the Kirindy forest of Western Madagascar, where she also studied three endemic species of chameleons.
In 2016, Camilla received a M.Sc. in Animal Behaviour from the University of Exeter (UK). Her main research project consisted in developing individual-based evolutionary models (via computer simulations) to understand the adaptive role of social play behavior in mammals. She focused on the coevolution between play-fighting and social systems. She also analyzed dominance hierarchies of male and female rhesus macaques based on win-loss agonistic interactions. Finally, she co-designed a coding system for video-recorded data on human-robot interactions in a playful context.In January 2018, Camilla will start a PhD in our team, taking a Tinbergian approach to object play and tool use in different macaque species.
Currently in his final year of undergraduate studies (majoring in Neuroscience), Sidhesh is aiming to pursue a career in medicine. The 20 year-old found his passion for helping others through his time at the Chinook Regional hospital (Lethbridge) where he has over 100 logged hours of volunteer work, and in the Dominican Republic where he went during the reading weeks, two years in a row to assist with free health clinics. He values his community greatly and also acted as the Chair of Athletics for the 2016 SASG, which were held in Lethbridge.
The brain and its behavioural outputs have always interested Sidhesh, leading him towards a Neuroscience degree. Having taken a few undergraduate courses in animal psychology, Sidhesh continued to show his interest in the field.
Since September 2016, and under Noelle's co-supervision, Sidhesh has been conducting three Independent Studies in our lab, doing video analysis of object manipulative behavioral patterns in long-tailed macaques (with a focus on manual coordination, object selectivity, and tool use), and sexual behaviors in Japanese macaques (testing the functional hypothesis of female-male mounting, in collaboration with Paul Vasey).
Jamie received his B.Sc. in Psychology (2017) from the University of Lethbridge (Canada) where he completed several independent studies and an honours thesis examining the placebo and the nocebo effect.
Placebo and nocebo effects are his primary area of interest, particularly examining the perceptual aspect of each and how the two may interact. Additionally, he has an interest in studying various forms of sexual deviancy. His intention is to pursue graduate studies with the ultimate goal of becoming a professor of psychology.
Since September 2017, Jamie is conducting a Research Assistantship in our lab, scoring video-recorded data pertaining to the stone handling behavior in Balinese long-tailed macaques, with an emphasis on testing the "sex toy" hypothesis via stone-assisted genital stimulation.
Jamie Schnell presenting his Honours Thesis at the U of L after receiving the Psychology Gold Medal.
Since September 2017, Caitlin is conducting an Independent Study in our lab, analyzing behavioral data pertaining to the stone handling behavior in Balinese long-tailed macaques, with an emphasis on testing the "sex toy" hypothesis via stone-assisted genital stimulation.
Stephanie Varsanyi, B.A.Sc. candidate (Research Assistant)
Stephanie is a fourth year student at the University of
Lethbridge, and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Philosophy and
Psychology. She has a wide range of research interests, including, but not
limited to, adolescent psychology, criminal psychology, primate cognition, and
sexual psychology of animals and humans.
In addition, Stephanie loves to volunteer, and is currently the membership representative for the campus psychology club and a program assistant for Environment Lethbridge. To keep up to date on her work, please follow her Twitter @steph_varsanyi.
Lilah received a B.A. in Biology (2015) at Lewis & Clark College (USA). After working as part of the husbandry staff at the Duke Lemur Center (2014), she went on to manage a temporary field site for the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Germany).
At the field site in Parc National du Bafing (Mali), she
investigated the ecology and cultural behavior of unhabituated chimpanzees. Lilah's research interests include
novel tool use, learned behavior and social networks of non-human
Following remote field work in Mali, Lilah worked as a field research assistant at the German Primate Center, University of Goettingen (Germany). This project focused on the role of hormones in bonding and cooperation in Barbary macaques at Affenberg Salem (Germany).
From May to August 2017, Lilah has worked in our team as a field research assistant in Ubud (central Bali). She investigated the social influence on the expression of stone handling behavior in long-tailed macaques, and is now analyzing the data she collected.
Lilah Sciaky NOT involved in an interaction with a long-tailed macaque at the Ubud Monkey Forest (Bali, Indonesia)
Past Lab Members
Fany Brotcorne, Ph.D. (Post-Doctorate Fellow)
Fany received a first M.Sc. in Psychology (2006) from the Free University of Brussels (Belgium) during which she studied fur rubbing behavior in white-faced capuchins, and a second M.Sc. in Biology of Organisms and Ecology (2008) from the University of Liège (Belgium) during which she studied the commensal long-tailed macaques of Bangkok (Thailand). Then, Fany received a Ph.D. in Sciences (2014) from the University of Liège under the supervision of Drs. Marie-Claude Huynen and Pascal Poncin. During her Ph.D., Fany studied the impact of anthropic factors on the behavioral ecology of different populations of Balinese long-tailed macaques (Bali, Indonesia).
From September 2015 to August 2016, Fany's postdoctoral project in our lab consisted in studying the environmental factors, psychological mechanisms, and cultural processes underlying the object robbing and object/food bartering behaviors exhibited by 5 neighboring groups of Balinese long-tailed macaques at Uluwatu, south Bali.
Lydia Ottenheimer Carrier, M.Sc.
Lydia received a B.Sc. in Psychology (2011) from the Memorial University of Newfounland (Canada) during which she did a Honours thesis on dog personality.
Under the co-supervision of Dr. Paul Vasey and me, Lydia earned a M.Sc. in Psychology (2015) at the University of
Lethbridge (Canada). From
November 2012 to January 2013, she participated in the data collection of
sexual behaviors in Japanese macaques at Jigokudani and Minoo, central Japan.
Erin Davis, B.A. & Sc. candidate (Honours Thesis student)
Erin graduated in 2008 with a diploma of nursing and worked for 7 years at the Lethbridge Regional Hospital on a maternal/child unit, doing postpartum and postnatal care. In her time there, she noticed that there was a lack of attention to the psychological needs of patients. She came back to the university to obtain a degree in Psychology and a better understanding of mental health. She currently volunteers with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
In 2015, Erin volunteered with Lethbridge
Immigrant Services and was fortunate to work with the Bhutanese refugee community
that settled down in Lethbridge. After fleeing their country, Bhutanese people
of Nepali descent experienced the trauma of refugee camps in Nepal, and many Bhutanese
refugees now living in Western countries have high rates of PTSD and other
From May to December 2016, Erin conducted an Honours Thesis (co-supervised by Dr. Jennifer Mather and myself), focusing on how community support services can improve the wellness of Bhutanese people living in Lethbridge.
Amanda is in her final few courses of her B.A in Psychology at the University of Lethbridge. Her research interests for her are primarily focused on forms of Animal-Assisted Therapy. After taking two courses with me (Human & Animal Personalities and Human-Animal Interactions), she found her passion for Animal-Assisted Therapy. Amanda wishes to pursue a career working with at-risk youth and rescued/abused animals, in a dual-rehabilitation type program. She demonstrates her passion through her work at a local veterinary clinic, as well as her volunteering at the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association (LTRA).
From May to August 2017, Amanda conducted an Applied Study under my supervision, examining the effects of Equine-Assisted Therapy on children with different physical disabilities and psychological disorders.
Amanda Maki (right) and Maddie (left), a program horse at LTRA
Jessica Kim Sonmor, B.Sc. candidate (Research Assistant)
Currently in her final semester of B.Sc. in Psychology at the University of Lethbridge, Jessica has various research interests, including the mechanisms of non-conceptive sexual behaviors in monkeys, and the potential causes of allergies in animals, particularly dogs.
When she is not at the university, Jessica works at Rehoboth
Christian ministries where she helps people with mental disabilities accomplish
simple day-to-day goals and tasks. She is qualified as a practitioner.
After getting a Master’s degree, she wants to become a registered psychologist and work at the Lethbridge prison, in order to help those society has given up on, to hopefully decrease to recidivism rate.
In Spring 2017, she conducted an Independent Study in our lab, assisting with the video scoring of object manipulative behavioral patterns in Balinese long-tailed macaques, with a focus on stone-assisted masturbation behavior.
Emmanuel Ipaa, B.A. candidate (Research Assistant)
Currently in his final semester of B.A. in Psychology at the University of Lethbridge, Emmanuel found his passion for animal behavior research after taking several courses in our Department, related to social learning, culture, and communication in non-human animals. Part of his interest in animal behavior stems from his love for the outdoors and in nature in general.
He hopes this opportunity will help him pursue future animal behavior studies, including field research.
Emmanuel Ipaa "hunting bears with a spear in the Rockies" (and smiling at the idea of actually encountering one!).
During her M.Sc. in Psychology (2013-2016) at Saarland
University (Germany), Tatjana explored key aspects of the development of physical and social
cognition in preschool children from a cross-cultural perspective: she
investigated a variety of problem-solving abilities, including tool use
propensity and imitative tendencies in human children, before the beginning of
Tatjana's strong interest in social learning and tool use in humans and non-human primates led her to take on a field research assistant position at the German Primate Center, University of Goettingen (Germany): from March to December 2016, she participated in a research project exploring the emergence and evolution of prosocial behaviors and socio-cognitive strategies in the Barbary macaques of Affenberg Salem (Germany).
Tatjana Kaufmann (background) and her macaque study subjects (foreground) at Affenberg Salem
Silvana Sita, M.Sc. (Research Assistant)
After receiving a B.Sc. in Environmental Engineering (2011) at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), Silvana volunteered at two wildlife rescue/rehabilitation centers in British Columbia, Canada (2011/2012). Then she worked for 10 months (2012/2013) as a field research assistant at the Lomas Barbudal Capuchin Monkey Project in Costa Rica, directed by Dr. Susan Perry (UCLA), where she gained experience with Primatology and field data collection in primates. In April 2016, Silvana completed her M.Sc. in Psychobiology, under the supervision of Dr. Renata Ferreira, at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (Brazil). Her master's thesis focused on individual differences and post-release adaptation, and included the analysis of behavioral changes during different phases of enrichment, behavioral assessment via personality tests, and survival analysis.
Silvana Sita (next to the deer)
Molly did her undergraduate B.Sc. in Zoology at the
University of Queensland, Australia. For her honours thesis, she studied social
behavior in eastern grey kangaroos in Queensland. After graduating, she spent
four months in Namibia studying the behavior of wild baboons as a research
assistant on the Tsaobis Baboon Project. Then, she continued as a research
assistant for a project studying the dynamics of fission-fusion social systems
in wild giraffes at Etosha National Park, Namibia. In the future she hopes to
continue studying animal behavior and gain a Ph.D. in the field of animal
Molly Gilmour (in the sun) with her baboon subjects (staying in the shade)
Daniela received a B.Sc. in Biology (2012) from the Faculty of Science at the University of Lisbon (Portugal). Before starting her M.Sc. in Cognitive Sciences, Daniela had the opportunity to study parental behavior in captive chimpanzees at the Lisbon Zoo. Her master’s thesis focused on the development and evolution of language, comparing the acquisition of communicative gestures in chimpanzees and human infants.
From 2014 to 2016, Daniela was hired to collect behavioral data on red ruffed lemurs at Lagos Zoo (Portugal), as well as on mandrills and ring-tailed lemurs at Badoca Park (Portugal). In January 2015, she worked as a field research assistant at Fundació Mona (Spain) where she studied the effects of enculturation and social deprivation on chimpanzees’ communication.
Montana Hull, M.Sc. (Research Assistant)
Montana gained her B.Sc. in Zoology from Aberystwyth University, Wales, in which she studied chimpanzee behavior as her dissertation. After being awarded a scholarship from Aberystwyth University, Montana continued on to doing a M.Sc. in Environmental Management. In 2015, upon completion of her master's degree, she successfully applied for an internship with Orangutan Foundation International, where she lived in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and Los Angeles, USA. She worked closely with Dr. Birute Galdikas and was involved with data collection on wild macaques. Additional to this, she has volunteered with primates in Borneo, Florida and Louisiana, as well as completed an internship at Chester Zoo, UK. In the future, Montana hopes to continue her study of primates and gain a Ph.D. in this area.
In September 2016, Montana participated in the data collection of stone handling behavior and extractive foraging activities by the Balinese long-tailed macaques of Ubud (central Bali), focusing on personality and social correlates.
Montana Hull following 2 long-tailed macaques at Ubud
Lucía Jorge Sales, M.Sc. (Research Assistant)
After a B.Sc. in Biology (2012) at the Universitat de Valencia (Spain), Lucía worked for 6 months (2013) as a keeper at Primadomus in Villena (Spain), an animal rescue center affiliated with the AAP Foundation. There, she gained experience working with chimpanzees, hamadryas baboons, pig-tailed macaques and long-tailed macaques. In 2015, Lucía received a M.Sc. in Primatology from the Universitat de Girona (Spain). During her master’s research, she used social network analysis as an indicator of welfare in captive groups of chimpanzees (housed in outdoor enclosures at Fundació Mona, a primate rescue center located near Girona, Spain) and wild groups of black howler monkeys (living in a fragmented forested area in southern México, where she worked in collaboration with the Instituto de Ecología – INECOL – near Villahermosa). In 2015-2016, she returned to México, where she participated in an environmental education project for the conservation of black howler monkeys.
From April to August 2016, Lucía has participated in the data collection of the object robbing and object/food bartering activities in the Balinese long-tailed macaques of Uluwatu. Along with Fany, she has focused on social network analysis and personality correlates.
Elenora received her B.Sc. in Biology (2015) from the University of Würzburg (Germany). Her B.Sc. thesis focused on the raiding behavior in stinging ants, and was carried out at the Comoé Research Station in Ivory Coast. In 2011, she worked as a research assistant in the KiLi Project that explores biodiversity and ecosystem processes on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. In 2012, Elenora first experienced field primatology by taking part in the initial phase of the "Macaca Nemestrina Project", run by the Universiti Sains Malaysia in cooperation with the German Primate Center. She helped with the habituation of free-ranging pig-tailed macaques in Malaysia, by using telemetry. In 2013-2014, she completed an internship at the German Primate Center, where she investigated the role of canines in dominance relationships among male crested macaques.
In April 2016, Elenora has assisted Fany and Lucía with the data collection on the robbing/bartering activities in the long-tailed macaques from Uluwatu (south Bali). From May to August 2016, she has worked with Silvana and participated in the data collection of the stone handling and nut handling behaviors performed by the macaques from Ubud (central Bali), while being enrolled as a M.Sc. student in Ecology and Evolution at the Goethe University of Frankfurt (Germany).
Anna Holzner, M.Sc. (Research Assistant)
After a B.Sc. in Biology (2012) at the University of Munich (Germany), Anna received a M.Sc. in Applied Ethology and Animal Biology (2014) at Linköping University (Sweden). During her M.Sc., Anna studied dog personality (i.e., she compared the behavioral responses of different dog breed in test situations). Then, for one year, she gained experience as a field assistant in the "Macaca Nemestrina Project" run by the Universiti Sains Malaysia in cooperation with the German Primate Center investigating the behavior and ecology of habituated, free-ranging pig-tailed macaques in Malaysia.
From October 2015 to April 2016, Anna has participated in the data collection
of the object robbing and object/food bartering activities in the Balinese
long-tailed macaques of Uluwatu. Along with Fany, she has focused on social influences, developmental processes, and
Anna Holzner (right behind the kitten)
Riane Milan, B.A. (Research Assistant)
From January to April 2015, Riane did an Independent Study in my lab during which she scored videos to establish the repertoire and explore the structure of stone handling behavior in the Balinese long-tailed macaques of Ubud, central Bali. Along with Amanda Pelletier, she participated in documenting new stone handling patterns that had not been observed in the closely related species, Japanese macaques.
Long-term research collaborations
Paul L. Vasey, Ph.D.
(Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Canada)
Paul L. Vasey is a Professor of Psychology. He takes a cross-species and cross-cultural approach to the mechanisms and evolution of non-conceptive sex.
Paul was my post-doctorate advisor from 2011 to 2014 in the Department of Psychology at the University of Lethbridge (Canada). Paul and I published several papers on the development of sexual behavior in male and female Japanese macaques, as well as male and female homosexual behaviors in this primate species. We continue to collaborate on sex research projects in Japanese macaques (e.g., female-male mounting, female sexual orientation, hormonal correlates of female homosexual behavior, monkey-deer mounting, male masturbation, social and sexual interactions within all-male groups).
In 2012, Paul, Mike Huffman and I co-edited the book "The Monkeys of Stormy Mountain: 60 Years of Primatological Research on the Japanese Macaques of Arashiyama", Cambridge University Press.
(Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge)
(Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan)
is an Associate Professor in the section of Social Systems Evolution at the Primate Research Institute (Japan). His research focus includes social learning and cultural behaviors in primates and self-medication in humans and non-human animals.
Mike was my post-doctorate advisor from 2003 to 2005 and from 2007 to 2009 at the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute (Japan). We continue to collaborate on the stone handling research project in Japanese macaques and Balinese long-tailed macaques, as well as on other projects related to primate culture.
(University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka)
Charmalie is a Professor of Biological Anthropology. From 2003 to 2008, she did her MSc and PhD at the Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University (Japan) under Mike Huffman's supervision.
Since 2003, Charmalie and I have been collaborating on the stone handling research project in Japanese macaques and Balinese long-tailed macaques.
Recent undergraduate students (Independent Studies and Applied Studies)
2017 (field studies and literature reviews)
- Caleb Fernell: "Evidence-based assessment of religious coping strategies".
- Ryan Fukuda: "The evolution of religious belief".
- Rosemary Boisson: "Integration of Syrian refugees into the Canadian Society".
2016 (questionnaire-based surveys and literature reviews)
- Ashna Prakash: "Many Gods'... many voices: Psychosis in the Hindu religion".
- Lauren Vomberg: "Statistical analysis of personality and degree of religiosity in Judaism".
- Lyndsay Tomm: "HEXACO personality traits and religiosity in a sample of undergraduate students".
- Nathan Grigg: "The importance of olfaction in New World vulture: A comparative neuroanatomical study".
- Lyndsay Tomm: “Personality and religious orientation”.
- Samantha Lasante: “Personality and prejudice towards homosexuals”.
- Jessica Vos: “Religiosity and prejudice towards homosexuals”.
- Lauren Vomberg: “Personality and religious fundamentalism".
- Lindsay Tymchyna: “Personality of backpackers versus non-backpackers”.
2015 (research and literature reviews)
- Amanda Pelletier: “Structure of the stone handling behavior in Balinese long-tailed macaques”.
- Tracy Fillion: “A proximate perspective on religious behavior and belief: ontogenetic processes and causal mechanisms”.
- Melissa McKinnon: “An ultimate perspective on religious behavior and belief: functional components and evolutionary history”.
Pictures from the field
Mike Huffman and JB Leca filming stone handling behavior at the Ubud Monkey Forest (Bali, August, 2008)
as well as Wayan Selamet (Manager of the Ubud Monkey Forest; back row, 5th from left)
Noëlle Gunst watching a grooming interaction between 2 Japanese macaques (Arashiyama, central Japan, November 2010)
Noëlle Gunst walking among Japanese macaques during "nap/grooming time" (Arashiyama, central Japan, November 2010)
... with 2 long-tailed macaques in the background (can you spot them?)
Stuart (BBC camera operator), Chris Packham (BBC presenter and naturalist), Andrew (BBC sound operator), Fany Brotcorne, JB Leca, Gwennan Giraud, Amalia Ahmad, Victoria Buckley (BBC researcher and coordinator), Putu, Putu, and Ketut...
... during the BBC filming of the "robbing/bartering" project in June 2015 (Uluwatu, Bali).
The story is here: https://youtu.be/Y8Mi86wx-pU
with the local staff (from left to right: Shukei Kobatake, Jun Hashiguchi, Yaeko Sugano, and Shinya Tamada)
(Minoo mountains, Central Japan, January 2013)
Lydia Ottenheimer Carrier, JB Leca, Joe Pontecorvo, and Nim Pontecorvo at Jigokudani (central Japan) in November 2012, during the filming of "Snow Monkeys" (PBS Nature), on the local Japanese macaques.
Shawn Philbert (Forestry Officer) and JB Leca speaking about the mona monkey project with an elementary school teacher and her pupils (and Maya!) in the Grand Etang National Park (central Grenada, West Indies) in April 2014.
(photo by Axel Michels)
(photo by Axel Michels)
(photo by Axel Michels)
Fany Brotcorne collecting field data... or enjoying the view, just like the monkeys (?) (Uluwatu, south Bali, October 2015)
(photo by Axel Michels)
(photo by Fany Brotcorne)
(Uluwatu, Bali, May 2016).
(Ubud, Bali, June 2016).
visiting the Sangeh Monkey Forest (Bali, June 2016).
Fany Brotcorne received a Marie Derscheid-Delcourt research grant from the Fédération Belge des Femmes Diplomées des Académies (Bruxelles, Belgium) for her post-doctoral research project entitled “Object/food cultural token economy in a population of Balinese long-tailed macaques” (September 2016)… Congrats Fany!
Three primatologists -- Noelle Gunst, Lilah Sciaky, and Maya -- going to the field (Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali, May 2017)
Noelle Gunst, Maya, and a monkey (Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali, May 2017)
Noelle Gunst, Maya, a stone handler and a monkey witness at the beginning of a stone handling contagion...
(Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali, May 2017)
Lilah Sciaky filming a female long-tailed macaque in the Cemetery area of the Ubud Monkey Forest (Bali, May 2017).
– "Excuse me, are there monkeys buried here???" –
JB Leca, Maya, Lilah Sciaky, and Noelle Gunst
JB Leca, Lilah Sciaky, and Dr. Islamul Hadi (Mataram University, Lombok, Indonesia)