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 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 the Principal Investigator of 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. This project is funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2019-2021).
Afra Foroud, Ph.D. (Adjunct Assistant Professor)
Afra is interested in how the developmental processes
involved in the organization, expression, and function of movement in infants
and young children shape learning, communication, language and social
relationships throughout the lifespan. Her research focuses on the analysis of
movement structure, sequence, and quality during motor and language development
in naturalistic settings. Her doctoral thesis characterized motor development
in very young infants and, demonstrated how early infantile movement patterns
become expressed again in the elderly who have lost mobility due to stroke.
During her tenure as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at Dalhousie University, Afra
began an examination of gestural and body actions within the contexts of
language and spatial awareness in young and older adults. She continued this
line of investigation with a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
Fellowship at the University of British Columbia in young infants.
return to Alberta, Afra joined the
nationwide SSHRC funded Art for Social Change project to study the effects of
dance on day-to-day function, motor learning, and social communication in
people with Parkinson’s disease at the University of Calgary.
Throughout her work, Afra draws on her background as a dancer and dance educator to integrate art and science in the study of human development. She is an adjunct assistant professor in the Departments of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Lethbridge where she continues her research and also enjoys teaching both inclusive and targeted dance classes for people with developmental disorders in the community of Lethbridge.
In 2017, Afra has joined our lab and we are collaborating on research projects pertaining to the development and mechanisms of object manipulation (exploration, play, fidgeting, and tool use) in Balinese long-tailed macaques and young children.
Arijit received a B.Sc. in Zoology (2009) and a M.Sc. in Conservation Biology (2011) from the University of Burdwan (India), and a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior (2018) from the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in Karnataka (India). During his graduate research years, funded by the Government of India, Arijit conducted a number of behavioral, biological, demographic, and ecological studies on free-ranging Nicobar long-tailed macaques, bonnet macaques, and lion-tailed macaques. He published a number of papers on the following topics: extractive foraging, tool use, reproductive behavior, birth seasonality, effects of food provisioning, group dynamics, dominance hierarchies, inter-group encounters, parasitology, and population recovery after natural disasters.
2019 and 2021, Arijit is carrying on a post-doctoral research project, funded by a Post-Doctoral Research Grant from the Leakey Foundation, and co-supervised by Dr. Anindya "Rana" Sinha and me. He is
conducting observational and experimental studies to test the affordance
learning hypothesis pertaining to the non-instrumental manipulation of objects,
extractive foraging, and tool use behavior in several free-ranging groups of bonnet
macaques, rhesus macaques, and lion-tailed macaques in India. Photo: Arijit Pal and an elusive Nicobar long-tailed macaque
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 started a PhD in our
team, taking a Tinbergian approach to object play and tool use in different
While double-majoring in Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation (B.Sc.) and Psychology (B.A.) at Canisius College, Buffalo, NY (USA), Sydney has studied captive gorillas at the Buffalo Zoo for five years (2013-2017). Her research included observational data collection and the use of eye-tracking technology to study visual processing in this primate species. Sydney acquired expertise with this type of research while working at the Institute for Autism Research at Canisius College where she participated, as a research assistant, in studies of children with high functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD). She also worked with captive chimpanzees at Chimp Haven. After graduating in December 2017 (Honors degree), she has spent several months at the Lajuma Research Centre (South Africa), doing daily follows of samango monkeys (cf. photo) in the field and fecal hormone extractions.
Gardiner, M.Res. (Research Project Leader)
Matt received his BSc in Anthropology from Oxford Brookes University (UK). The disciplinary framework gave him the opportunity to explore a broad range of disciplines within the biological and social anthropology framework. His undergraduate thesis exploited this varied academic background combing molecular biochemistry, social research and biological/veterinary analysis amongst the elusive nocturnal slow loris primates (Nycticebus spp.). Matt has conducted extra-curricular research including molecular biochemical research for the development of a novel venom-derived protein for application to cancer treatment and the analysis of primate, and other animal hair and osteological samples using advanced microscopy and FT-IR spectroscopy techniques.
After his undergraduate studies, Matt embarked on studying a Master of Research (M.Res.) in Primatology and Conservation at Oxford Brookes University, under the supervision of Professor Anna Nekaris. During his research, he conducted primatological fieldwork in the forests of west Java, investigated human-primate interactions/conflict in Java and Thailand, performed biochemical investigations in conjunction with Universitas Gadjah Mada (Yogyakarta, Indonesia), and undertook social research focusing on human-animal perceptions, aversions and beliefs. During his time in Indonesia, Matt additionally designed and implemented a snakebite education program in schools and a series of workshops.
Photo: Matt Gardiner conducting a snakebite education & mitigation workshop in Java, Indonesia
Bess Christie, M.Sc. (Field Research Assistant)
Bess’ my main research interests are in the fields of the evolution of social systems, genetics and behavior.
For her MSc thesis at Imperial College London, Bess investigated the roles of phenotype and genotype in assortative mating patterns in two human populations from the UK. For this, she collected genomic SNP data, as well as high-resolution 3D facial scans, skin colour data, and various anthropometrics in a sample of admixed Afro-Caribbean couples, and relatively genetically homogenous English couples.
Bess has previously spent six months working for WWF as a team leader on a habituation and health monitoring project with bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
From May to August 2019, Bess is working with PhD student Camilla Cenni, and contributing to the data collection of stone handling behavior and experimentally induced stone tool use in free-ranging Balinese long-tailed macaques.
Photo: Bess Christie extending her field work day by making concrete lids for the stone tool-operated puzzle boxes, with a curious monkey witness in the background.
Danielle “Yanni” Van der Pant, B.Sc. (Field Research Assistant)
Yanni completed her B.Sc. in Anthropology from University College London in April 2019, and the next day flew out to Bali to join our field research team based in Ubud.
From May to August 2019, Yanni is working with PhD student Camilla Cenni, and contributing to the data collection of stone handling behavior and experimentally induced stone tool use in free-ranging Balinese long-tailed macaques.
Yanni's academic interests are rooted in the evolution of cognitive systems, and so she will be pursuing a Masters in the 'Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology: The Origins of Mind' at the University of St Andrews in September of 2020.
Photo: Yanni Van der Pant video-recording long-tailed macaques at Ubud, Bali.
Christian Dunn, B.A. (Field Research Assistant)
Christian received his B.A. in Zoology (2017) from Miami University at Oxford, Ohio (USA). The training and education he received during his time at university allowed him to undertake many different jobs in the field of biology and zoology in order to advance his understanding of the natural world. His work after college has included working in the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and assisting in conservation efforts of California's most threatened fish species and educating school children about the local ecosystems of California during his time at the Coastal Institute.
In 2019, Christian spent 5 months working as a field research assistant for the Santa Rosa Capuchin Project in Costa Rica, investigating inter-individual differences in foraging behavior between trichromat and dichromat white-faced capuchins.
Caleb Bunselmeyer, B.A. (Field Research Assistant)
Caleb received a B.A. in Anthropology from Missouri State University in 2017. Since then, he has worked as a Research Intern at the Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Il, primarily collecting behavioral data on Japanese macaques.
From July to December 2019, Caleb is joining our lab and working with Matt Gardiner on a project aiming to develop an ecologically valid model of experimentally-induced bartering and gambling behaviors in the free-ranging long-tailed macaques at the Uluwatu temple, Bali.
Caleb wants to go to graduate school and hopes to continue studying ethnoprimatology and human/non-human primate interactions/conflict.
Nalina Aiempichitkijkarn, M.Sc. (Visiting Ph.D. student)
Nalina received her BSc in Biology from the Chulalongkorn University (Thailand) in 2014. Her undergraduate thesis, under the supervision of Professor Michael Gumert and Professor Suchinda Malaivijitnond, focused on how tourists affect the expression of stone tool-use behavior in long-tailed macaques in southern Thailand.
After her undergraduate studies, Nalina went on studying tool use behavior in bearded capuchin monkeys and received her MSc in Psychology from the University of Georgia, under the supervision of Professor Dorothy Fragaszy.
Currently, Nalina is doing her Ph.D. with Professor Brenda McCowan at the University of California, Davis, exploring human-macaque interactions in urban areas. More specifically, she did observations on the object/food robbing and bartering interactions involving the rhesus macaques at the Jakhoo Temple, near Shimla, India.
Nalina is joining our lab in 2019 to work on the social network correlates and individual attributes of the object/food robbing and bartering interactions involving the long-tailed macaques at the Uluwatu Temple, Bali, Indonesia.
Keana Funk, B.A./B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research Assistant)
Keana is in the process of completing her B.A. & B.Sc., majoring in Psychology, at the University of Lethbridge. During her time at the University, she has become interested in studying the behaviours of non-human primates.
In the summer of 2019, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision, Keana has been studying the economic behaviours of Balinese long-tailed macaques (i.e., object robbing and object/food bartering interactions), focusing on their aggressivity, boldness, and dominance. She hopes to continue examining non-human primates throughout her psychology career.
Outside of her schooling, Keana works part time in the field of social work, as a care provider for children with various mental and physical disabilities. She also volunteers within the community, sharing her love of music and theatre with children of all ages. With music being an integral part of her life, Keana also hopes to pursue research regarding music and personality, and its possible uses in a therapeutic setting.
Graham Bowden, B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research Assistant)
Graham is originally from Edmonton, and is currently in the
last semester of his undergraduate degree at the University of Lethbridge.
Through a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with a Political Science minor, Graham is interested in social factors contributing to decision making, particularly concerning voter behaviour and political affiliations.
In the summer of 2019, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision, Graham has been studying the economic behaviours of Balinese long-tailed macaques (i.e., object robbing and object/food bartering interactions), focusing on their aggressivity, boldness, and dominance.
Following his undergraduate degree, Graham plans on attending law school in the United States.
Casey Bannister, B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research Assistant)
Casey is in her final year of a B.Sc. in Neuroscience. Her past research experience and passions include how paternal and maternal factors can affect the growth of the child's brain and development, as well as the growth of children with developmental disabilities. Casey transferred to Lethbridge to complete the last 2 years of her degree and has taken advantage of the different research projects and labs that are at the university.
In the summer of 2019, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision, Casey has been studying the economic behaviours of Balinese long-tailed macaques (i.e., object robbing and object/food bartering interactions), focusing on their aggressivity, boldness, and dominance.
Melissa Steinkey, B.A./B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research Assistant)
Melissa is in her final year of completing a BASc, majoring in Biology and Psychology at the University of Lethbridge. By taking advantage of the double major program offered, Melissa can explore how ecology and animal behaviour can be used together in conservation research.
In the summer of 2019, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision, Melissa has been studying the economic behaviours of free-ranging Balinese long-tailed macaques during object robbing and object/food bartering interactions. She has been focusing on the monkeys’ behavioural strategies, boldness, and dominance. This activity has implications for the social cognition of the macaques in an anthropogenically impacted habitat.
In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in conservation, focusing on how fragmentation of natural environments can affect animal behaviour.
Former 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).
In 2015-2016, 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.
Amanda Pelletier, M.Sc.
Amanda received a B.A. in Psychology (2013) from the University of
Regina. 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.
Lydia Ottenheimer Carrier, M.Sc.
Lydia received a B.Sc. in Psychology (2011) from the Memorial University of Newfounland 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
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./B.Sc. (Honours Thesis)
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.
Drayton’s main interests in the field
of Psychology revolve around:
(1) the effects of brain damage resulting from
organized sports in teenagers and young adults,
(2) parental influences on their
children’s sport activities and their consequences within the household,
the psychobiological processes underlying religious behaviours, and
(4) the psychological and socio-cultural underpinnings of video game addiction.
Drayton is also involved in the research conducted in Dr. Scott Allen’s Lab in the Department of Psychology.
In Spring and Summer 2019, Drayton's Independent Study in our lab, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision, is focused around the video analysis of object/food bartering in Balinese macaques in relation to aggressivity, boldness, and dominance.
Bilise Kito, B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research Assistant)
Bilise is a fourth year General Science student streaming in Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology. Being in a general course, she has had the opportunity to work in diverse labs across the Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology departments. Projects that she has worked on include tissue culture cloning of Cannabis sativa plants, and scoring/analysis of behavioral data, including bird songs and object manipulation in monkeys.
In Summer 2019, Bilise's Independent Study in our lab, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision, is focused on the socio-cognitive abilities of Balinese long-tailed macaques stealing valuable objects from humans. To do so, she is participating in the scoring of a large video-recorded data set available in our lab, analyzing the monkeys’ behavioral strategies, and considering variables such as personality, aggressivity, dominance (and sneakiness!).
Edwin Jada Lero, B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research Assistant)
is currently pursuing a B.Sc. in Neuroscience, with an interest in research.
She is mainly interested in studying neurons and glia interactions as signalling molecules, the neuronal pathways that are critical for cognitive functions, such as learning and memory, and animal cognition in general.
In Summer 2019, Edwin
is taking part in her first Independent Study in our lab, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s
Her research project focuses on social cognition in Balinese
Edwin is participating in the scoring of a large video-recorded data set and analyzing the monkeys’ behavioral strategies when they steal valuable objects from humans, and then treat these objects as tokens in bartering interactions to obtain food rewards.
Courtney Derksen, B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research Assistant)
Courtney is in her fourth
year of a B.Sc. in Psychology with a minor in Mental Health at the University
of Lethbridge. She has many research interests, including mental health across
the lifespan, adolescent psychology, personality, primate cognition, and social
As well, Courtney enjoys helping others and is currently a New Student Mentor at the University of Lethbridge. She also volunteers as a Crisis Responder with Kids Help Phone and has previously volunteered at Chinook Regional Hospital.
In Summer 2019, Courtney's Independent Study in our lab, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision, is focused on the socio-cognitive abilities of Balinese long-tailed macaques stealing valuable objects from humans. To do so, she is participating in the scoring of a large video-recorded data set available in our lab, analyzing the monkeys’ behavioral strategies, and considering variables such as personality, aggressivity, dominance (and sneakiness!).
Kelsey Harkness, B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research Assistant)
Kelsey is in the final year of her BSc. in Neuroscience and
Psychology, with a minor in Philosophy.
Her research interests include (1) how
different developmental factors affect behaviour over the lifespan,
specifically learning, and (2) how individuals cope with environmental stressors.
Kelsey has experience working in many departments of the University of Lethbridge, doing research, and assisting other students with their research projects. She hopes to transfer that knowledge into a Master’s degree.
Jessica was born and raised in Calgary. She is a third-year student at the U of L pursing a B.Sc. in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies. Her research interests include how human memory works in regards to people with Dementia and Alzheimer’s, and animal behaviour with specific interests in horses, bees and monkeys.
Jessica enjoys volunteering, and has been involved in the Rotary club since September of 2016, as well as with Family Community Support Services and the Food Bank.
She did two Independent Studies in our lab, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision. First, in Spring 2018, she scored videos and analyzed data of sexual behavior in Japanese
macaques. Second, in Spring 2019, she scored videos to explore the socio-cognitive strategies of Balinese long-tailed macaques stealing objects from humans.
Jessica Thiessen, also interested in... chickens' behavior
Kyla Funk, B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research Assistant)
Kyla is a 4th year student completing her
B.Sc. degree with a major in psychology. She has an interest in studying
non-human primates, particularly the acquisition and frequency of play
behaviours and the development of fine motor skills and movements.
In Spring 2019, Kyla's current Independent Study in our lab, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision, focused on the manipulation of symbolic tools and bartering exchange of Balinese long-tailed macaques. She was interested in the intra-individual and inter-individual behavioural differences which might be associated with different rates of success in robbing and bartering interactions. The behavioural differences she specifically explored included sex, age, dominance rank, aggressivity, boldness, and impulsivity.
Kyla currently works part time in the field of social work where she engages with developmentally disabled children. She assists in a community integration program which allows for all children to become an active member of their community through parallel, associative, and cooperative play.
Kyla plans to pursue a Master’s degree and continue studying play behaviours in non-human primates.
Hadyn Dresser, B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research
Hadyn is in the last semester of his undergraduate degree at the U of L. Psychology
is his major and he has complementary passions that revolve around wildlife
research and animal care. He has related experience working with animals during
his time in the pet care department at PetSmart and has taken courses such as
Human-Animal Interactions and Animal Communication during his time in
In Spring 2019, Hadyn's Independent Study in our lab, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision, focused on the video analysis of object/food bartering in Balinese macaques in relation to aggressivity, boldness, and dominance.
After completing his degree Hadyn plans to spend a few years gaining experience in his field and has his sights set on obtaining his M.Sc. in a not so distant future. Primates, big cats, and many canine species are of particular interest to him.
Ghazal Singh, B.Sc. candidate (Lab Research Assistant)
Ghazal is in the final year of her undergraduate degree, majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology. She wishes to pursue a career in the medical field (specifically, naturopathic medicine). Ghazal has always had a desire towards holistic approaches of treatment and stimulating the mind, body, and brain to heal. This led her towards her Neuroscience and Psychology degree.
Throughout her undergrad, research has always stood out to Ghazal. After doing continuous Independent Studies in the Department of Neuroscience at the U of L, where her research was focused on laboratory rats, Ghazal wanted to be a part of a Psychology lab to gain more knowledge.
In Spring 2019, she scored videos in our lab, under Dr. Noëlle Gunst’s supervision, to explore the socio-cognitive strategies of Balinese long-tailed macaques stealing objects from humans.
Chloë India Wright, M.Sc. (Field Research Assistant)
Chloë is interested in the evolution of social behaviours, with a wider enthusiasm for primate behavioural and cognitive evolution more generally. Her broad interests are reflected in her varied research background. During her B.A.(Hons) in Anthropology from Durham University, UK, she undertook fieldwork in South Africa for a dissertation looking at handedness in samango monkeys, and assisted with a ‘giving-up densities’ experiment, which assessed risk perception and foraging decisions. She later returned to this field site to work on a conservation project which aims to mitigate the numbers of samangos killed on the roads in the area. Other projects she has worked on include a project investigating the predator avoidance strategies and alarm-calling behaviour of bald-faced saki monkeys in the Peruvian Amazon, and one looking into vocal communication in vervet monkeys.
Chloë gained a MSc from the University of Edinburgh in 2016, where her research was conducted with the captive squirrel monkey population at Edinburgh Zoo. Her thesis examined the role of individual differences in personality and social network position in participation and performance during a cognitive task.
From May to August 2018, she used this research experience to bring a great contribution to the data collection of stone handling behavior and experimentally induced stone tool use in free-ranging Balinese long-tailed macaques.Chloë hopes to return to primate research and continue with a PhD programme in the near future.
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
From September 2016 to December 2017, and under Dr. Noelle Gunst's co-supervision, Sid has conducted 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).
In Spring 2018, and under Dr. Afra Foroud's co-supervision, Sid did an Applied Study in our lab, investigating object play and tool use behaviors in young children at the Lethbridge Montessori School.
Her favourite past playground is the Sea of Cortez in the Baja California Sur, where she worked as a naturalist for a marine biology eco expeditions. During this time she had the chance to work with sea turtle conservationists, naturalists, and marine biologists. In the future she hopes to share her passion with others as an educator or pursue sustainability projects and animal behaviour research.
In Summer 2018, Samatha worked in our lab, under the guidance of our PhD student, Camilla Cenni, contributing to mining the video-recorded data set on object play, object exploration, complex foraging, and tool use in Balinese long-tailed macaques.
Corinne Adele Marshall, B.Sc. (Independent Study)
Corinne recently completed her bachelor of science in psychology from the University of Lethbridge. During her studies, she focused on courses related to the psychology of cultural development and memory. Additionally, she has course background in Indigenous Studies where she focused on courses related to Indigenous development and psychology.
Corinne is passionate about child development and racial relations. Her volunteer work and research interests reflect those passions. In the spring of 2018, Corinne volunteered for an Aboriginal Head Start program. She worked with children ages 3-5 in a classroom setting. Her primary duties were related to assisting her supervisor. Additionally, Corinne was responsible for providing redirection and social support for the kids when necessary.
In Summer 2018, Corinne’s research in our lab focused on whether (and, if so, to what extent) object play facilitates the development of tool use in children. Corinne’s goal is to pursue a master’s degree in child psychology.
Caleb is finishing the last year of his undergraduate degree here at the University of Lethbridge, where he is completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy. In 2017 and 2018, he has spent three semesters working with me on various Independent Study and Applied Study projects, covering topics such as religious coping strategies, achievement goal theory/motivation, and understanding the role of creative arts in the healing process of Aboriginal communities. Caleb has also spent two years volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters working with at-risk youth to aid in the development of healthy lifestyles and to provide a positive influence.
Brittany spent three years (2005-2008) working in
construction, building furniture, and learning finishing carpentry. After
finishing high school, she spent four years working in landscape construction. She
entered the U of L in 2012 and will graduate in April 2018 with a BSc in
She did two Applied Studies and one Independent Study under Dr. Afra Foroud’s supervision, who trained her to analyze movement for her research in the effects of Parkinson's disease and dance. Originally, Brittany’s interests were in sport psychology and post-injury recovery. However, after reading an article about a young Syrian family who mistook a loud bang on a bus (whose engine had broken down) for gun fire, she shifted her direction to research on trauma, PTSD, and TBI. After graduation, she plans on taking a few years off and then pursue her masters where she wants to incorporate carpentry and tactile therapy as a rehabilitative method in people who have suffered TBI and/or PTSD. She wants to work with young kids who have suffered TBI in sports as well as refugees, war vets, and first responders who have experienced and suffer from trauma.
Born and raised in Calgary, Stephanie entered the psychology program at the U of L upon completing high school. The diverse program allowed her to take a variety of courses, which led her to add a religious minor onto her degree. Her time in Lethbridge has also seen her engage with the broader community through volunteering with such organizations as the Lethbridge Family Centre.
Stephanie’s research interests center around human lifespan development: from traumatic to healthy youth development, to the environments and social structures that promote optimal cognitive functioning, the lifespan lens of psychology provides a wide breadth of research topics. The study of primate behavior is also of interest to her.
For her Independent Study in our lab in Spring 2018, Stephanie focused on object manipulation in monkeys under the guidance of our PhD student, Camilla Cenni. Her work included video scoring stone handling behavior in long-tailed macaques.
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 participating in the analysis of the data she collected.
Photo: Lilah Sciaky NOT involved in an interaction with a long-tailed macaque at the Ubud Monkey Forest (Bali)
Stephanie Varsanyi, B.A./B.Sc. candidate (Lab 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.
Jamie received his B.Sc. in Psychology (2017) from the University of Lethbridge 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.
In September 2017, Jamie conducted 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.
Photo: Jamie Schnell presenting his Honours Thesis after receiving the Psychology Gold Medal.
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. (Lab 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.
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.
Emmanuel Ipaa, B.A. (Lab 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.
Photo: 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).
Photo: Tatjana Kaufmann (background) and her macaque study subjects (foreground) at Affenberg Salem
Silvana Sita, M.Sc. (Field 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.
Photo: 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
Photo: 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. (Field 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.
Photo: Montana Hull following 2 long-tailed macaques at Ubud
Lucía Jorge Sales, M.Sc. (Field 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. (Field 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
Photo: Anna Holzner (right behind the kitten)
Riane Milan, B.A. (Lab Research Assistant)
From January to April 2015, Riane did an Independent Study in our 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.
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. 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.
Anindya “Rana” Sinha, Ph.D.
(National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, India)
Anindya is currently Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies and Adjunct Professor / Faculty at the Nature Conservation Foundation, Centre for Neuroscience of the Indian Institute of Science and National Centre for Biological Sciences, all in Bangalore, India, Cotton University in Guwahati, India and Honorary Research Fellow at the College of Humanities, University of Exeter in UK. He had earlier studied botany, with specialisation in cytogenetics, at the Calcutta University in Kolkata, India and earned a doctorate in molecular biology in 1993 from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India, having worked on the biochemical genetics and molecular biology of carbohydrate metabolism in baker’s yeast.
Anindya’s early research concerned the behavioural biology of wasps, social cognition in macaques, classical genetics of human disease and the philosophy of human-nonhuman species relationships, which he studied at the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science and the National Centre for Biological Sciences, both in Bangalore. His current research interests, which he has been involved in over more than two decades now, have, however, primarily been in the areas of animal behavioural ecology, cognitive ethology, evolutionary biology, population and behavioural genetics, urban animal studies – particularly of primates, ungulates and canids, philosophy of biology, and cultural and performance studies.
More specifically, Anindya’s current research programmes include the socioecology and cognitive biology of wild Indian macaques; behavioural biology of wild and captive Asian elephants; history and nature of elephant-mahout relationships; urban ecology of Indian cities and urbanisation of wild mammalian populations; philosophy of biology (particularly of the mind) as embodied in Western and Indian traditions; history and sociology of human and nonhuman performance – largely involving theatre and music – as well as the evolution of primate and elephant forms in India’s traditional art and sculpture. He is deeply interested in biology education and was instrumental in establishing a Master’s degree course in wildlife biology and conservation in Bangalore in 2001.
Rana and I met at the Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, in 2007. We are co-advising Dr. Arijit Pal’s postdoctoral research (2019-2021) on the mechanistic and evolutionary links between object play, extractive foraging, and tool use in several species of macaques in India.
(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)
2018 (literature reviews)
- Hayley Johnson: "Psychobiology of the belief in conspiracy theories"
- Makita Mikuliak: "Psychobiology of religious behaviour, OCD, and eating disorders"
- Caleb Fernell: "Goal achievement theory: Motivation and applications"
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)
with the local staff (from left to right: Shukei Kobatake, Jun Hashiguchi, Yaeko Sugano, and Shinya Tamada)
... with 2 long-tailed macaques in the background (can you spot them?)
Noëlle Gunst walking among Japanese macaques during "nap/grooming time" (Arashiyama, central Japan, November 2010)
Noëlle Gunst watching a grooming interaction between 2 Japanese macaques (Arashiyama, central Japan, November 2010)
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.
(Minoo mountains, Central Japan, January 2013)
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.
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
(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)
L to R: Sidhesh Mohak, Brittany Toth, Camilla Cenni, and Stephanie Blencowe
(March 2018, University of Lethbridge)
Monkey-people sharing a fun evening at the best food place in Ubud (IMHO).
Cenni giving a talk about her PhD research at the Northeastern Evolutionary Primatology Meeting
(Sept. 2018, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY, USA)
presenting her MSc research poster at the Northeastern
Evolutionary Primatology Meeting
(Sept. 2018, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY, USA)
Workshop on “Economic Behaviors in Non-Human Primates”, Florence, Italy (October 2018)