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Behaviour and Evolution Research Group

The Behaviour and Evolution Research Group (BERG) focus on understanding the interaction between evolved capacities and actions in humans and other animals in the changing world of the 21st century.

We use evolutionary principles to guide our interdisciplinary research on behaviour, welfare, communication and cognition in a wide range of species. Many BERG members also contribute to the Stirling Human Animal Interaction Research (SHAIR) group. 

We have weekly meetings during the semester, with both internal and external speakers - find out more about BERG Spring 2019.

We run a taught MSc in Evolutionary Psychology, and Masters, PG Certification or Diploma in Human-Animal Interactions and welcome PhD applications.

We use a wide range of methods and approaches. Research is conducted both on-site and off-site through collaborative links with research institutes and zoos elsewhere in the UK and Europe, Japan and the US, and also in field sites in Africa and South America. We are part of the Scottish Primate Research Group and were part of the consortium bid to fund the 'Living Links to Human Evolution Research Centre' at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Edinburgh Zoo, where we conduct a number of projects.

Our research has been funded by a wide variety of sources including the BBSRCESRC, the Royal Society, the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, the NC3Rs, and the European Research Council.

  • Cognition
    • ‌How do learning, cultural inheritance, and biological inheritance interact to generate behaviour and cognitive capacities?
    • What cognitive processes do humans and non-human animals use to solve problems?
    • What role does cognition play in the evolution of care-giving and behavioural defences against infectious disease?
  • Communication
    • How do humans and non-human animals communicate to achieve individual or group goals?
    • How do biological factors, such as hormones and genes, relate to appearance, behaviour and perception?
    • How do vocalisations, odours and faces influence social decision-making?
  • Animal Welfare and Conservation
    • Can we assess whether animals are "happy" and how do we improve their welfare?
    • Do an animal's experiences underlie welfare throughout his/her lifespan? Do individual experiences impact on the scientific outcomes of experiments with animals?
    • The biodiversity crisis requires human coexistence with non-humans: we work to find solutions for good welfare and sustaining species in their natural world.
  • Applications and Impact
    • Welfare and quality of scientific output (link)
    • Animal assisted interventions (link)
    • Hormonal and chemosensory influences on relationships

    Members of the BERG have developed the following websites to improve animal welfare:

Members of the Behaviour and Evolution Research Group

NameInterests
Hannah Buchanan-Smith Animal welfare, behaviour and ecology, comparative colour vision and human-animal interactions.
Christine Caldwell Social learning and cultural evolution in humans and Non-human Primates.
Sharon Kessler Evolution of cognition, health signalling, bioacoustics, kin recognition, agent-based modelling.
Anthony Lee Human mate preference, face and person perception from an evolutionary perspective.
Phyllis Lee Behavioural development, reproductive strategies, social and life history evolution, human-wildlife interactions, gender and conservation.
Gema Martin-Ordas Cognitive mechanisms (e.g. memory, planning) underlying problem-solving in human and non-human animals.
Eoin O'Sullivan Cognitive mechanisms underlying social learning in humans and nonhuman primates.
Pawel Fedurek Vocal communication in human and Non-human Primates.
Craig Roberts Mammalian olfactory communication, MHC-correlated mate choice, human facial attractiveness.
Sarah Vick Social cognition, visual communication, primarily gaze and facial expressions; human animal interactions.

Research Staff

Mark AtkinsonLaura Scullion HallLiz Renner, David Pritchard.

Postgraduate students

Yvonne Baur, Kirsten Blakey, Sabrina Brando, Deborah Bruce, Lesley Craig, Paxton Culpepper, Sophia Daoudi, Juliet Dunstone, Faize Eryaman, Jade Hooper, Donna Kean, Sarah Kraemer, Gemma Macintosh, Francesca Singleton, Josephine Smit, Charlotte Wilks.

Honorary Research Fellows

Victoria Fishlock, Betsy Herrelko, Bethan Morgan, Liz Williamson

Example PhD projects

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution

Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973)

Hannah Buchanan-Smith

Behaviour and Evolution Research Group
Psychology, Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, Scotland

01786 467674
h.m.buchanan-smith@stir.ac.uk

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