Behaviour and Evolution Research Group

The Behaviour and Evolution Research Group (BERG) is a thriving group of researchers conducting exciting, cutting-edge research on human and non-human animals. Our focus is to understand their evolved capacities and actions in the changing world of the 21st century.

We have weekly meetings during the semester, with both internal and external speakers. We run a taught MSc in Psychological Research Methods, and Masters PG Certification or Diploma in Human-Animal Interactions, with students joining the Stirling Human Animal Interaction Research (SHAIR) group. We also welcome PhD applications.


Chimpanzee sitting on the grass

Evolutionary principles

We use evolutionary principles to guide our interdisciplinary research on behaviour, cognition, welfare, and conservation, in a wide range of species ranging from bees to humans.

Photo credit: P.Fedurek

We use a wide range of research methods including state-of-the-art experimental approaches, and our research is conducted both on- and off-site. We have established networks of cooperation at both national and international levels, collaborating closely with research institutes and zoos elsewhere in the UK and Europe, Japan and the US, and also in field sites in Africa. 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 several projects, including developing an evidence-based animal behaviour welfare audit. We take advantage of our beautiful University campus, and we recently established the Crow Behaviour and Cognition Project studying carrion crows residing there.

BERG members are part of the Lifespan Research Lab: an interdisciplinary project that investigates cognition, behaviour, and wellbeing from infancy to old age in human and non-human animals.

BERG’s research is timely and relevant to global challenges. We investigate, for example, how animal species, including humans, cope with aging, environmental degradation, climate change, or exposure to pathogens. By understanding these processes, our aim is to facilitate sustainable and peaceful co-existence of humans, non-human animals, and their environment.

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

Follow us on X at @BERG_Stirling.


  • ‌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?


  • How do humans and non-human animals communicate to navigate between individual and 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

Members of the Behaviour and Evolution Research Group
Column one lists members of the group and column two describes each member's area of interest
Name Interests
Clare Andrews Behaviour and ecology, behavioural and life history evolution, developmental plasticity, animal welfare, early-life adversity, environmental psychology. 
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.
Pawel Fedurek Vocal communication in primate and non-primate animal species, human-wildlife interactions.
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 vertebrates (e.g., children, chimpanzees) and invertebrates (e.g. bees).
Craig Roberts Mammalian olfactory communication, MHC-correlated mate choice, human facial attractiveness.
Alejandro Sanchez Amaro Primate social behavior and cognition, primate development, curiosity.


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

Research Staff

Rachel Cassar

Postgraduate students

Robert Aitchison, Yvonne Baur, Sabrina Brando, Julia Chase, Shelley Culpepper, Shanice Fagan, Kristine Gandia, Melissa James, Madeleine King, Sarah Kraemer, Jessica De La Mare, Ashleigh Messenger, Yoorana Peyre, Francesca Singleton, Josephine Smit, Sarah Weir, Lauren Taylor, Alice Turner.

Honorary Research Fellows

Rebecca Leonardi, Liz Williamson

Example PhD projects

Independent researchers

Stirling Psychology offers a vibrant and supportive environment for independent research fellows working on any aspect within our research groups, and we are always keen to welcome new members.

Join us at Stirling

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution

Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973)

Dr Pawel Fedurek

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

01786 467844

X: BERG_Stirling