Our research group is based in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland. Our research on great ape gesture spans all great ape species – chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orang-utans, and humans – and has been conducted both in captivity and through long-term field studies in the wild. We want to understand how other great apes use their gestures and other forms of communication, as a way of getting at the evolution of human language. Here’s a bit more about our research team…

Principal Investigators


Catherine Hobaiter 

Cat is a lecturer at the University of St Andrews. She studies the evolution of communication and social behaviour in wild apes. She is the PI for the Wild Minds Lab group, their work focuses on wild apes across Africa. She is often based in Budongo, or at her new field-site in Bugoma, Uganda. You can find Cat’s list of publications here and group GitHub here.


Richard Byrne

Dick is an emeritus professor at the University of St Andrews. He studies communication and cognition across numerous taxa. You can find Dick’s publications here.


Current Researchers

Gabriela Bezerra de Melo Daly

Gabriela is a visiting scholar at the University of Saint Andrews. She is a social anthropologist trained in primatology.  She completed her PhD at École Normale Supérieure in 2018, studying human-chimpanzee social relations at a research institution in Japan. Her ongoing research focuses on cross-cultural differences in social learning and interaction between humans and chimpanzees.

Charlotte Grund

Charlotte is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews. Her current research investigates the natural gestural repertoire of wild mountain gorillas in Bwindi, Uganda and assesses the gestures’ communicative function across individuals, age-sex groups, and behavioural contexts.

Gal Badihi

Gal is a graduate research student at the University of St Andrews. Her research looks at how the social dynamics of chimpanzees in Budongo impact the rates of aggression and lethal aggression in the community.


Matt  Henderson

Matt is a graduate research student at the University of St Andrews. He previously studied the vocal communication of chimpanzees in Budongo, and his PhD will investigate gesture use in human children.


Vesta Eleuteri

Vesta completed her MSc at the University of St Andrews in 2019. Her current research explores the form and function of chimpanzee buttress-drumming in five communities of wild chimpanzees across three populations in East and West Africa.

Alexandra Safryghin

Alexandra is a graduate research student at the University of St Andrews. Her research looks into the presence of human language laws in chimpanzee gestural communication, with a focus on how familiarity and context affect the duration and frequency of gestural performances.




Daniela Rodrigues

Daniela is a PhD student at the ISPA in Portugal. Her research explores the development of communication and accommodation in human and chimpanzee gestures.


Hella Péter

Hella is a PhD student at the University of Kent. Her project focuses on leaf-tools in wild chimpanzees, especially leaf- and moss-sponge use and construction.


Adrian Soldati

Adrian is a PhD student at Budongo, Uganda. His ongoing research includes chimpanzee vocalisations, multi-signal and multi-modal communication, and the social aspect of communication. More here.


Joanne Tanner

Joanne completed her PhD at St Andrews in 1998, studying the untaught gestural communication of gorillas at San Francisco Zoo. Joanne continues to research and write as an independent researcher. More about Joanne here.


Erica Cartmill

Erica is a Professor at UCLA. She studies the role of gesture in language evolution and acquisition. Her lab conducts research on both human children and non-human great apes (orangutans and chimpanzees). More here.


Emilie Genty

Emilie is currently studying joint action coordination in chimpanzees, bonobos, and human children, focusing on communicative signals (gestures, vocalisations, and other visual signals). Emilie’s research here & photography here.


Lisa Orr

Lisa studied the gestural communication of captive bonobos at the Milwaukee Zoo, 2011-2012.  She is currently living in Portland, Oregon, working as a data scientist at Urban Airship. Find out more about Lisa’s work here.


Brittany Fallon

Brittany completed her PhD at St Andrews in 2016, studying gesture in chimpanzee sexual displays. She is currently looking at facial expression use in American Sign Language and parallels with chimpanzee facial expression. More here.


Kirsty Graham 

Kirsty completed her PhD at the University of St Andrews in 2016. She studies the gestures of wild bonobos at Wamba, DRCongo. You can find Kirsty’s publications here.