Four black macaques sit on tree in jungle

Macaque Cognition Project

We have established a set of unique facilities for cognitive and behavioural research with Barbary (Macaca sylvanus) and rhesus macaques (M. mulatta) at the Monkey Haven (Isle of Wight) and crested macaques (M. nigra) at Marwell Zoo (Winchester). The macaques live in their social groups and can voluntarily take part in interactive cognitive tasks. The macaques have also been trained to use computerised touch-screens, and we use these touch-screens to present the animals with different visual and auditory stimuli to investigate the function and evolution of social communication. All our work is done on public view: visitors to the zoo can watch the all research taking place.

Research objectives

Cognition and communication

Our primary area of interest is the evolution and function of communicative signals in primates. Thanks to our links with the Monkey Haven and Marwell zoo, we have a unique opportunity to study communication in a number of macaque species, including highly understudied species.

Current research projects:

Animal welfare

Alongside our work on macaques’ cognition and communication, we monitor the welfare of the animals. Behavioural observations are coupled with social network analyses to monitor the impact of the studies on the group. Potential enriching effects of our work are also investigated.

Current research projects:

  • Welfare impact of cognitive testing on group housed primates

Public engagement with science

All the research conducted at the Monkey Haven and at Marwell is on direct public view. Our collaboration with these institutions provides a valuable resource to facilitate public engagement with Science. We assess the public perception of our work as well the educational potential of our work via observational studies and surveys. Our work on public engagement was used as an Impact Case Study in REF2014.

Current research projects:

  • Visitor behaviour, learning and attitudes
  • Development and evaluation of interactive exhibits (funded by the British Psychological Society)

Work within the macaque cognition project

We accept students as volunteer research assistants for minimum 3-months placements. Contact Jérôme Micheletta or Bridget Waller for details and how to apply.

Macaque cognition project team

Image of Professor Bridget Waller

Professor Bridget Waller

  • Job Title Professor of Evolutionary Psychology
  • Email Address Bridget.Waller@port.ac.uk
  • Department Department of Psychology
  • Faculty Faculty of Science and Health
  • PhD Supervisor PhD Supervisor
Image of Dr Jerome Micheletta

Dr Jerome Micheletta

  • Job Title Senior Lecturer
  • Email Address Jerome.Micheletta@port.ac.uk
  • Department Department of Psychology
  • Faculty Faculty of Science and Health
  • PhD Supervisor PhD Supervisor
Image of Dr Juliane Kaminski

Dr Juliane Kaminski

  • Job Title Reader in Comparative Psychology
  • Email Address Juliane.Kaminski@port.ac.uk
  • Department Department of Psychology
  • Faculty Faculty of Science and Health
Image of Dr Marine Joly

Dr Marine Joly

  • Job Title Senior Lecturer
  • Email Address marine.joly@port.ac.uk
  • Department Department of Psychology
  • Faculty Faculty of Science and Health

Research assistants

Our team is supported by several research assistants and a postgraduate student:

  • Mathilde Chanvin – Research Assistant
  • Sasza Ortel – Research Assistant
  • Eglantine Julle-Daniere – Research Assistant
  • Jamie Whitehouse – PhD student

Publications

Presentations

Past research presentations

  • Whitehouse et al., April 2015: Barbary macaques’ responses to conspecifics’ self-directed behaviours. Spring meeting of the Primate Society of Great Britain. University of Roehampton. Oral presentation. Awarded the Charles A. Lockwood Medal.
  • Micheletta, February 2015: Social influences on communication and cognition in a tolerant species of macaques (Macaca nigra). University of Exeter, Exeter. Oral presentation.

  • Micheletta, May 2014: What can we learn from macaques? Cognition, welfare and public engagement with science. Café Scientifique, Portsmouth. Oral presentation.
  • Ortel et al., April 2014: Enrichment through cognitive research in macaques. Spring meeting of the Primate Society of Great Britain. Oxford Brookes University. Poster presentation.
  • Micheletta et al. March 2014: Communication and cognition in a tolerant species of macaque. BPS seminars, Wessex Branch, Portsmouth. Oral presentation.
  • Waller, March 2014: What can we learn from macaques: Cognition, welfare and public engagement with science. Café Scientifique, Brighton.

  • Whitehouse et al., April 2013: The welfare impact of cognitive testing on group housed primates. Spring meeting of the Primate Society of Great Britain, University of Lincoln. Oral presentation.
  • Micheletta et al., April 2013: Individual recognition and facial expression categorisation in crested macaques (Macaca nigra). Spring meeting of the Primate Society of Great Britain, University of Lincoln. Poster.
  • Micheletta et al., March 2013: Touchscreen work with crested macaques at Marwell Wildlife. Old World primate symposium, Twycross zoo. Oral presentation.

  • Micheletta et al., October 2012: Touchscreen work with crested macaques at Marwell Wildlife. British and Irish association of zoos and aquariums (BIAZA), Mammal Taxon Working Group. Knowsley Safari Park. Oral presentation.

  • Micheletta, December 2009: Social communication in crested macaques (Macaca nigra). Marwell Wildlife, Winchester. Oral presentation.

Grants

  • British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant ‘Comparative facial anatomy in macaques: insight into the evolution of complex communication’ to Jérôme Micheletta and Bridget Waller, 2015, £2,790.
  • Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (EU-FP7) ‘Macacognitum - Evolution of cognition and primate social style’ to Marine Joly, 2014-2016, €300,000.
  • Leakey Foundation Research Grant ‘Adaptive function of facial displays in crested macaques (Macaca nigra)’ to Bridget Waller and Jerome Micheletta, 2013-2014, $20,884
  • British Psychological Society Public Engagement Grant ‘Development and evaluation of interactive exhibits promoting comparative psychology in a zoo environment’ to Katie Slocombe and Bridget Waller, 2012-2013, £19,340

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