2019 – Present: PhD Researcher at UCL Anthropology and Institute of Zoology
2016 – 2019: Seabird Field Assistant, Ornis italica (Rome)
2018 (Sept-Dec): Primate Field Assistant, Tsaobis Baboon Project (ZSL)
2017 – 2018 (Nov-Jan): Cheetah Field Manager, Endangered Wildlife Trust (SA) and African Parks
2014 – 2017: MSc in Environmental Biology and Animal Biodiversity, University of Turin (Italy)
2009 – 2013: BSc in Biological Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy)
I am interested in social learning in non-human primates and the factors that enhance or constrain information transmission. Social learning is the fundamental process underlying cultural evolution, which has been reported in a variety of species (Whiten and van de Waal, 2017. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 82:58-75 ). My study species is the chacma baboon (Papio ursinus). Baboons are highly social and they readily learn socially (Carter et al., 2016. eLife. 5:e13125). Despite this propensity for social learning, they show limited evidence of culture (Sapolsky, 2006. Current Antrho. 47:641-656). Therefore, studying social learning in baboons may contribute to the understanding of the constraints on the evolution of culture in non-human primates.
My research project aims to understand the factors that enhance or constrain horizontal (from peers) and vertical (from older to younger individuals) information transmission in wild baboons. The study will be conducted at the Tsaobis Baboon Project, where I will collect behavioural data on three baboon troops ranging across Tsaobis Nature Park (Namibia). In particular, I will conduct a longitudinal study on infants and juveniles to investigate (1) how their social network changes throughout development, (2) whom they pay attention to (potentially acquiring social information), and (3) how maternal style affects the offspring’s propensity and opportunities to learn socially. In addition, I will do field experiments using Automatic Learning Devices for Monkeys (which will be implemented at Tsaobis as part of another study). These devices allow to present cognitive tasks to the baboons (e.g. Fagot and Paleressompoulle, 2009. Behav Res Meth. 41:396-404). We will record the individuals that interact with these devices and those who observe them, in order to determine (1) if the information related to the tasks is transmitted socially (through Network Based Diffusion Analysis, Carter et al., 2016. eLife. 5:e13125), and (2) if baboons tend to learn from particular individuals (e.g. the philopatric sex, van de Waal et al., 2010. Proc. R. Soc. B. 277:2105–2111).
Dr Alecia Carter, UCL Anthropology, UCL Supervisor
Prof Volker Sommer, UCL Anthropology, UCL Supervisor
Dr Elise Huchard, University of Montpellier (France), co-Supervisor at UCL
Dr Guy Cowlishaw, IoZ, Primary Supervisor at IoZ
Dr David Jacoby, IoZ, Secondary Supervisor at IoZ
Roatti, V., Massa, B., Dell’Omo, G. Bill malformation in Scopoli's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea chicks. Marine Ornithology. 2019 47: 175-178.
Website links Tsaobis Baboon Project