Portrait of Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher

Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher

Reader in Primate Behaviour and Ecology
Divisional Director of Education and UG Student Experience - Human and Social Sciences


Dr Newton-Fisher is a primate behavioural ecologist and expert in wild chimpanzee behaviour. He has conducted fieldwork since the mid 1990s, primarily in Uganda where he carried out the first detailed study of the Sonso community of chimpanzees in Uganda's Budongo Forest for his PhD research at the University of Cambridge. This followed a BSc (Hons) in Zoology from the University of Bristol. Prior to coming to Kent, he worked as assistant director of the Budongo Forest Project (now BCFS) in Uganda, and at Washington State University.

His teaching focuses on primate biology and animal behaviour and his modules welcome students from across a range of degree programmes - Anthropology, Biology, Human Biology and Behaviour, and Psychology. 

Nicholas has also developed an iPhone/iPad app, Animal Behaviour Pro, for the logging of observational data: https://research.kent.ac.uk/lprg/software/

Research interests

'My work focuses primarily on the behavioural biology of wild chimpanzees, a useful model species for a variety of questions. My primary interest is in the behavioural ecology of complex sociality, focusing on the evolution of cooperative strategies. I use and test biological market theory (and other) models with data drawn from observational field work. I have further interests in alternative reproductive strategies, including infanticide, and the strategic use of aggression (status striving, sexual coercion, inter-group conflict). I also have interests in decision-making around foraging and strategic range use.'





'I am an experienced mentor for junior researchers from PhD onwards (and indeed prior to PhD), and I have worked with both men and women of multiple nationalities, both in the UK and overseas. I am keen to work with students with interests in animal behaviour and/or ecology, from zoology, psychology or anthropology backgrounds (or equivalent). I like projects that combine a strong theoretical drive with behavioural observations (typically of wild-living subjects) and I am more than happy to discuss project ideas and to help prepare funding proposals.'

Dr Newton-Fisher supervises research projects for the following BSc and MSc programmes:

Current students

  • Juliette Berthier: The role of emotions in the communication of black crested macaques (Macaca nigra)
  • Hella Péter: The effects of water shortage on female chimpanzee social behaviour in the Budongo forest


  • Caroline Howlett: Expression of the 2D:4D digit ratio across the Primate Order (second supervisor)
  • Adriana Lowe: Maternal strategies in wild Ugandan chimpanzees
  • Jakob Villioth: Aggressive interactions in wild chimpanzees Pan troglodytes - demographic and ecological causes and consequences
  • Stefano Kaburu: Grooming reciprocity in wild chimpanzees
  • Lucy Birkett: Psychopathology in captive chimpanzees


Dr Newton-Fisher is interested in increasing public understanding of science. He has given numerous interviews for press and broadcast media and is available to provide topical comment or in-depth discussion of topics related to chimpanzees, primatology, and human evolution and behaviour. 

His is a repeat contributor to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, and has also provided expertise in primatology and chimpanzee behaviour as a consultant for Channel 5/National Geographic, BBC Science Television, Lever Fabergé, Granada Media Television, BBC Science Online, Survival Anglia Television and the Discovery Channel Online.

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