Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher

Reader in Primate Behavioural Ecology,
Divisional Director of Education and Student Experience
+44 (0)1227 827814
Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher


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.'



  • SACO5820 The Biology of Mammals: comparative and evolutionary perspectives
  • SACO5800 Primate Behaviour and Ecology


Dr Newton-Fisher is an experienced mentor for junior researchers from PhD onwards (and indeed prior to PhD), and has worked with both men and women of multiple nationalities, both in the UK and overseas. He is keen to work with students with interests in animal behaviour and/or ecology, from zoology, psychology or anthropology backgrounds (or equivalent). His preference is for projects that combine a strong theoretical drive with behavioural observations (typically of wild-living subjects) and is 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

  • Hella Péter: Effects of water shortage on female chimpanzee social behaviour 
  • Juliette Berthier: Role of emotions in the communication system of wild crested macaques

Past PhD students

  • Adriana Lowe: Infanticide and counterstrategies in wild, eastern chimpanzees  
  • Jakob Villioth: The foraging ecology of two neighbouring chimpanzee communities  
  • Caroline Howlett: Expression of the 2D:4D digit ratio across the Primate Order
  • Kelly Greenway: Reproductive competition in wild male western gorillas  
  • Stefano Kaburu: Biological markets and grooming reciprocity in wild chimpanzees  
  • Lucy Birkett: Chimpanzee psychopathology


Dr Newton-Fisher is an Editor for the journal Animal Behaviour, A Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group: Africa, the International Primatological Society, the Primate Society of Great Britain and the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

He 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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