Portrait of Dr Brandon Wheeler

Dr Brandon Wheeler

Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology
Director of Education (School of Anthropology and Conservation)

About

Dr Brandon Wheeler is a behavioural ecologist broadly interested in the costs and benefits associated with group-living among primates, especially in terms of predation risk, feeding competition and infanticide by males. More specifically, he is interested in the role of communication in moderating these costs and facilitating the benefits. Brandon conducts fieldwork on wild tufted capuchin monkeys in Iguazú National Park, Argentina. His work uses a largely experimental approach, combined with acoustic and hormonal analyses, to understand social behaviour from both ultimate (ie adaptive) and proximate (eg cognitive, emotional and physiological) levels.

Before arriving at Kent, Dr Wheeler received his BA from the University of Arkansas and PhD from Stony Brook University. Following that, he was a postdoc in the Cognitive Ethology Lab at the German Primate Centre. In addition to his work in Argentina, Brandon has conducted fieldwork with primates in Thailand, Costa Rica and Madagascar.

Research interests

Dr Brandon Wheeler is broadly interested in the behavioural ecology of non-human primates. His current work in Iguazú, Argentina aims to test whether capuchins acquire recognition of heterospecific alarm calls through associative and/or social learning. In addition, Brandon is working in collaboration with Dr Barbara Tiddi to investigate aspects of female sexual signalling and mate choice among capuchins. 

Beyond fieldwork, Dr Wheeler is using modelling and phylogenetic comparative analyses to test and refine socioecological models of primate evolution. Brandon's interest in predation on primates has also led him to work on side projects focused on understanding what, if anything, primate alarm calls can tell us about the evolution of human language, as well as understanding the role of predators on the evolution of the primate visual system.

Geographic areas of interest: Anywhere wild primates are found, especially Misiones, Argentina.  

Current research projects

Teaching

Undergraduate

  • SE557: Primate Communication (convenor)
  • SE605: Hormones and Behaviour (convenor)
  • SE302: Foundations of Biological Anthropology
  • SE307: Thinkers and Theories
  • SE308: Skills for Anthropology and Conservation
  • SE567: Quantitative Research Methods
  • SE580: Primate Behaviour and Ecology
  • SE533: Project in Anthropological Science

Postgraduate

  • SE992: Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Anthropology
  • SE993: Advanced Topics in Primate Behaviour 
  • SE855: Research Project (Evolution & Human Behaviour)

Supervision

Current PhD students

  • Juliette Berthier: The role of emotions in the communication of black crested macaques (Macaca nigra)
  • Caroline Howlett: Expression of the 2D:4D digit ratio across the Primate order
  • Adriana Lowe: Maternal strategies in wild Ugandan chimpanzees

Professional

Dr Wheeler has worked with the BBC for the Monkey Planet series and the World Service for segments on deceptive communication in capuchin monkeys. 

Brandon is able to provide commentary and discussion on topics related to capuchin monkeys, primatology, animal deception and animal communication.  

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