Dr Brandon Wheeler
Lecturer in Biological Anthropology
Primates; behavioural ecology; socioecology; communication; predation; feeding competition; cognition
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School Roles and Responsibilities
Deputy Director of Recruitment & Admissions for Biological Anthropology; Programme Convenor for BSc in Biological Anthropology and BSc in Anthropology
I am 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, I am interested in the role of communication in moderating these costs and facilitating the benefits. I conduct fieldwork on wild tufted capuchin monkeys in Iguazú National Park, Argentina. My work uses a largely experimental approach, combined with acoustic and hormonal analyses, to understand social behaviour from both ultimate (i.e. adaptive) and proximate (e.g. cognitive, emotional and physiological) levels.
Before arriving at Kent, I received my BA from the University of Arkansas and Ph.D. from Stony Brook University. Following that, I was a postdoc in the Cognitive Ethology Lab at the German Primate Center. In addition to my work in Argentina, I have conducted fieldwork with primates in Thailand, Costa Rica, and Madagascar.back to top
Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
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I also contribute to:
- SE302 – Foundations of Biological Anthropology
- SE307 – Thinkers and Theories
- SE308– Skills for Anthropology and Conservation
- SE567 – Methods in Anthropological Science
- SE580 – Primate Behaviour and Ecology
- SE992 – Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Anthropology
- SE993 – Advanced Topics in Primate Behaviour
and supervise student research in:back to top
I am broadly interested in the behavioural ecology of nonhuman primates. My current work in Iguazú, Argentina aims to test whether capuchins acquire recognition of heterospecific alarm calls through associative and/or social learning. In addition, I am working in collaboration with Barbara Tiddi to investigate aspects of female sexual signalling and mate choice among capuchins. Beyond fieldwork, I am using modeling and phylogenetic comparative analyses to test and refine socioecological models of primate evolution. My interest in predation on primates has also led me 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.
Current research projects
- Proximate mechanisms underlying tactical deception and counter-deception in capuchin monkeys: stress and skepticism?
- Modeling the group size effect on individual predation risk among non-human primates
- Caroline Howlett: 'Expression of the 2D:4D digit ratio across the Primate Order'
- Adriana Lowe: 'Maternal strategies in wild Ugandan chimpanzees'
I have worked with the BBC for the Monkey Planet series and World Service for segments on deceptive communication in capuchin monkeys. I am able to provide commentary and discussion on topics related to capuchin monkeys, primatology, animal deception and animal communication.back to top