Our alumni

Dr Thomas Püschel pictured alongside fossils at at the Nairobi National Museum in Kenya, where he studied comparative collections and scanned material for comparison

Dr Thomas Püschel

I am a palaeoprimatologist and vertebrate palaeobiologist mainly focused on primate and mammalian evolution. My main interest is to study organismal evolution by reconstructing and comparing the palaeobiology of fossils to their living ecological relatives. In order to do this, I apply a combination of predictive modelling, 3D morphometrics, virtual biomechanical techniques, computational simulations, phylogenetic comparative methods, and fieldwork. In May 2021, I joined the Venditti group as a Postdoctoral Researcher within the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Division of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading, under the framework of the Leverhulme project: ‘The evolutionary and biogeographical routes to hominin diversity’. I held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the Primate Models for Behavioural Evolution Lab from October 2018 to May 2021, where I worked together with the Paleo-Primate Project Gorongosa, Mozambique.

Email:  thomaspuschel@gmail.comt.a.puschel@reading.ac.uk

Website: https://www.thomaspuschel.com

photo mielke

Dr Alexander Mielke

My research concerns the evolution of cognitive abilities involved in primate cooperation and communication. My PhD was focused on understanding the differences in the social systems of sooty mangabeys and Western chimpanzees in the Tai Forest in Ivory Coast, with special focus on grooming as a way for primates to make friends and protect their friendships. I also conducted snake experiments with mangabeys to understand the mechanisms underlying cooperation in species with large but coherent social groups. Afterwards, I developed statistical analyses tools based on network analysis for facial expression data in humans and nonhuman primates as part of the NetFACS project at the University of Portsmouth. As a Newton International Fellow, funded by the British Academy, at the University of Oxford, I developed a project entitled ‘Monkeying around: Complexity, cognition, and culture in chimpanzee play’. Currently, I am a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, affiliated with the Wild Minds Lab at the University of St Andrews, studying syntactical structures in wild ape gesture sequences.

Website: www.alex-mielke.com

Twitter: @MielkeAlexander

Isabella Reynard in Gorongosa National Park

Isabella Reynard

In 2019, I graduated with a BA in Archaeology & Anthropology; I carried out research for my disseration with the Primate Models for Behavioural Evolution Lab, involving collecting data on carcass taphonomy and ethology on the Gorongosa floodplains. I then presented this at the ESHE Annual Conference 2019 in Belgium and took part in the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Training Programme in Kyoto and Yakushima Island. Currently, I am studying for my Graduate Diploma in Law at BPP University, London. I am interested in all things environmental and hope to work within animal or human rights in the future. I am also a writer for Shout Out UK. Twitter: @ReynardIsabella.

Kerris Chappell-Smith

Kerris Chappell-Smith

In 2019, I graduated with a BA in Human Sciences; I carried out research for my dissertation with the Primate Models for Behavioural Evolution Lab, invoking collecting data on bipedalism in the Gorongosa baboons. I then presented my research at the ESHE Annual Conference in Belgium and I am currently working on a publication with Susana Carvalho. Meanwhile, in 2020, I decided to take on a job as a medical writer for Costello Medical.

Mike Gill

Mike Gill

Following a long career in business, my BSc in Anthropology at Brookes University reaffirmed my interest in the origins of tool use in early hominins. My dissertation was an experimental comparison of efficiencies in producing Lomekwian style stone tools using different reduction techniques. My MSc in primate conservation widened my interest in tool use to include extant primates. I was working as a research assistant to Dr Lydia Luncz, investigating the origins and consequences of technology in the primate lineage.

Paul Duggan

I spent many years outside academia, running a small business, and then joined the Primate Research group after studying at Oxford Brookes (economics with econometrics and law). Assisting researchers on primate behaviour is invaluable for my own project, which focuses on conflict behaviour in prehistoric humans. I returned to Brookes as a MPhil candidate (anthropology) in January 2020.

Isabelle Rogerson

Isabelle Rogerson

I am a budding conservationist with a focus in human-primate conflict. I started with a BA in English with Philosophy at the University of Exeter, before moving onto an MSc in Cognitive Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford, under the supervision of Dr Susana Carvalho. My dissertation, for which I was awarded the Dr Nicola Knight Prize for Quantitative Methods, focused on the origins of cooperation, investigating the effects of predation pressure, resource distribution and habitat fragmentation on prosociality in extant primates. In 2017, I participated in a National Geographic ScienceTelling Bootcamp, in Gorongosa National Park, where I researched human-baboon interactions (see blog post). My interdisciplinary background allows me to take an innovative approach to human-wildlife conflict, analysing human perspectives just as much as animal ecology. I have conducted research in various national parks in Africa, from Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique,to Comoé National Park, Ivory Coast.


Mary Sadid

I graduated in 2018 (BA Human Sciences), after spending two enriching summers with the Paleo-Primate team. For my thesis work I looked at diet using isotopic compositions of enamel sampled from taxa in the Gorongosa modern bone reference collection (manuscript in prep.).


Zoe Melvin

I was a John Fell Fund Research Assistant for the Paleo-Primate Project Gorongosa between 2017-2018. I have spent several months in Gorongosa National Park where I participated in the ongoing habituation efforts of two baboon troops (woodland and floodplain). Prior to this I graduated in Zoology and spent two years studying wild African primate behaviour in South Africa and Nigeria. I have a strong interest in wildlife conservation and primate behaviour, evolution and genetics - I am currently pursuing a DPhil at Bangor University, UK.