Dr Jane Goodall, DBE receives honorary degree







Dr Jane Goodall and Hillary Clinton

Dr Jane Goodall DBE, who opened Living Links in 2008, was recently recognised by receiving an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by the University of St Andrews as part of its 600th Anniversary Celebrations. Other Honorary Graduands included Hillary Clinton, former USA Secretary of State, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, Lord Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Professor Mary Beard, Classicist. The laureation for Dr Goodall was given by the Director of Living Links, Professor Andrew Whiten, and the ceremony was also attended by Professor Chris West, RZSS CEO.






Honorary Graduands and Laureators of the Graduation Ceremony of 13th September 2013 marking the Academic Celebrations of the University of St Andrews’ 600th Anniversary. Front row, 3rd and4th from left: Dr Jane Goodall DBE, Ethologist and Conservationist, and laureator Professor Andrew Whiten.


Living Links to Life Long Learning – U3A Study Day

On the 5th of June, University of the Third Age (U3A) members from across Scotland came to their third annual study day here in Edinburgh Zoo. The theme for this year was Primatology.

With so many amazing projects happening at Budongo Trail and Living Links we felt this was an ideal opportunity for our researchers to engage with life-long learners.

The conference was set in the Budongo Trail Lecture Theatre and included a keynote speech from Professor Andy Whiten, presentations from our current PhD students, and Dr Katie Slocombe gave the delegates a live demonstration of how we study chimpanzee communication.

chimp com bannerOur guests also had a chance to explore the two enclosures with many of our staff, eoin discusses researchvolunteers and researchers on hand to answer questions.

Click here to see the full programme of the day’s events.


Reconstructing the Evolution of Cognition – Free Lecture

dr josep call





St Andrew’s University is delighted to announce that Dr Josep Call will be presenting the Irvine Memorial Medal Lecture on Friday the 8th of March at 5:15pm in School III, St Salvador’s Quad, St Andrews University.

All are welcome to attend this free lecture.

Dr Josep Call the Director of the Wolfgang Kohler Primate Research Centre, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig will be presenting on what makes us human and how has our cognition evolved. To explore these concepts Dr Call compares the behaviour and cognition of multiple species taking into account their evolutionary relationships and ecologies in order to enlighten us on how and why humans have evolved the way we have.

Does a Capuchin’s Openness to Participate Bias our Science?

When studying animals in the wild or in captivity it is very easy to unintentionally create selection biases even when we are aware of them and try to collect data in a random fashion. One particular factor that may cause a bias is the personality of our animals.

Personality is defined as – consistent differences in an individual’s behaviour and decision making over time. Thus if we are studying animal cognition the animal’s personality will have an impact on how we get and interpret the results of our studies.

Selection biases may occur for variety of different reasons

  1. Self-selection of study subjects – The animal chooses to take part.
  2. Targeting a specific area/population
  3. Ending a study once you get the desired result
  4. Excluding data on arbitrary grounds.

A recent study by Blake Morton, Prof Phyllis Lee and Prof Hannah Buchanan-Smith of Stirling University tested to see if the capuchins at Living Links had any specific personality traits and if so did that affect how much they participated in research and also how well they performed.

The research indicated that our capuchins do have at least 5 different personality dimensions, shown in the table below.

morton et al table

The researchers then examined if these personalities affected their participation and performance in our studies so they created two tasks for the monkeys.

Task 1 The monkeys had to choose which cubicle to enter. If they chose the one with the reward in front of it they received the reward. If they chose the one without a reward they did not receive anything.

task 1 pic 1

Task 2 – The monkeys had to choose which cubicle to enter. If they chose the one with the larger cup in front of it they received the reward. If they chose the one with the smaller cup they did not receive anything.

task 2 pic 1


In both tasks the monkeys that scored higher on ‘openness’ and lower on ‘assertiveness’ performed better at the tasks and were also more likely to participate in the trials.

This is a very interesting result so we decided to ask Blake a few questions about the study.

Science Communication Officer (SCO) – Is there any way to avoid a personality selection bias in cognitive studies?

Blake – One possibility would be to classify subjects according to their personalities, then test for differences in task performance within those groupings. However, most studies of animal cognition do not have access to large study populations, and must therefore rely on using small sample sizes. At this point in time, we encourage researchers to consistently report the existence (or lack thereof) of a personality bias in subjects selected for testing.

SCO – Why do ‘open’ individuals perform better than ‘assertive’ individuals?

Blake – Open individuals are typically more curious and willing to engage in tasks. As a consequence, they often perform better than less Open individuals. As for Assertiveness, one intriguing possibility, which we discuss in our paper, is that more aggressive individuals (called ‘Assertive’ in our study) have a tendency to emphasize speed over accuracy when making decisions. Thus, as a consequence of such hasty decision-making, aggressive individuals may be more likely to score incorrectly on trials. To formerly test this latter possibility, however, further research on the Living Links capuchins will be necessary.

SCO – Are there any cognitive studies that would benefit from having a bias towards ‘open’ individuals?

Blake – Based on our study and others, individuals that score higher on Open traits (e.g. curious, active) typically are more willing to engage in experimental research. As a consequence, they generally learn faster and perform better on tasks compared to less Open individuals. Thus, from a logistical point of view, yes, a study might benefit from having a bias towards more Open individuals because it potentially means that less training/testing is needed. However, as we discuss in the paper, caution should be used when comparing data to other studies.



SciLogs Blog about Living Links Science Engagement

SEZ at Living Links

In early 2012 Dr Mark Bowler, Prof Hannah Buchanan-Smith and Prof Andy Whiten published a great article on the assessment of the science engagement that goes on in the Living Links Centre. This article has been well received by many zoo educators and scientists alike.


The article was recently recommended to Matt Shipman who writes for SciLogs – The daily storyline of science. He posted a review on their blog commenting on the benefits of zoos in educating people about science outside of the classroom and lecture theatres.

Click on the link below to read his review!


SPRG Burn Weekend 2013

The Burn weekend has been a long standing SPRG tradition since 1996. This weekend the Burn mansion house in Angus welcomed 42 SPRG members and guests to enjoy a relaxed weekend of fun, talks and a stunning winter walk.


SPRG’s main focus is of course primates however we had an amazing array of talks ranging from primate communication (vocal and gesture) to parrot social bonding and even a talk on the personality and well-being in felids.

Living Links was well represented this weekend with 9 of our team attending and many people that presented had undertaken work at Living Links and/or Budongo Trail.

SPRG programme 2013

Eye Tracker Trials – Insight to Monkey Minds?





On October 31st, Living Links researchers Dr. Nico Cladiere and Dr. Juan Carlos-Gomez welcomed Jon Ward from Acquity ETS Ltd to trial a Tobii infra-red eye tracking device with our primates. The tracker was trialled with our East group of capuchins, squirrel monkeys and the Budongo Trail chimpanzees.

This type of non-invasive technology has been designed for humans and is well used in a many fields, such as cognitive and developmental psychology, linguistics research, neuropsychology and can also be helpful in diagnostics of mental disorders.

Infra-red eye trackers have been tested with great apes and macaques, but as far as we are aware this is the first time this type of technology has ever been trialled on capuchin and squirrel monkeys.

Our attempts with the squirrel monkeys were promising, but they did not stay still long enough for the tracker to detect their eyes.

The chimpanzees did show some interest in the trials and the machine was able to pick up their eye gaze when they were shown pictures of chimpanzee faces however no data were recorded from the chimps as we were unable to calibrate the machine.  In order for the tracker to work properly it must be calibrated by the study subject following the calibration dot.

The greatest success of proof of concept was with the capuchin Kato (a 7 year old periphery male from the East group). He came into the cubicles, sat in position and easily followed the calibration dot. After he successfully did this he was shown a variety of pictures of other capuchins in his group and some from the West. The photos were of females and males of varying ranks.

Watch the video to see where Kato looked for each of the monkeys. The size of the red dot is indicative of the length of time Kato spent on that point on the screen, the red lines show the pattern of his gaze as it moves.

The eye tracking system is able to display the data in a variety of ways. We can see the length of time spent focusing on one area and track where the gaze goes over time.

This visualisation was created by two trials. The yellow is the first set of tracks and the purple the second. They are numbered so you can see the gaze pattern.

The software is also able to show length of gaze through light and shadow. The longer the monkey stares at one area of a picture the lighter it becomes.









Both Juan and Nico were very impressed by this technology and its potential for countless benefits to the studies here in Living Links. Just from the quick trials we were able to see Kato’s tendency to avoid staring at the eyes of the alpha males and the fact he looked directly at the eyes of the females from the neighbouring group. This type of data can enlighten us on the group dynamics, hierarchies and the ability of our monkeys to recognise individuals. The tool may also be useful in social learning studies as well as the evolutionary development of various cognitive processes.







66.6666666…% of the Festival of the Spoken Nerd visit Living Links.

Fresh from their recent run at the Edinburgh Fringe ‘Festival of the Spoken Nerd’ musical comedian Helen Arney and stand-up mathematician Matt Parker take time out to visit Living Links and pose in our ‘Primate Family Tree’ mural. We also twisted their arms to record something suitable for the young audience that gathered!

See Helen in ‘Voice of an Angle’ at the Underbelly, Edinburgh now until 26th August.