I am a primatologist, science communicator and public engagement professional.
My research has focussed on the evolution of the remarkable system we call human culture, working with primates including chimps, capuchin monkeys, lemurs and children.
With the awesome Kate Cross I have written and performed Chimp on Trial, Alas, Poor Darwin? and Choose Your Own Science Adventure. I regularly perform science stand-up and have contributed to variety of radio shows on local radio, the BBC, DRS2 and Deutsche Welle.
For my day job I work for RCUK working on public engagement with research policy.
I embarked on my scientific adventure nearly ten years ago, when I started a PhD at University of St Andrews. My research has focussed on the evolution of human culture, in particular how we learn new skills and build on old ones.
I have worked with a whole variety of different primates, including chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys, lemurs and children to investigate how they learn and pass on skills and information. All of my research is non-invasive – I give them puzzles to solve and observe how they go about solving them.
I am also interested in cultural evolution and evolutionary explanations of human behaviour. Are humans driven by pure instinct or are we born a blank slate and learn everything we know? The truth, of course, is somewhere in between the two, but it’s often difficult to work out just how much of each.
I am passionate about an open and inclusive research process for the benefit science, scientists and society in general. As a science communicator I have been a zone winner of I’m a Scientist: Get me out of here, a macaque advocate at the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, the Scottish runner-up in FameLab and a co-organiser of the Animal Cultures exhibition stand.
I have worked for Sense About Science, The Physiological Society, the Living Links Research Centre and RCUK in variety of roles all focused on public engagement. I am experienced at organising science communication events, running training courses and now work in public engagement policy.