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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Professor Russell Hill, BSc, MPhil, PhD

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Chair of the Board of Studies, Department of Anthropology
Head of Department (, Department of Anthropology
Travel Approver, Department of Anthropology

Contact Professor Russell Hill (email at


My main research interests are in the behavioural ecology of primates and other large mammals and in particular in understanding the decisions animals make about their social and reproductive strategies. In doing so I combine field studies with theoretical analyses based on modelling. I run the Primate & Predator Project based at the Lajuma Research Centre in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa, and have previously managed other projects in South Africa based at De Hoop Nature Reserve and in the Kruger National Park. My postgraduate students have conducted projects across southern Africa, and increasingly our work is examining mammalian conservation and human-wildlife conflict from an interdiscplinary perspective. I also have interests in applying evolutionary principles to explore a number of different aspects of human behaviour, particularly in understanding the role of the colour red in human competitive interactions.

I am interested in supervising students in any of my research interests, including primate behaviour and ecology, predator-prey interactions and interdisciplinary approaches to conservation and human-wildlife conflict.

Primate & Predator Project

Protected areas are the cornerstone of local, regional, and global strategies for biodiversity conservation. As human populations continue to rise and human activities convert and degrade lowland habitats, mountainous regions are increasingly important to species conservation. Mountainous areas are often noted for high concentrations of endemic species of animals and plants, and thus represent an important focus for conservation research. Our study aims to understand the ecology of species living in a biodiversity hotspot in the mountains of South Africa and examines the threat of human activity to species conservation.

Our project is based at the Lajuma Research Centre within the Soutpansberg Mountain Range, an area recognized nationally as a centre of endemism and biodiversity. The mountains fall within the Vhembe UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and form part of the North-Eastern Escarpment Bio-region, an area highlighted by the South African National Biodiversity Institute as a priority for conservation research. Our study is addressing this need.

Primate & Predator Project:

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Research Groups

Department of Anthropology

Research Interests

  • Primate Behaviour and Ecology
  • Predator-Prey Interactions
  • Felid Behaviour and Ecology
  • Conservation and Human-Wildlife Conflict

Teaching Areas

  • Anthropology Field Course: South Africa

    (80 hours/year.)

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Hill, R.A. (2020). Reflections on 'Babooning'. In Curious about Nature: A Passion for Fieldwork. Burt, T. & Thompson, D. Cambridge Cambridge University Press. 218-222.
  • Hill, R.A. (2019). From 150 to 3 Dunbar’s numbers. In Dunbar's Number. Shankland, D. Sean Kingston Publishing. 45.
  • Nowak, K., Hill, R.A., Wimberger, K. & le Roux, A. (2016). Risk-taking in samango monkeys in relation to human observers at two sites in South Africa. In Ethnoprimatology: Primate Conservation in the 21st Century. Waller, M. Springer. 301-314.
  • Maier, M.A., Hill, R.A., Elliot, A.J. & Barton, R.A. (2015). Color in achievement contexts in humans. In Handbook of color psychology. Elliot, A.J., Fairchild, M.D. & Franklin, A. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 568-584.
  • Hill, R.A., Sellers, W.I., Logan, B. & Zapala, J. (2012). An agent-based model of group decision-making in baboons. In Modelling Natural Action Selection. Seth, A., Prescott, T. & Bryson, J. Cambridge University Press. 454-476.
  • Wiedemann, D., Barton, R.A. & Hill, R.A. (2012). Evolutionary approaches to sport. In Applied Evolutionary Psychology. Roberts, S.C. Oxford University Press. 290-307.
  • Hill, R.A. (2008). Nonhuman primate approaches to landscapes. In Handbook of Landscape Archaeology. David, B. & Thomas, J. Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press, Inc. 95-101.
  • Hill, R.A. (2006). Predation risk and habitat use in chacma baboons (Papio hamadryas ursinus). In Primates and their predators. Gursky, S. & Nekaris K.A.I. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 339-354.

Journal Article

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Primate behaviour: Ecology
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences: Conservation
  • Anthropology: Evolutionary psychology