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Durham University

Research & business

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Professor Jo Setchell

(email at

Recent publications

Setchell JM. 2019. Studying Primates: How to Design, Conduct and Report Primatological Research. Cambridge University Press. I welcome feedback if you're using this.

New article in Bioscience on biases in primate research and a severe lack of evidence needed to effectively conserve primates. I'm one of a team of 59 primatologists from 21 countries who worked with the Conservation Evidence Initiative in Cambridge to examine the evidence base underpinning efforts to conserve primates. Headline - most of the time, we don't know what works and what doesn't work.


I joined Durham Anthropology in 2007. I have a PhD in Zoology from the University of Cambridge, and moved into Anthropology gradually, via post-doctoral research at the Centre for Research in Evolutionary Anthropology at Roehampton University and in the Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, and a temporary lectureship at UCL Anthropology.

At Durham I teach biological and evolutionary anthropology at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I obtained my Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in 2008. I won a Durham Student's Union "Super Supervisor" award in 2014 and a University "Excellence in Doctoral Supervision" award in 2015.

I am strongly committed to advancing equity and inclusion in academia, and led our department's successful application for a Gender Equality Charter Mark in 2014.

I have served on the University Senate as an elected representative of the Academic Electoral Assembly, as Director of the MSc in Evolutionary Anthropology, Chair of the Exam Board and Director of Research in Anthropology.

I enjoy public engagement, including appearances in BBC4's The Secrets of Skin, BBC2's Nature’s Weirdest Events and BBC4's "Colour: The Spectrum of Science".

Jo Setchell Durham EARG


Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Primatology

President, Primate Society of Great Britain

Vice-President (Research) of the International Primatological Society 2010-2018

Editorial Board member, Scientific Data



I pursue two major areas of research. The first integrates behaviour, morphology and demographic studies with genetics, endocrinology and semiochemistry to address questions relating to reproductive strategies, life history, sexual selection and signalling in primates. The majority of this work has focused on a semifree-ranging colony of mandrills at the Centre International de Recherches Médicales, Franceville (CIRMF), Gabon. For more about my long-term studies of mandrills, please see this review. I have also conducted primate fieldwork in Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Sabah, Malaysia, including personal experience of conservation issues and primate reintroductions.

The second area of my research involves collaboration with environmental anthropologists to address questions concerning human/wildlife interactions and biodiversity conservation. We have recently described our interdisciplinary approach and three case studies here.

I have a long-standing interest in the practice and ethics of primate research. I co-edited a book on Field and Laboratory Methods in Primatology with an explicit focus on ethics, helped to develop the International Primatological Society's Code of Best Practices in Field Primatology, and have co-authored an article with Elena P Cunnigham and Steve Unwin on "Darting Primates in the Field: A Review of Reporting Trends and a Survey of Practices and Their Effect on the Primates Involved".

You can find details of my publications below and on Researchgate.

Information for Prospective Students and Postdocs

Excellence award

I'm happy to supervise interns, MSc, Masters by Research and PhD students in primatology. I am happy to work with applicants who share my research interests to develop a proposal.

Click for information about fees and funding.

There's information about a variety of postdoctoral fellowship opportunities here.

I prioritise applications which relate to and build on my own research.

Completed Post-Docs

  • Dr Sharon Kessler: Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship on disease recognition in primates January 2017-December 2018. Sharon is now a lecturer in Pscyhology at Stirling University.
  • Dr Rodrigo Moro-Rios: Ciência sem Fronteiras "Phylogenetic reconstruction of ancestral states and diversification of Callitrichidae (Primates) cooperative breeding societies". Rodrigo is now an Honorary Researcher in Anthropology at Durham.
  • Dr Esther Clarke: COFUND Junior Research Fellowship "Primate vocalisations as sexual signals". Esther is now an Honorary Researcher in Anthropology at Durham.
  • Dr Stefano Vaglio: Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships for Career Development "Primate Olfaction". Stefano is now Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour at the University of Wolverhampton.

Current Research Students

  • Lucy Millington: "How do frugivorous primates use regenerating forest in the Peruvian Amazon Basin?". PhD candidate
  • Ingrid Grueso-Dominguez: "Applying geometric morphometrics to the study of discrete dental traits" PhD candidate
  • Katharine Flach: "The influence of social group composition on the reproductive success and reproductive strategies of females in cooperatively breeding callitrichids" MSc by Research candidate

Completed Research Students

Current Collaborations

  • Département Primatologie, Centre Internationale de Recherches Médicales, Franceville, Gabon (long-term, interdisciplinary studies of semi-free-ranging mandrills)

  • Dr Wendy Dirks, Durham Anthropology (stress, life history and primate teeth)

  • Dr Robin Bernstein, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder, USA (the endocrinology of primate growth and development)

  • Dr Elena Cunningham, NYU College of Dentistry (darting primates)

Research Groups

Department of Anthropology

Research Interests

  • Biosocial conservation
  • Human-wildlife interactions
  • Primate conservation
  • Primate socioecology
  • Reproductive strategies
  • Socioendocrinology
  • Primate behavioural ecology
  • Sexual selection
  • Life history strategies and phenotypic plasticity
  • Ethnoprimatology

Selected Publications

Authored book

Edited book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Evolution: primate behaviour
  • Evolution: sexual selection
  • People: Evolution and Biology: animal behaviour


Selected Grants

  • 2014: Primate Vocalisations as Sexual Signals (£9055.00 from The British Academy)
  • 2013: Durham International Fellowships for Research and Enterprise - DIFeREns (£83849.00 from European Commission)
  • 2013: Microsmatic primates revisited: Determining the importance of olfaction in primate communication - PrimOlf (£165202.14 from European Commission)
  • 2013: Stress, life history, and dental development in primates (£62844.50 from The Leverhulme Trust)
  • 2010: Evolutionary significance and proximate mechanisms-International Joint Project (£10000.00 from The Royal Society)

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