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Durham University

Research & business

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Professor Jo Setchell

(email at

Drop-in hours

2-4 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays in termtime. Room 309, Dawson Building

New book

Setchell JM. Studying Primates: How to Design, Conduct and Report Primatological Research. Cambridge University Press. Available September 2019.

Recent publications

Editorial with Adam Gordon on Editorial Practice at the International Journal of Primatology: the Roles of Gender and Country of Affiliation in Participation in Scientific Publication. International Journal of Primatology

PhD student Steffi Henkel's study showing that chimpanzees sniff out strangers and family members:

Henkel S & Setchell JM (2018). Group and kin recognition via olfactory cues in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Editor's choice and free access: Waters S, Bell S & Setchell JM (2018). Understanding Human-Animal Relations in the Context of Primate Conservation: A Multispecies Ethnographic Approach in North Morocco. Folia Primatologica 89: 13-29.

Impending extinction crisis of the world’s primates: Why primates matter. I am co-author on this article in Science Advances, by an international collaboration of 31 authors, with major press coverage (e.g., BBC Online – top story in science). For a summary and images, please see this website, and for a personal perspective please see this piece in the Conversation.

A review of our interdisciplinary biosocial approach to conservation and three case studies:

Setchell JM, Fairet E, Shutt K, Waters S & Bell S. (2017). Biosocial conservation: integrating biological and ethnographic methods to study human-primate interactions. International Journal of Primatology 38: 401-426.


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 outreach, including appearances in 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 here, and this recent 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".

For more information about Primatology in Durham, please see Durham Primatology Group.

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 post-graduate funding, and fees and living costs.

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 a Lecturer in Animal Behaviour at the University of Wolverhampton and an Honorary Researcher in Anthropology at Durham.

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
  • Pedro Mendez-Carvajal: "Conserving primates in highly deforested habitats: a case study in Panama". PhD candidate funded by a Panamanian Government Scholarship. Pedro runs Fundación Pro-Conservación de los Primates Panameños, an NGO dedicated to dedicated the study and conservation of nonhuman primates in Panama.
  • 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
  • Danson K Mwangiri "One Health at the borderlands: Human-baboon interaction in Nthongoni, Eastern Kenya" PhD candidate funded by a Durham Doctoral Scholarship

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)