Project Title: The behaviour of looking: Vigilance and information acquisition in chacma baboons

Cohort: 2016/2017andrew allan

Institution: Durham University, Newcastle University


  • Prof Russell Hill (Durham University)
  • Dr Gilbert Roberts (Newcastle University)
  • Prof Rob Barton (Durham University)


I started out working in forestry and woodland management, achieving an FdSc from Plumpton College in 2010. In 2011, I completed a BSc in Ecology & Biogeorgraphy, before moving to the USA to work for The Great Basin Institute, studying nest site selection in flying squirrels around Lake Tahoe. I stayed with GBI after the completion of this project, and moved to Las Vegas to study desert tortoises in the Mojave Desert. Upon returning to England I began studying towards an MRes in Ecology at the University of York. This included a 7-month placement with the Institute of Zoology, studying video footage of wild chacma baboons. After finishing this placement and graduating from York, I was afforded the opportunity to work as a research assistant on the Tsaobis Baboon Project with the Institute of Zoology. After 4 months working on this project, I returned home, before taking up the role of Primate Research Coordinator at the Primate and Predator Project in February 2015.

My PhD research aims to quantify the producer-scrounger tendencies of individual baboons, and to determine how this influences the information they collect when vigilant. Specifically, I am interested in whether the collection of social information is compatible with collecting multiple information types concurrently (e.g., anti-predator, environmental, foreign troop presence). Beyond this I aim to understand how the intricate social dynamics at play within the troop influence the information collected by each individual and its effect on their foraging success. Depending on the context, the results from this study may mean that baboons don’t always need to be actively or routinely vigilant of their environment, the act of monitoring their neighbours may allow them to detect threats efficiently. The results could therefore help explain some of the intricacies of social foraging behaviour in baboons.


Stostad, H, N., Aldwinkle, P., Allan, A. & Arnold, K.E. (2017). Foraging on human-derived foods by urban bird species. Bird Study. 64(2), 178-186.

Allan, A., Roberts, G. & Hill, R.A. (In Prep). What have we been looking at? A call for consistency in studies of primate vigilance.

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