Univrsity of St Andrews
School of Biology
Laland Lab

Research in the School of Biology

The Laland Lab


Principal Investigator:

Prof Kevin Laland
Kevin LalandKevin Laland is Professor of Behavioural and Evolutionary Biology at the University of St Andrews, where he is a member of the Centre for Social learning and Cognitive Evolution, the Centre for Genes and Genomics, the Institute for Behavioural and Neural Sciences, and the Scottish Primate Research Group. After completing his PhD at University College London, Laland held a Human Frontier Science Programme fellowship at UC Berkeley, followed by BBSRC and Royal Society University Research fellowships at the University of Cambridge, before moving to St Andrews in 2002. He has published over 200 scientific articles and 10 books on a wide range of topics related to animal behaviour and evolution, particularly social learning, cultural evolution and niche construction. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Society of Biology, and the recipient of both an ERC Advanced Grant and a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.

Postdoctoral Fellows:

Dr Daniel Cownden


Dr Keelin Murray

KeelinI'm looking at the effects of competition, (social) learning strategies, and information turnover on cumulative culture. To study this, I run experiments with humans, where I manipulate these variables in order to examine their effects on the outcome of interactive tasks.



Dr Ana Navarrete
AnaI specialize in comparative analyses to identify evolutionary patterns on brain evolution. My actual research project focuses on the evolution of brain size and innovation in primates. To study this issue, I will compile a reliable primate brain dataset and analyze the data using causal statistics to find the most likely cause promoting primate encephalization.



Dr Joeseph Stubbersfield

Dr Daniel van der Post

DanielI am working on the evolution of social learning biases using agent-based models and I also work on statistical models that can be used to infer social learning and transmission processes in experiments





Dr Mike Webster
Mike Webster I am currently working on a ERC project studying the effects of predation risk on the propensity to use social information.

Post-graduate students:

Cara Evans
CaraI am investigating the relationship between the fidelity of social learning and measures of brain size, behavioural plasticity and socio-ecology across primate species.




Elena Miu
I am interested in cumulative cultural evolution and social learning strategies in humans. More specifically, I am working under the Templeton project, looking at social learning strategies in a mathematical software context. 



James Ounsley
I am investigating the evolution of social learning strategies through mathematical models and agent based simulations. I am currently focussing on the effects of model-based biases.




Murillo Pagnotta


Camille Troisi
CamilleI am interested in teaching behaviour in Callitrichid monkeys, as well as more general social learning mechanisms in zebra finches and starlings. 





Andrew Whalen


Recent lab members

Dr Glenna Evans
At present I am working on Bayesian estimation of social networks using diffusion data.
This work involves writing an R package which will facilitate diffusion analysis in a Bayesian context.  This will also allow for model discrimination.
My other interests include Bayesian spatial point process modelling.  I have worked with Gibbs point processes to estimate both symmetric and asymmetric species interactions.



Dr Stuart Murray
StuartI am working on studying models of social learning through the Second Social Learning Strategies Tournament, as part of the ERC funded EVOCULTURE project.





Nicola Atton
Nicola Atton I am studying social learning in threespine sticklebacks, in particular identifying the mechanism behind the social enhancement of food preferences.

Alice Cowie
Alice I am interested in social learning in Budgerigars and am part of the ERC Evolution of Culture project.


Sally Street
I am using comparative statistical techniques to investigate relationships between measures of anatomy, socio-ecology, brain size and intelligence across primate species. In particular, I am examining the relationships between sexual swellings and mating behaviour, and between measures of culture and brain size, using appropriate controls for phylogenetic non-independence.


Thomas Morgan
I am investigating the factors that affect the use of social information and different social learning strategies in humans and other primates.


Dr Michal Arbilly

I'm interested in the evolution of learning abilities and how it may be shaped by a social context. I study it using theoretical methods, mainly evolutionary agent-based simulations.




Dr Sarah Benson-Amram
SarahMy research interests include topics such as innovative problem-solving, social learning, numerical cognition and the evolution of complex cognitive abilities in animals. I am currently studying the role of social learning in the diffusion of novel behaviors in captive groups of starlings in order to develop methods to detect social learning and predict the spread of innovations in wild populations.  


Dr Neeltje Boogert
NeeltjeMy main research interests are in avian cognition, song and mate choice.
I study which individual and social variables might predict the spread of information in starling groups, the existence of a general cognitive factor ('g') in birds, the mechanisms underlying cognitive performance, and the potential for sexual selection of cognitive traits. 



Dr Christopher Templeton
Chris My main research interests are in avian learning, behaviour, and ecology. In particular I study how birds use their vocal signals to communicate and how social factors influence vocal learning and the spread of information across individuals. 





Dr Catharine Cross
I’m interested in sex differences in human social behaviour and am currently looking at sex differences in social learning biases




Dr Will Hoppitt
Will Hoppitt I am working on a ERC project to investigate methods for identifying social learning in wild animal populations.


Dr Theoni Photopoulou
TheoniI am currently working on developing software for studying social learning in wild animal populations. My other research interests are the diving behaviour, movement and foraging ecology of seals, and the way we analyse information obtained using animal-attached telemetry instruments. I have a particular interest in the polar regions and the relationship between the environment and animal behaviour in these areas." 

Birgit Weinmann
Birgit Weinmann I am working on niche construction and ecosystem function in intertidal soft sediments. I am investigating whether the ecosystem engineering activities of soft sediment macrobenthos species influence the population dynamics of microphytobenthos (MPB) assemblages and ultimately, whether these in turn effect the engineering species’ populations.

Dr Hannah Lewis
Hannah Lewis I am interested in mathematical modelling and computer simulations of biological phenomena, with particular emphasis on evolutionary processes. My research includes modelling the evolution of culture, the evolution of suboptimal sex allocation and food web assembly and evolution.





Laura Chouinard-Thuly
I will be investigating and isolating the cues necessary to acquire public information in nine-spine sticklebacks using animated (3D) stimuli. 



Dr Laurel Fogarty
Laurel Fogarty My research interests are in studying the evolution of social learning and social learning strategies. I will be using computer simulations to investigate social learning strategies and will also be working with wild and captive animal populations doing empirical studies of social learning and problem solving.

Dr Luke Rendell
Luke Rendell I am working on theoretical and experimental studies of the evolution of social learning strategies as part of the ERC project EVOCULTURE. I also have an ongoing interest in whale behaviour and ecology.


Dr Adrian de Froment
Adrian de Froment

My research investigates information transfer and the emergence of leadership in schools of threespine sticklebacks, and developing computer vision methods to analyze the interactions of individually-marked fish in real time.




Dr Lewis Dean
Lewis Dean

My research is on experimental studies of cumulative social learning across species.


Dr Anne Kandler
Anne Kandler
I am interested in modelling different kinds of diffusion phenomena in time and space, particularly I analyse the competition and spread dynamics of cultural traits in heterogeneous environments. Further, I am working on explaining language competition.

[Joint with AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity]



Micael Ehn

I study mathematical models of social learning.





Dr Laura Fortunato
Laura_Fortunato My research investigates the evolution of human social organization, focusing on the social norms regulating kinship and marriage: for example, it tries to understand why some societies prescribe monogamy while the majority allow polygynous marriage. I combine theoretical and statistical methods used in the study of non-human social systems with theory and data from the social and historical sciences, including anthropology, linguistics, and archaeology.


Elodie Alapetite
Elodie Alapetite Elodie visited the Laland lab for 5 months from France. She worked on social learning and spread of learned innovations in budgerigars.




Dr Pontus Strimling
Pontus Strimling I am interested in formal models that give us a better understanding of why specific cultural traits spread and when we would expect social learning mechanisms to evolve. Among other things, I am currently working on the evolution of teaching behavior and on how social norms change.


Dr Tom Pike
Tom Pike I have broad research interests within behavioural ecology. I am currently working on a BBSRC-funded project where we are using a variety of experimental and theoretical approaches to explore social learning strategies.

Dr Jeremy Kendal
Jeremy Kendal My research interests include studying conditions that favour the evolution of social learning, the diffusion dynamics of social traditions through populations, and the association between the evolutionary dynamics of genes and culture.

Dr Rachel Kendal

(Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow)

Rachel Kendal My research focuses on social learning and innovation, including the potential application of findings in these areas to animal welfare and conservation.