The Imfene Initiative is conceived and coordinated by Julian Saunders and Larissa Swedell.


Julian Saunders

My passion for the natural environment led to the pursuit of a biology degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. Throughout the course of my studies, I volunteered on a wide array of research projects, from elephants to bats, and from atmospheric studies to vegetation surveys. I conducted formal research on dolphins, sharks, and birds, and recorded any and all animals that made sounds! In 2000 I embarked on a journey into the fascinating world of baboons... I started a study of chacma baboons in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape. I was both enthralled and intrigued by the marvels of these socially complex and behaviourally flexible animals. Later I extended this research to include hamadryas baboons in Ethiopia, and am now co-director of the Filoha Hamadryas Project.

Over time, I nurtured my fascination with technology and have worked as a freelance programmer for a number of years. I am particularly interested in web based applications that have the power to create collaborative research communities in defiance of the limitations of geography. I currently code in Python, PHP, MySQL and various other scripting languages. I also write behavioural data collection software for handheld computers. I use and promote Open Source solutions to technological challenges.

I've always felt that there was something missing in the scientific endeavor. I identified this as the lack of a strong conservation focus as well as a lack of adequate outreach to children who are moving increasing further from our natural environment. In an attempt to rectify these deficits in my own life, and to contribute positively to a paradigm shift to a conservation orientated society, I founded the Imfene Conservation and Education Initiative.

View Julian's personal site...


Larissa Swedell

I am a primate behavioral ecologist and biological anthropologist and have been studying the ecology and social behavior of nonhuman primates since 1990.  My main interests lie in the interacting strategies of males and females in complex social systems.  My research has focused mainly on hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas) in Ethiopia, where I conducted my PhD research from 1996 to 1998.  This research eventually became known as the Filoha Hamadryas Project, which most recently led to the Save Awash National Park conservation organization founded and operated by Dr. Mathew Pines.  I am now splitting my research efforts between hamadryas baboons in Ethiopia and chacma baboons in South Africa, where I work as part of the Cape Peninsula Baboon Research Unit.

I am currently a Professor at Queens College-CUNY, where I spend most of my time teaching and advising Bachelors and Honours students at Queens College and doctoral students in the City University of New York PhD program. In addition to numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, I've authored a book derived from my PhD thesis focusing on behavioural ecology and female reproductive strategies in hamadryas baboons (Strategies of Sex and Survival in Hamadryas Baboons: Through a Female Lens published by Pearson Prentice Hall) and co-edited a peer-reviewed volume focusing on baboon behaviour, reproduction, and fitness with Steve Leigh of the University of Illinois (Reproduction and Fitness in Baboons: Behavioral, Ecological, and Life History Perspectives published by Springer). I am also a core faculty member of the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology (NYCEP), a graduate training program in all aspects of primate biology and evolution, and an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cape Town.

View Larissa's personal site...