About Us

Our goal is to provide scientifically-backed information to the public about baboons, baboon-human conflict, and conservation solutions. Each of our information pages has been peer-reviewed by scientists studying these issues, and the information on each page thus represents a consensus of scientific opinion on that topic. The authors of each page are listed at the bottom left of that page, and the peer reviewers for that page are listed on the bottom right. Below are some of these reviewers, as well as additional colleagues of ours – experts in primate biology, conservation, and education – who have expressed their support for our project and have agreed to serve in an advisory capacity in their respective areas of expertise.

Project Consultants

Dr Clifford Jolly (PhD University of London 1965) Professor Emeritus, New York University, USA

  • Internationally recognized expert on baboon biology and evolution
  • Co-Director of Awash Baboon Project (Ethiopia) and Zambian Baboon Hybrid Zone Project (Zambia)

Dr John Oates (PhD University of London 1974) Professor Emeritus, City University of New York, USA

  • Internationally recognized primate ecologist and conservationist with expertise in African primates
  • Author of Myth and Reality in the Rain Forest: How Conservation Strategies are Failing in West Africa

Dr Shirley Strum (PhD University of California, Berkeley 1976) Professor, University of California, San Diego, USA

  • Primatologist with expertise in the behavior, socioecology and conservation of baboons and the mitigation of baboon-human conflict
  • Director of Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project on the Laikipia Plateau of Kenya

Dr Jane Phillips-Conroy (PhD New York University 1978) Professor, Washington University, USA

  • Primatologist and anatomist with expertise in the biology, physiology and anatomy of baboons, humans, and other primates
  • Co-Director of Awash Baboon Project (Ethiopia) and Zambian Baboon Hybrid Zone Project (Zambia)

Dr Janette Wallis (PhD University of Oklahoma 1986) Visiting Associate Professor, Washington and Lee University, USA

  • Primatologist with expertise in social behavior and reproduction of chimpanzees, baboons, and other African primates
  • Vice President for Conservation, International Primatological Society
  • Board Member, Society for Conservation Biology – Africa Section
  • Co-Editor of Commensalism and Conflict: The Human-Primate Interface

Dr Susan Alberts (PhD University of Chicago 1992) Professor, Duke University, USA

  • Biologist with expertise in behavioral ecology, genetics, and population biology of baboons and other large mammals in Africa
  • Co-Director, Amboseli Baboon Research Project
  • Director of Alberts Genetics Laboratory, Biology Department, Duke University

Dr Ryne Palombit (PhD University of California, Davis 1992) Associate Professor, Rutgers University, USA

  • Animal behaviorist and anthropologist with expertise in behavioral ecology and social behavior of primates, including gibbons, siamang, olive baboons in Kenya, and chacma baboons in Botswana
  • Director of Project Papio, a long-term field research project on behavioral, genetic, physiological, and reproductive aspects of wild olive baboon biology in Laikipia district, Kenya

Dr Colleen McCann (PhD City University of New York 1995) Wildlife Conservation Society, USA

  • Primatologist and Curator of Primates at the Bronx Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Former Vice President for Captive Care, International Primatological Society
  • Member of Research and Technology Committee, Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Dr Thore Bergman (PhD Washington University 2000) Assistant Professor, University of Michigan, USA

  • Primatologist with expertise in social behaviour, cognition, and vocal communication of baboons and other monkeys

Dr Jacinta Beehner (PhD Washington University 2003) Assistant Professor, University of Michigan, USA

  • Primatologist and primate endocrinologist with expertise in the behavior of baboons and geladas; expert in hormonal assessment of stress in monkeys

Dr Mathew Pines (PhD University of New England, Australia 2005)

  • Primatologist with expertise in captive animal welfare, baboon behavioural ecology, and conservation education
  • Founder and Director of Save Awash National Park conservation organization

Dr. Jessica Rothman (PhD Cornell University 2006) Assistant Professor, Hunter College-CUNY

  • Primate ecologist with expertise in nutritional ecology of monkeys, apes, and other wildlife
  • Director, Nutritional Ecology Laboratory at Hunter College of CUNY
  • Honorary Lecturer, Makerere University, Uganda

Dr Damiana Ravasi (PhD University of Cape Town 2009)

  • Zoologist with expertise in the ecology and parasitology of South African Cape Peninsula chacma baboons

Dr Angela van Doorn (PhD University of Cape Town 2009)

  • Primatologist with expertise in baboon behavioural ecology and the effectiveness of current management strategies in South African Cape Peninsula chacma baboons

Dr Kirsten Wimberger (PhD University of KwaZulu-Natal 2010)

  • Zoologist with expertise in wildlife rehabilitation in South Africa, currently studying the behavioural ecology of commensal samango monkeys in Hogsback, South Africa
  • Co-director of Forest Ambassadors Project in Hogsback, South Africa

Shahrina Chowdhury (MA Columbia University 2004) PhD candidate, City University of New York

  • Primatologist with expertise in baboon social behaviour and reproduction, currently conducting PhD research on stress and sociality in three troops of semi-commensal Cape Peninsula chacma baboons

Tali Hoffman (BSc Honours University of Cape Town 2006) PhD candidate, University of Cape Town

  • Zoologist with expertise in baboon spatial ecology, currently completing PhD on spatial ecology of Cape Peninsula chacma baboons

Bentley Kaplan (BSc Honours University of Pretoria 2008) PhD candidate, University of Cape Town

  • Zoologist with expertise in behavioural ecology, currently conducting PhD research on baboon-human conflict in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa

Esme Beamish (MSc University of Cape Town 2010)

  • Zoologist with expertise in baboon behaviour, population dynamics, and causes and consequences of mortality in South African Cape Peninsula chacma baboons

Project Coordinators

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...