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Ape Gestures

Today's guest is Cat Hobaiter, a primatologist at the University of St. Andrews in the Wild Minds Lab. The lab researches what other species, particularly wild apes, are thinking about. They do this by looking at how apes communicate through gestures.

Cat contrasted human communication with that of apes. In her work, she goes to the rain forest to capture video of apes' gestures. She discussed the benefits of studying apes in the wild compared to the lab.

Cat also discussed how she and her team receive the data from the wild and annotate the signals in the lab. She gave examples of some of the gestures ape species make and what the gestures mean. For instance, how they flirt or how they communicate when sourcing food.

Cat also discussed how she used clustering algorithms to classify gestures. She discussed measures they take to ensure their analysis is robust and with minimum bias. She also discussed the differences and similarities in the same species of apes in different geographical locations. Cat mentioned other interesting things her lab is currently working on.


Wild Minds Lab

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Catherine Hobaiter

Cat is a field primatologist who has spent the past 20-years living with and studying wild primates across Africa. She is a Reader in Origins of Mind at the University of St Andrews and PI of the Wild Minds Lab. She still spends around half the year in the field, and heads a team of researchers exploring wild ape behaviour. Her work explores what the communication of wild apes living in their natural environment tells us about the ways they think, and about the origins of our own behaviour. She leads ape field sites in Uganda and Guinea and serves on expert groups for the UN and IUCN. Outside of work you usually find her up a mountain, or pottering in a shed with coffee.

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