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Roberta Salmi

UGA Arch
Assistant Professor
Director, Primate Behavioral Ecology Lab

I am a biological anthropologist with training in primate behavioral ecology and bioacoustics. Broadly my research goals are to understand proximate and ultimate mechanisms underlying primate communication, cognition, and sociality, and to advance primate conservation. I use multidimensional statistics, mixed-effects modeling, geospatial analysis and remote sensing to analyze field-based observations, experimental trials, and acoustic recordings of primate calls.

Past and current gorilla work focuses on constraints and flexibility in structure and function of vocal signals, the selective forces that shape them and the cognitive abilities behind their use. Currently, I am continuing this line of research by assessing the function of other gorilla vocalizations and by exploring the flexibility of gorilla vocal behavior in the context of interspecies communication at the Zoo Atlanta. In collaboration with Dr. Scarry (CSUS), Dr. Lodwick (U Conn) and Dr. Presotto (SU) I am also conducting work on gorilla spatial ecology, ranging behavior and nutrition.

Recently, I have collaboratively initiated two long-term projects strongly related to conservation: the Mangrove Primate Center (MPC) in Maranhão State, Brazil; and the Kaludyapokuna Langur Project (KLP) in Sri Lanka. MPC focuses on understanding the relationship between the fragmented coastal mangrove forests, human commercial activities (i.e., crab catching for national and international markets) and remnant populations of bearded capuchins displaying a unique behavior: tool use to crack open crabs. In KLP we are studying two langur species: the critically endangered purple faced langur and the endangered gray langur to explore their resilience and adaptive plasticity to human disturbance.


      PhD, Anthropology, State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2013

      Research Interests:
      • Bioacoustics and communication
      • Spatial and social cognition
      • Group coordination and collective movements
      • Primate behavioral ecology
      • Ethnoprimatology and primate conservation
      • Ecotourism and habituation of primates
      Selected Publications:

      Salmi, R., Rahman, U., & Doran-Sheehy, D. M. (2016). Hand preference for a novel bimanual coordinated task during termite feeding in wild western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PRIMATOLOGY, 37(2), 200-212. doi: 10.1007/s10764-016-9894-0

      Salmi, R., & Doran-Sheehy, D. M. (2014). The Function of Loud Calls (Hoot Series) in Wild Western Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla). AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, 155(3), 379-391. doi:10.1002/ajpa.22575

      Salmi, R., Hammerschmidt, K., & Doran-Sheehy, D. M. (2013). Western Gorilla Vocal Repertoire and Contextual Use of Vocalizations. ETHOLOGY, 119(10), 831-847. doi:10.1111/eth.12122

      Articles Featuring Roberta Salmi
      Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - 9:57am

      UGA Research article, "Gorillas can tell human voices apart," highlights Dr. Roberta Salmi's research methods and findings. In the article, Dr. Salmi discusses gorillas' ability…

      Friday, September 13, 2019 - 11:10am

      Title: Nutritional composition of the diet of the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla): Interspecific variation in diet quality

      Research Highlights

      • Fruit (40%) and herb (35%) accounted for 75% of mean monthly food intake…

      Monday, October 2, 2017 - 6:08pm

      Several faculty members and an alumnus were featured in UGA's fall issue of Georgia Magazine.

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