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Roberta Salmi

UGA Arch
Associate Professor
Director, Primate Behavioral Ecology Lab

My research goals are to understand proximate and ultimate mechanisms underlying primate communication, cognition, and sociality, and to advance primate conservation. My current work on animal communication aims to advance our understanding of how dominance style relates to vocal usage and evolution. I focus on constraints and flexibility in structure and function of vocal signals, the selective forces that shape them and the cognitive abilities behind their use 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 other researchers, our work in Sri Lanka analyzes mixed species associations and presents the first observational data supporting natural hybridization between critically endangered and threatened primate species. Further collaborative research efforts in Brazil highlights the importance of conservation of land features to the survival of threatened primate species. 

Research Interests:
  • Ape communication 
  • Bioacoustics 
  • Heterospecific vocal recognition 
  • Hybridization 
  • Interspecies associations 
  • Forest fragmentation 
  • Primate conservation 
  • Primate traditions 
  • Ethnoprimatology 
  • Spatial and social cognition 
  • Ecotourism 
  • Primate behavioral ecology 
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


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

Articles Featuring Roberta Salmi

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…

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…

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

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