Professor Alison Behie

B.Sc., M.A., Ph.D, FHEA
Head of School
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Research interests


Pregnancy, birth and stress - The impacts of prenatal stress caused by disasters and environmental changes on pregnancy and birth

Primate behaviour and conservation - 1. Understanding animal adapation to anthropogenic threats from logging and hunting. 2. Understanding the impact of environmental disasters on primate behaviour, ecology, conservation and physiology 





In 2010, Alison received a Ph.D from The University of Calgary in Biological Anthropology (with a primatology specialization). Her dissertation work examined the effects of a major hurricane on a howler monkey population in Southern Belize, specifically examining the roles of food supply, nutrition, stress hormones and parasitism in the recovery of this population. From 2009 - 2011, Alison lectured in both the Department of Anthropology at The University of Calgary and The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

In 2011, Alison was appointed lecturer in Biological Anthropology at ANU. In 2015 she was appointed Head of Biological Anthropology in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology and in 2016 became a senior lecturer. From 2016 - 2021, Alison was an ARC DECRA fellow researching the impact of cyclones and hurricanes on the behaviour and distribution of lemurs in Madagascar and New World Monkeys in Central America. At the conclusion of this project she was appointed Head of School of Archaeology and Anthropology.

In addition to her interests in studying the impact of environmental change on non-human primates, Alison also explores similar interests in humans particularly focussing on how stress during pregnancy impacts birth outcomes and early childhood development in populations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Researcher's projects

Impacts of prenatal stress on reproduction and childhood development: Alison is investigating how stress expreienced in utero and in early childhood impacts bith condition and development of children into adolescence and adulthood. Some examples of the sorts of work she does have to do with how pregnany women exposed to disasters experience birth and how lifestyle choices during pregnancy impact foetal development.

The effect of environmental disasters on non-human primates: Alison continues to monitor the long-term recovery of a howler monkey population in Southern Belize to Hurricane Iris, which struck in 2001. She is also using this information to investigate post-disturbance community ecology including new mechanisms of parasite exposure related to changes in forest composition. She is also exploring how cyclones impact lemur reproduction and distribution at a longer timescale.

Socioecology of  crested yellow-cheeked gibbons in Cambodia: Working in conjunction with Conservation International, Alison is working on research projects investigating behaviour, nutrition, and habitat use of these two endangered primate species in Northeastern Cambodia including how animals respond to anthropogenic threats of logging and hunting.



Available student projects

1) Possible Honours/MBIAN projects can be supervised on:

Numerous aspects of primate behaviour, conservation and ecology using the literature, data collected on captive primates or existing data on howler monkeys

Effects of environmental disasters on humans or non-human primates

2) Possible MBIAN/PhD projects can be supervised as part of the following long term research projects:

The behavioural ecology of endangered primates in northeastern Cambodia

The effects of prenatal stress and/or environmental disasters on human life history traits

The impact of stress and lifestyle during pregnancy on foetal development

Please contact for information regarding possible honour's MA or PhD projects

Current student projects

PhD Students:

Kirrily Apthorp: Habitat quality of three critically endangred primate species in Vietnam

Naven Hon: The value of wild plant foods to the wellbeing of Cambodian children and forests

Luke Martin: Passive accoustic sampling in lemurs

Lauren McFarlane: 

Alannah Pearson: Inside and Out: Using virtual imaging to investigate the evolution of cranial bones and brain lobes in fossil and living primates.

Cynthia Parayiwa: The impact of cyclones in Queensland on pregnancy and birth outcomes

Hayley Roberts: Allomothering in Colobus guereza in Kibale National Park, Uganda

Kayla Ruskin: Feeding ecology and nutrition of the critically endangered Cat Ba Langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus)

Sofie Semmler: Dealing with habitat modificatio in Zanzibar red colobus monkeys: evaulation of diet nutrition, phytoestrogens and microbiomes

Masters Students:

Jane Cameron: Aural enrichment in captive primates at the National Zoo and Aquarium

Kane White: Deciduous incisor crown size and neonatal line thickness in a sample of Australian children




Past student projects

PhD Students:

2023 Sarah McGrath: The impact of logging and hunting on Nomascus annamensis in Norteastern Cambodia

2021 Amy King: The thinking skills of two gibbon species: Representation, reasoning and reflection in Hoolock leuconedys and Nomascus leucogenys

2021 Jessica Williams: The impact of ecotourism on gibbon behaviour and stress

2020 Yin Yang: Feeding ecology and conservation biology of the black snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri)

2018 Abu Kibria: Ecosystem service valuation of Veun Sai Siem Pang Conservation Area, Cambodia

2017 Rebecca Hendershott: Socioecology of the Cat Ba Langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus) in Vietnam:Implications for Conservation Planning

2017 Megan O'Donnell: The impact of bush fires on life history traits of Australian populations: The effects of pre-natal and early childhood stress


Masters Students:

2020 Dean Rubb: Parental behaviour in captive Siamangs at the National Zoo and Aquarium

2019 Zoia Wowk: Olfactory enrichment in two species of captive primates at the National Zoo and Aquarium, Canberra.

2015 Lauren McFarlane. Impact of the Queensland Flood on birth outcomes and reproduction

2015 Joanna Blake. Review of Locomotor Research in the Callitrichidae and an Exploratory Study of Individual Locomotor Variation in Saguinus Oedipus

2014 Kirrily Apthorp. Making sense of Maba man.

2013 Britta Nelson. Sleeping and calling tree use by Northern buff-cheeked gibbons in         Cambodia.

2012 Megan O'Donnell. The impact of pre-natal stress on reproductive outcomes following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires

2012 Josh Christie. Behavioural flexibility in captive ring tailed lemurs

Honours Students:

2017 Charlotte Alley: Life history traits and predictors of infant sex in captive Black Crested Suwalesi Macaques

2017 Grace Miller: Life history trait variation with age in captive chimpanzees

2016 Sofie Semmler. Using metabolomics to assess the nutritional quality of the food supply of colobus monkeys in Kibale National Park, Uganda. 

2015 Olivia Morley. Key resource use of Northern yellow-cheeked crested Gibbon (Nomascus annamensis)

2015 Cynthia Parayiwa. The impact of maternal exposure to environmental disasters on birth outcomes following Cyclone Yasi (2011) in Queensland, Australia

2015 Jessica Williams. Environmental, anthropogenic and energetic predictors of the likelihood of Northern buff-cheeked crested gibbons (Nomascus annamensis) calling in Veun-Sai Siem Pang Conservation Area, Cambodia

2015 Madelaine Winkler (Co-supervised with Dr Geoff Kushnick). Pathogen Pressure and Consanguineous Marriage: the Case of Impal Marriage among the Karo Batak from North Sumatra


2015 Hayley Roberts. Reproductive Characteristics of Captive Langurs and Gibbons: Life History and Reproductive Senescence

2014 Jasmine Soukieh. Human brain development in the context of undernutrition: cognitive implications

2013 Amy King. A new approach to the social brain hypothesis

2013 Kayla Ruskin. Using geometric frameworks to understand howler monkey food selection following a major hurricane


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Updated:  23 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers