Dr Anja M Deppe

PhD, MA Stony Brook University, BSc Eckerd College, USA
Lecturer in Primatology and Biological Anthropology
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: +61 2 6125 3662

Areas of expertise

  • Zoology 0608
  • Ecology 0602
  • Behavioural Ecology 060201
  • Animal Behaviour 060801
  • Cognitive Sciences 1702

Research interests

I am a primatologist and animal behaviorist with a focus on cognitive and sensory ecology. My field research in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar, examines how nocturnal lemurs perceive their predators. Using the brown mouse lemur (Microcebus rufus) as a basal primate model, I conduct field and laboratory experiments to assess how predation avoidance may have affected the selection for cognitive abilities, and possibly neocortex enlargement, in the primate lineage. In my experiments I expose wild-caught mouse lemurs to models, odors, and sounds of their natural and alien avian, mammalian, and snake predators. Measuring  behavioral responses allows me to assess how mouse lemurs perceive and interpret particular characteristics of those stimuli, such as shape or color, as well as the relevance of the different sensory modes in predator recognition. I am also planning on testing how age affects memory in mouse lemurs, as they are the only non-human primates known to develop Alzheimer’s Disease –like symptoms in the brain. I am further interested in how memory and experience affects perception, health and attitude in humans. 



I received my PhD (2011) in Anthropological Sciences with a focus on primate behavior and ecology from Stony Brook University, NY, USA.  Here I also taught an undergraduate course on human perception, emotions, and ESP, and lectured at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine about the placebo and nocebo effect. From 2012-2014 I was the Director of the Turkana Basin Institute Field School and where I managed a 3 month-long human-origins field school program in Kenya. Prior to coming to ANU, I was a lecturer in zoology and biological anthropology at the University of Birmingham in England. In the past 13 years I have further been contributing to the Stony Brook University/Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments primate field school program based at the Centre ValBio research station in Ranomafana National Park as a lecturer, program coordinator, and student research supervisor.




Researcher's projects

I am planning a new zoo project where I will be examining the utility of sensory stimuli in the enrichment of captive primates and other animals. Stimuli will include scents, objects, and sounds. 

I also plan on continuing my long-term behavioral study of the brown mouse lemur in and around Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. 


Past student projects

BSc final year research projects

Katherine Bidmead (2017): Olfactory enrichment for captive primate species: Spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps rufiventris) and Golden Lion Tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia) behavioural responses to predator and lavender odours. University of Birmingham, UK.

Rachel Burton (2017). USING PREDATOR ODOURS TO STIMULATE BEHAVIOURAL CHANGES IN CAPTIVE GOLDEN HEADED LION TAMARINS (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) AND EMPEROR TAMARINS (Saguinus imperator). University of Birmingham, UK.


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Updated:  22 September 2019 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers