Originally from the Netherlands, Amanda completed her BSc, MPhil and PhD in Biology at Utrecht University. She then had a postdoctoral position at the University of Liverpool and was a guest lecturer at Chester University before moving to BU in 2006.
She is an elected member of the Primate Specialist group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Species Survival Committee where she contributes to international primate conservation policies.
Amanda is interested in the evolution and development of social behaviour of humans and other primates and how this is shaped by both the social and ecological environment they live in. "Primates are fascinating as they live in social groups in which individuals form very close relationships amongst each other," says Amanda. Her work has global significance. By studying primates in the wild, she can contribute to conservation efforts in other habitats around the world. Her extensive field experience across three continents and in very different types of forests is "something I value greatly in helping me develop my subject knowledge."
Her work has taken her to the tropical forests of Indonesia to study Thomas Langurs (a type of primate), the Ivory Coast where she studied black-and-white and olive colobus monkeys for her PhD, Costa Rica where she followed spider monkeys and, more recently, she studied red colobus monkeys and their mating strategies in Uganda. Her professional and personal contacts are extensive: "Being in the field so much means I have friends and colleagues that I can visit in almost every tropical country I go to. This allows me to see places that normal tourists do not have access to and helps me find research places suitable for student projects."
Work in such isolated locations can have its scary moments. Being away from home on her first field trip in an isolated site halfway across the world was a life changing experience. The nearest phone was two hours away and snail mail the only form of communication. It has its fair share of unforgettable memories too: "It's a special thing to enter a rain forest before dawn with a small flashlight (trying not to step on too many snakes), sit under the tree where you know your monkey group is sleeping and wait for the forest (and your monkeys) to wake up (whilst trying to avoid them peeing on you)."
Amanda recently became a mum, which keeps her busy in her spare time. She also enjoys going for long hikes in the countryside and, unsurprisingly, holidays to exotic places with a visit to a tropical forest at least once. "Although a cocktail on the beach watching the sunset is not bad either," she says.
So what's the biggest pressing issue the world faces in her area of research right now? "The disappearance of the tropical forests and the bushmeat trade. Bushmeat trade is a very big problem for West African Primates. In the Ivory Coast, the only areas that had monkeys left were those where researchers were always present. As soon as you left our study area, the forests were silent due to the lack of twittering (yes they sound almost like birds) monkeys."
Emma Tumukugize is now studying at the nursing school of Arua with financial support from Amanda.