Dr Sean O'Hara

School of Science, Engineering & Environment

Photo of Dr Sean O'Hara

Contact Details

Room 324, Peel Building, The Crescent, Salford, Greater Manchester, M5 4WT, UK

Current positions



I read Ecology and Environmental Management at Cardiff University and was awarded a First Class honours degree. From there I established myself at the University of Cambridge, first receiving an MPhil in Biological Anthropology before being awarded a joint University of Cambridge–Corpus Christi College scholarship to work toward my PhD. My doctoral research focused on male aggression and female sexuality in wild chimpanzees in Budongo Forest, Uganda. During that two-year field period I served as Assistant Director of the Budongo Forest Project. Three days after my PhD viva I took up my first academic appointment – at Durham University (evolutionary anthropology).

Since then and prior to arriving in Salford I lectured at Liverpool University (evolutionary psychology). I have been an invited or plenary speaker at several events including: Makerere University Field Station meeting (Kibale, Uganda); Primate Society of Great Britain conference; British Academy conference (co-speaker); and Seattle Pacific University. Since arriving in Salford in 2010 I have pursued my interests in social and cognitive evolution in taxa as diverse as: humans and human hunter-gatherers, dholes and dogs, meerkats and mandrills, and chimpanzees and cheetahs.

Areas of Research

Cognition, Animal behaviour, Cognitive evolution, Primates, Dogs, Bears

Areas of Supervision

Are you interested in researching animal behaviour, especially from the perspective of cognition? Perhaps the cognition of bears? Social learning in elephants? The dog-human relationship?

As you can see, my own interests are not taxonomically-constrained, although my research model-system is typically large mammals such as dogs, primates, bears, cheetah.

I am especially interested in the cognitive abilities of dogs and the dog-human relationship, and also in wild chimpanzee behaviour. I am particularly keen to supervise students interested in aspects cognitive and social evolution.

My preference leans toward experimental tests of cognition (this can be in the wild) but purely observational behavioural studies and conservation research is not ruled out, providing the research question is conceptually sound and theory-driven.


I lead several module for Wildlife Conservation; Zoology; and Psychology students. At Level 4 I lead Introduction to Animal Behaviour. At Level 5 I lead Primate Behaviour & Conservation and Wildlife Behavioural Ecology; while at Level 6 I coordinate Animal Cognition & Social Complexity and Tropical Ecology & Conservation. I am, additionally, the programme leader responsible for our exchange students with Otterbein University, USA.

Qualifications and Recognitions

  • Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge

    2001 - 2005
  • Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge

    2000 - 2001
  • Ecology and Environmental Management, Cardiff University

    1996 - 2000