Dr. Sean O'Hara

School of Science, Engineering and Environment

Photo of Dr. Sean O'Hara

Contact Details

Peel Building - Room 324

Please email for an appointment.


Current positions

Lecturer in Wildlife Cognition and Behaviour


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 towards 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


I am the Programme Leader for our two undergraduate Wildlife Conservation degree programmes. Additionally, at Level 6 I coordinate Animal Cognition & Social Complexity as well as Primate Behaviour & Conservation at Level 5.

I supervise students seeking to elucidate the cognitive abilities of humans and other animals, and animal behaviour. 

Research Interests

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. 

Qualifications and Memberships


  • BSc (Hons), Cardiff University
  • MPhil University of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College
  • PhD University of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College


  • Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB)
  • Northern England Primate Group (NEPG)
  • Cambridge Biological Society