Bringing animal cultures to life

Friday 17 April 2015

Professor Andrew Whiten FSB RSE FBA, Wardlaw Professor of Psychology and Professor of Evolutionary and Developmental Psychology at the University of St Andrews, has been awarded the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Senior Prize and Medal for Public Engagement for his success engaging the public with academic research.

The award recognises excellence in communicating and facilitating engagement: an important step towards ensuring that ‎the public receives the greatest benefit from St Andrews’ pioneering research and innovation.

Professor Whiten wins RSE prize

Professor Whiten has been involved in extensive, creative and unique forms of public engagement, particularly as founding Director of the “Living Links to Human Evolution” Research Centre at Edinburgh Zoo. The University’s “Living Links” primate centre was intentionally situated not in St Andrews but in the Zoo, to welcome visitors to view live science in action and participate in a wide range of science engagement activities. Over 250,000 visitors are estimated to have visited Living Links annually since it opened in 2008.

Professor Whiten  also delivered a prize lecture “The Cultures of the Apes and Other Animals” at St Matthews Academy as part of the RSE’s “TalkScience” outreach project in Irvine Bay, and contributed to the TalkScience programme designed to inspire youngsters to a career in science with a related talk to over 250 pupils of the S1/S2 classes at the Academy.

Professor Whiten said:

“I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful team working with me who have done wonders sharing their enthusiasm and expertise with the public at Living Links and across the UK, particularly Mark Bowler, Lewis Dean, Alaina Macri, Emily Messer, Steve Smart and Lara Wood. I hope they rightfully see this award as recognising their contributions too.”

Professor Whiten and his team’s award-winning engagement activities continue this weekend with a series of games, displays and mini-talks at Edinburgh Zoo as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

From Friday 17 – Sunday 19 April people of all ages can drop in on the “Animal Cultures” events, and hear researchers from across the UK discuss their work on the amazing social lives of animals. An interactive trail will highlight how species such as capuchin monkeys, parrots and lemurs pass on their knowledge to others.

Notes to news editors

More details of the Animal Cultures collaboration.

Details of the Edinburgh International Science Festival events.

The Senior Prize for Public Engagement from the Royal Society of Edinburgh is supported by the James Weir Foundation.

Last year the Society awarded Professor Whiten the James Black Prize and Medal, the Society’s senior prize in the life sciences. Professor Whiten is the first scientist to be awarded the premier medals of the Society for both his scientific and science communication achievements.

Photo shows Professor Tariq Durrani, Vice President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, presenting Professor Whiten with his award.

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