Zina Morbach

Research interests: Stress and resilience; animal behaviour; primatology; socio-biology; endocrinology; evolutionary and biological anthropology; social networks; heart rate and heart rate variability; parasitology; conservation and welfare

Biography: I first started to become interested in animal behaviour during my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Münster, Germany, during which I did a semester abroad at the University of Copenhagen. Here I was able to work with Prof Torben Dabelsteen on the development of vocalization in a small parrot species; back in Germany I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis with Prof Sylvia Kaiser and Prof Norbert Sachser where I investigated the effects of handling on different behavioural measures and stress response in guinea pigs. Since then I have been riveted by all things hormone and stress related!

Subsequently, I did my Master’s degree in Developmental, Neural and Behavioural Biology at the University of Göttingen, Germany, which collaborates with the German Primate Centre and are as such one of the biggest centres for animal behaviour, and especially primatology, in Germany. One of the most instructive parts was the field trip to their field site in Kirindy, Madagascar, where we learned to observe lemurs and could experience ‘life in the field’ for the first time. In conclusion of my degree, I wrote my thesis on gastro-intestinal parasite presence and social network position in Barbary macaques under the supervision of Prof Julia Ostner and PD Oliver Schülke. For this project, I was kindly allowed to collect my data at the monkey park ‘Affenberg Salem’. To broaden my understanding of animal behaviour, I did an internship during my degree at the Wolf Science Centre in Austria, where I also worked as a research assistant after finishing my degree, and were able to investigate another measure of stress, i.e. heart rate and heart rate variability in wolves and their trainers during different test situations (under the supervision of Prof Kurt Kotrschal).

Currently, I am doing my PhD at the University of Roehampton on the topic of ‘Social resilience and stress reactivity in chacma baboons’ for which I have collected my data on a wild troop of baboons at the field site of the Primate and Predator Project (run by Prof Russell Hill, Durham University) in South Africa.


  • 2016    Christian Vogel Fond für Freilandforschung, German Primatological Society (grant for field work)
  • 2015    VC Scholarship (University of Roehampton)
  • 2013    PROMOS Scholarship (Göttingen University)
  • 2011    Erasmus Scholarship (Münster University)

Conference contributions

  • 07/2017  Conference of the South African Primatological Society PEGG, Swadini Forever Resort, South Africa, “Social resilience and stress reactivity in chacma baboons” (oral presentation)
  • 02/2015  Conference of the German Primatological Society, Leipzig, Germany, “Gastro-intestinal parasite prevalence and social network position in Barbary macaques at Affenberg Salem” (oral presentation)
  • 01/2015  Student conference, EGI Oxford, UK, “Social resilience and stress reactivity in Barbary macaques” (poster presentation)
  • 07/2014 Conference of the International Society of Anthrozoology, Vienna, Austria, “Heart rate and heart rate variability of wolves (Canis lupus occidentalis) and their trainers in two different test situations” (poster presentation)