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Jessica E.M. van der Wal

Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Cape Town

I am a behavioural ecologist intrigued by the profound variation in how different species specialise on resources. I research the ecology and evolution of the remarkable mutualism between human honey-hunters and greater honeyguides. Among the remaining parts of Africa where this mutualism still exists, there is substantial geographical variation in the behaviour and calls honey-hunters use to attract honeyguides to lead them to bee nests. I am interested in mapping the mosaic of mutualism between honeyguides and humans, by investigating the variation in human honey-hunting cultures, and understanding how the birds must adjust and the underlying learning process involved. I employ an interdisciplinary approach to address my research questions, integrating ideas and methodologies from a variety of academic disciplines such as biology, anthropology, linguistics, as well as citizen science.


  • –present
    Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Cape Town


  • 2018 
    St Andrews University, PhD Biology