HomeGRADUATION BLOGPrimatology 101: A Beginner's Guide For Future Primatologists

Primatology 101: A Beginner’s Guide For Future Primatologists

All types of primatologists standing together on a big tree.

Are you looking for some inspiration to embark on the journey into the fascinating world of Primatology, then look no further because this is exactly what you are going to get here. In this blog post, we are going to deep dive into a field that is as fascinating and equally crucial to our understanding of nature and ourselves as well.

We are going to cover:

Introduction to Primatology

Remember Uncle Charles Darwin? Even though he was not a Primatologist, he proposed the idea of common ancestry in the theory of evolution and natural selection, as outlined in his works “On the Origin of Species” (1859) and “The Descent of Man” (1871). The idea that all life shares a common ancestor helps explain the similarities among the primate species. It can be said that Primatology is the scientific study of primates, our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom.

Read for: what is primatology?

What are Primates?

Primates are a group of mammals, That includes Lemurs, Lorises, Tarsiers, Monkeys, Apes, and Humans. They are known for their complex behaviors, diets, and advanced cognitive abilities. After rodents and bats, Primates are the third most diverse group of mammals. Although there are many variations among them, they do share several characteristics reflective of their common ancestry.

How Many Classifications of Primates Are There?

Different types of primates celebrating in jungle

Primates are classified into two major groups. Up until 1970 primates were classified as Prosimians and Anthropoids (Simians). Prosimians are primitive primates, which include lemurs, lorises, and tarsiers. Anthropoids were divided into monkeys, apes, and humans. In 1970 the classification was revised. Primates are still classified into 2 major groups, Strepsirrhini (lemurs and lorises) and Haplorrhini (tarsiers, monkeys, and apes, including humans). In this updated classification Tarsiers were added to a second subgroup.

Why the study of primatology is important?

Primatology is one of the most important branches of zoology. It not only helps us understand our roots and what pushed us to the next stage of evolution, but it is also an important scientific study for the conservation of remaining primates. Many primates are under threat and are endangered due to various habitat destruction and illegal hunting. Primatology plays a critical role in preserving their natural lifestyle. Another important reason to study primatology is to conduct medical research, as they are closest in structure and genetics to humans.

What are the major fields within Primatology?

Primatology is a broad field of science and covers various study areas related to primates. Here is the list of some of the primary fields within primatology:

  • Behavioral Ecology
  • Cognitive Ethology
  • Conservation Biology
  • Comparative Psychology
  • Cultural Primatology
  • Ethnoprimatology
  • Evolutionary Anthropology
  • Functional Anatomy and Morphology
  • Genetics and Genomics
  • Neuroscience
  • Paleoprimatology and Paleontology
  • Primate Rehabilitation and Welfare
  • Social Anthropology
  • Veterinary Science and Primatology

How to Become a Primatologist

Since Primatology is a diverse and interdisciplinary study, you can start by taking foundational courses as early as high school. You can start by choosing Biology and if possible zoology. Then you can build on the foundation in college and add more relevant courses like Ecology, Anthropology, and data analysis. These courses will lay the groundwork for a degree in Primatology. And then, getting your feet in the mud is compulsory to become a good Primatologist because fieldwork is paramount to understanding the primates’ natural environment.

Challenges and Rewards of Being a Primatologist

It must be said that primatology is not just a theoretical field of study that could be done by applying analytical techniques from your desk. Fieldwork, getting your boots muddy, so to speak, is a must, and it plays a pivotal role in understanding primate behavior in their natural environment.

Fieldwork can be demanding, and the fight for the conservation and protection of primates is an uphill battle against deforestation, poaching, and climate change. Equally, the rewards are significant if you are up for it. The thrill of discovering a new primate behavior, the fulfillment of actually saving an environment, and the contribution to the preservation of a species are immense.

Best Primatology Books

Here are some of the best primatology books to read if you are interested.

Best Primatology documentaries:

  • “Jane” (2017): A documentary on Jane Goodall’s early research and her life among chimpanzees.
  • “Virunga” (2014): A powerful film on the efforts to save the last of the world’s mountain gorillas in Congo.
  • “Monkey Kingdom” (2015): Narrated by Tina Fey, this documentary looks into the lives of macaques living in the jungles of Sri Lanka.

Best websites for primatology resources

  • Primate Info Net: Hosted by the National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, this website offers a wealth of information on Primatology and research.
  • The Jane Goodall Institute: Provides information on Jane Goodall’s work and ongoing research efforts by the institute.
  • Global Primate Network: A platform specifically for Primatologists to share their research strategies and offers opportunities for collaboration.

Universities Offering Primatology Programs

  • Duke University: Department of Evolutionary Anthropology Offers many graduate and undergraduate programs in Evolutionary Anthropology with opportunities for primate research.
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison: This university is home to a renowned Primate Research Center and offers many primatology-related courses.
  • Oxford Brookes University: Oxford Brooke’s postgraduate course in primatology and conservation is a research-intensive course. It combines both anthropology and biology with a focus on primate research.

Scholarships and Funding Opportunities for Primatology research.

Why become a Primatologist?

Because primatologists make a difference in the world. If the natural world fascinates you and you have the desire to know your place within it, then becoming a Primatologist is the perfect choice for you. Studying primates offers deep insights into human behavior and helps us understand our cognitive abilities. This is a fulfilling career as it combines adventure, science, profession, and the preservation of species altogether.

How to get involved in Primatology as a High School Student?

If you are serious about making a career in Primatology, then it is a good idea to start early. You can start by deepening your knowledge by reading relevant books, watching documentaries, or following favorite social media accounts related to Primatology. You can take online courses related to primates to understand their behavior and conservation. Additionally, volunteering at local zoos or wildlife sanctuaries can also provide starting experience. Participating in science fairs or biology projects related to primates are good place to start your Primatology journey.

What Qualities Do You Need to Become a Good Primatologist?

To become a good Primatologist, you need to have curiosity and resilience, but most importantly, you must have patience. This is fundamental in your ability to observe quietly for a long period. Being able to observe is very crucial for fieldwork. You should also be able to concentrate on the smallest things possible as well. Another strong quality is to have strong analytical skills to help in research and analysis. Last but not least, communication skills are also necessary to present your case or research to the world.

What Are Some of the Challenges Facing Primates Today?

Primates are facing threats including habitat destruction due to increased deforestation, illegal wildlife trades, and climate change. Poaching is another threat these nearly extinct species are facing. These threats require a multi-front effort including community engagement across the board, policy change, and global cooperation to ensure the survival of primates.

What Do Primatologists Do When Not Working in the Field?

When not in the field, Primatologists spend most of their time analyzing data that they have gathered during fieldwork. They will be writing research papers based on that data and will be applying for grants to fund future research. When not working in the field, they can also work in a university or an educational institute, delivering lectures, or they can also give talks or attend seminars to share their findings and raise awareness.

Is it hard to become Primatologist?

No, it is not hard to become a primatologist, but it is a rewarding career. You will typically need a bachelor’s degree in the field of anthropology, zoology, biology, or any closely related field. Having said that, it is also a very challenging career, as you will need significant experience to work with primates. Fieldwork can be hard, as you will often work in harsh environments. But hey, isn’t that the case with everything in life? Anything can be achieved through enough hard work and dedication.

What qualification do you need to become a primatologist?

You will typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in the field of anthropology, zoology, biology, or any closely related field

What is average Primatologist salary?

In the US, the average primatologist’s salary is around $60,000. High end of range is around $100,000 and on low side it goes to $40000 range. Keep in mind, salaries vary due to various factors like location, job position, work experience, and level of research. Salary can vary depending on whether you are employed in academia or research and whether you are working in the private or public sector.


Primatology is more than just a study; it is a window into our past and a guide for our future. It challenges us to think and prompts us to protect. If you have a passion for Primates, that passion can lead to discoveries that will not only expand our knowledge of the known world but will safeguard it for generations to come.

This comprehensive guide should help anyone interested in the field of Primatology to start their journey, understand the importance of the field, and navigate through the challenges and rewards that come with pursuing a career in this fascinating area of study.

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