Department of Anthropology

Aaron Sandel

Assistant ProfessorPh.D., University of Michigan

Aaron Sandel



chimpanzees, friendship, primates, life history, physiology, conservation, comparative methods, cognition


Aaron Sandel studies wild chimpanzees at Ngogo (pronounced "in-go-go") in Kibale National Park, Uganda. The focus of his research is on social relationships and physiology during adolescence and the transition to adulthood in male chimpanzees. His is also interested in broader issues related to primate cognition, social life, war, and hair.


ANT 392J • Biol Anthro: Behav/Gen/Var-Wb

32240 • Spring 2021
Meets T 9:00AM-12:00PM
Internet; Synchronous

This course is Part 2 of a two semester core curriculum in biological anthropology. Part 1 is NOT a prerequisite, however. Topics covered will include grouping patterns, reproductive strategies and mating systems, socioecology, cooperation, sex differences in behavior, genomics, population genetics, and evolutionary genetic theory in relation to human and nonhuman primates. The course also explores biological variation in genetic, physical, and behavioral traits within and between populations of humans and nonhuman primates, exploring both microevolutionary and cultural processes that have shaped these traits. (Part 1 emphasizes the history of the field of biological anthropology, evolutionary theory, primate systematics, methods of phylogenetic reconstruction, primate diversity and anatomical adaptations, and the human and nonhuman primate fossil record). The course provides an overview of behavioral ecology, molecular anthropology, and biological variation in human and nonhuman primates. The goal of the course is to give students an overview of the field, while allowing students to identify potential areas of research to pursue at the master’s and doctoral levels.

ANT 310C • Primate Cognition-Wb

31015 • Fall 2020
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM
Internet; Synchronous

Why are you so smart?

A key aspect of being human is our intellect. We innovate technology, communicate with language, and solve problems flexibly. We empathize and deceive. We imagine. In many respects, what makes us human is not that we walk upright, or that we are hairless—it's our cognition.

This course will take a comparative approach to understand human psychology by looking at the cognitive abilities of animals with a focus on primates. The course will present experiments and observational studies that examine social learning, self control, tool use, communication, cooperation, and how primates theorize about their worlds, including the minds of others.

Each week we will discuss a topic in primate cognition. We will combine traditional lectures with podcasts, discussions, and activities. For example, Dr. Sandel will interview the authors of many of the research articles that we discuss. Some of these scientists will join our class via video conferencing to enable students to ask their own questions. Students will also have assignments to implement cognitive experiments with their friends and pets (if applicable).

UGS 302 • Origins Of Friend And Foe-Wb

60390 • Fall 2020
Meets MWF 3:00PM-4:00PM
Internet; Synchronous

The Signature Course (UGS 302 and 303) introduces first-year students to the university’s academic community through the exploration of new interests. The Signature Course is your opportunity to engage in college-level thinking and learning.

ANT 347C • Methods In Primate Biology

31725 • Spring 2020
Meets M 1:00PM-2:00PM WCP 4.120

This course focuses on the study of primate behavior and the methods by which animal behavior is observed and documented.  Students will learn how to conduct library research, formulate hypotheses and predictions, devise research projects to test these predictions, collect and analyze data, and write comprehensive research reports describing these results.

1 lecture hour and 3 lab hours per week.

ANT 348K • Primate Conservation

31745 • Spring 2020
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM WCP 4.118

This course will introduce you to the major issues in primate conservation. What are primates and why do they matter? What are the threats facing primates and the ecosystems in which they live?What are the strategies to combat those threats, and how can you as a student at UT Austin make a difference?

ANT 348K • Comparatve Primate Devlpmnt

31723 • Spring 2019
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM JES A217A

What does it mean to be an adult? In the United States, this has become a pressing issue as many young adults seem to be stuck in adolescence. Now there are self help books for parents, including “Getting to 30: A Parent's Guide to the 20-Something Years.” But humans are not the only animal to take a long time to grow up. Primates, especially apes, exhibit long periods of immaturity. This course will discuss primate development, focusing on biological and social definitions of adolescence and adulthood. How has natural selection shaped human and primate development?

The focus of this course will be on “life history theory,” which pertains to the traits related to growth and reproduction, life and death. At what age and size do animals start reproducing? How many offspring do different species tend to have at one time? Why do primates, compared to other mammals, tend to live long and reproduce slowly? How is energy devoted to growth vs. reproduction over the course of individual’s life?

Through lecture and close readings of scientific articles, students will learn about parent-offspring conflict, mating strategies, mammalian patterns of growth, and the methods use to study growth and development. We will grapple with some questions that are difficult to answer. What is adulthood, what are the adaptive reasons for delaying it, and why is it sometimes so hard to “adult”?

It's sort of like Richard Linklater's Boyhood meets Disney's Chimpanzee.

ANT 347C • Methods In Primate Biology

31725 • Spring 2019
Meets M 1:00PM-2:00PM SAC 4.120

Do you want to be the next Jane Goodall? This is the course for you.


Course Description

This course focuses on the study of primate behavior and the methods by which animal behavior is observed and documented. You will learn how to formulate hypotheses and predictions, devise research projects designed to test these predictions, collect data, and write comprehensive scientific research reports describing your results. You will gain familiarity with some widely-used technologies that facilitate wildlife studies (social network analysis, GPS mapping, visualization of spatial data).

Working around a specific research question, individual students will design their own behavioral study, develop and implement a sampling protocol, and collect their own primary data, which they will then analyze and discuss. The final project for this course will involve (1) a presentation to your peers in a conference environment, and (2) a written, comprehensive scientific report.


Flags: Writing; Quantitative Reasoning (pending); Independent Inquiry (pending)


Canvas Site

GRG 356T • Primate Conservation

37182 • Fall 2018
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM SAC 4.174

Please check back for updates.

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