Zoë Goldsborough

IMPRS Doctoral Student

Main Focus

I am a behavioral ecologist, studying the cultural transmission of behaviors and how this relates to socio-ecological, environmental, and individual differences. By combining observations with non-invasive experiments and statistical modeling, I aim to learn more about animal culture. Specific topics that I have been working on in chimpanzees are individual variation in abnormal behavior, social learning, communication, and individual responses to socially disruptive events, such as death. On the latter, I have published the response of a group of captive chimpanzees towards a bereaved mother after the stillbirth of her infant. This study is especially important to me, as it highlights the capacity for compassion and empathy in non-human species, and how death not only affects an individual, but also its social relationships.

Fascinated by cultural customs, I researched the grooming handclasp in sanctuary-housed chimpanzees in Zambia. For my PhD, I study learning and tool-use in island-living white-faced capuchins at Coiba National Park, Panama. I aim to discover which factors drive the development of tool use, as island populations seem to be more prone to develop such behavior.

Seeing the necessity to improve animals’ lives in captivity and protecting their habitats, I care a lot about animal welfare and environmental issues. Besides, I really enjoy reading, being on the Lake Constance, going hiking and climbing.

Curriculum Vitae

I'm an ambitious researcher with a strong passion for animal behavior, specifically social learning, welfare, and communication. 


IMPRS Doctoral Student at University of Konstanz & MPI of Animal Behavior, Konstanz, Germany
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Meg C. Crofoot & Dr. Brendan J. Barrett

I'm currently studying social learning and tool use in white-faced capuchins

Research Assistant at Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands

I conducted experiments on captive chimpanzees for a project on prosocial behavior and assisted in data coding and statistical analyses. 

Research Assistant for Emory University at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, Zambia

I assisted in the data collection of a PhD student studying empathy, which comprised of observations and experimental work.

Teacher’s Assistant at Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands

I gave lectures and monitored a mini research assignment as a teaching assistant in an
undergraduate course on animal behavior.


Program Designer & Psychology Teacher at Summer School Junior Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands

I designed a psychology program for primary school students and gave lectures to 80
students at a time during a three week summer school.

2017 - 2019

Tutor at StudentsPlus Tutoring, the Netherlands

Tutoring of primary and high school students on topics such as English and Biology,
providing a personalized approach and guidance.

2016 - 2018
Voluntary Animal Caretaker at Mammal Department, Stichting AAP, Almere, the Netherlands

I took care of the animals in the mammal department, which holds a variety of species
ranging from cats to primates. My duties included cleaning of enclosures, shifting animals,
preparing and distributing food, and designing enrichment.


2019 Workshop 'Social Network Analyses', Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
2017-2019 Master’s Degree in Behavioural Ecology, Utrecht University
Grade: 8.7/10.0 (Cum laude)

Master’s Thesis: A Phylogeny of Social Learning: Assessing Recent Literature on Stimulus

and Local Enhancement, supervised by Dr. E. O’Sullivan & Dr. M.J.H.M. Duchateau
Major Research Project: Assessing Individual Variation in Abnormal Behavior in Zoo-Housed Chimpanzees at Burger's Zoo, Arnhem. Supervised by Dr. C.E. Webb & Prof. Dr. E.H.M. Sterck
Minor Research Project: Initiation of Handclasp Grooming in Chimpanzees at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, Zambia. Supervised by Dr. E.J.C. van Leeuwen & Dr. A.M. Schel


Honour’s Bachelor Degree in Environmental & Neuro-Sciences, University
College Roosevelt. GPA: 3.9/4.0 (Summa cum laude)

Honour's Thesis: The Effect of Visitor Density on the Behavior of Two Zoo-Housed Siberian Tigers. Supervised by Dr. I. Flameling & Dr. M.J.H.M. Duchateau
Individual Research Project: Review of genome editing technique CRISPR-Cas9


  • Goldsborough, Z., Crofoot, M. C. C., Alavi, S. E., Garza, S. F., Del Rosario-Vargas, E., Tiedeman, K., Monteza-Moreno, C. M., & Barrett, B. J. (2022). Coupling of Coastal Activity with Tidal Cycles is Stronger in Tool-using Capuchins (Cebus capucinus imitator). bioRxiv 2022.12.22.521421; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.12.22.521421 (Preprint)

  • Goldsborough, Z., Schel, A. M., van Leeuwen, E. J. C. (2023). Chimpanzees communicate to coordinate a cultural practice. Proc. R. Soc. B. 29020221754 20221754  https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2022.1754

  • Van Leeuwen. J.C., Goldsborough, Z. (2023). What animal cultures may beget: Comment on "Blind alleys and fruitful pathways in the comparative study of cultural cognition" by Andrew Whiten, Physics of Life Reviews, 44, 99-101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plrev.2022.12.010

  • Goldsborough, Z., Sterck, E. H. M., de Waal, F. B. M., & Webb, C. E. (2022). Individual Variation in Chimpanzee Repertoires of Abnormal Behavior, Animal Welfare, 31(1), 125-135. https://doi.org/10.7120/09627286.31.1.011

  • Goldsborough, Z., Webb, C. E., de Waal, F. B., & van Leeuwen, E. J. (2021). Zoo-housed female
    chimpanzee adopts local female-specific tradition upon immigrating into a new group,
    158(6), 547-564.
  • Goldsborough, Z., van Leeuwen, E.J.C., Kolff, K.W.T., de Waal, F.B.M. & C.E. Webb (2019), ‘Do
    chimpanzees (
    Pan troglodytes) console a bereaved mother?’, Primates 61: 93-102.
  • Goldsborough, Z. (2017), 'The Effect of Visitor Density on the Behaviour of Two Siberian Tigers
    Panthera tigris altaica) Housed in a Zoo Enclosure: A Case Study', Reinvention: an International
    Journal of Undergraduate Research, BLASTER 2017, Special Issue


2019     Animal Behavior Society Student Research Grant (600 USD)
U/SELECT Honour’s Society Grant (2500 EUR)


2022    Presentation at joint EFP-GfP Conference 2022, Arnhem
            I held a talk about my PhD research on tool use and tidal cycles in white-faced capuchins for                which I was awarded the prize for 3rd Best Student Talk. 

2021   Presentation on handclasp grooming at Virtual CES Meeting

            Poster presentation on handclasp grooming at Virtual ASAB Easter Meeting
2019    Guest lecture on Thanatology, Harvard University
            Invited guest lecture on thanatology in primates for the BSc course Primate Social Behavior
2018    Presentation at Benelux Congress of Zoology, Royal Belgian Zoological Society
            Poster and talk about individual differences in abnormal behavior in chimpanzees
            Poster presentation at 3rd Symposium of NVD (Dutch Association of Zoos)
            On effect of visitor density on tigers, awarded with the prize for best poster


2022    Prize for 3rd Best Student Talk at joint EFP-GfP Conference 2022, Arnhem

2020    Primates 2020 Social Impact Award for "Do Chimpanzees Console a Bereaved Mother?"
    Poster Prize at 3rd Scientific Symposium of NVD, Dutch Association of Zoos

    Second examiner and supervisor at University College Roosevelt, Middelburg, the Netherlands for Bachelor Thesis "A Review of Ecological and Social Factors Driving Tool Use by Animals on Islands" by Anna Sherlock

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