Dr Alex Mielke

Alex Mielke

Lecturer in Psychology
Open Science Lead

School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences
Queen Mary University of London
ORCID Google Scholar X


Primates, Cooperation, Communication, Sequences, Grooming, Play


Research Interests:
Primate Sociality and Cooperation

During my PhD, I studied sooty mangabeys and Western chimpanzees in the Tai National Park, Cote d'Ivoire, trying to device ways to compare their social systems. This has led to two broad interests: one, using naturally occurring social behaviour (grooming, grooming interventions, food sharing, spatial association) as decision making situations to quantify the complexity of cognitive processes in wild animals; the other, quantifying the social structures of animals (hierarchies, friendships, association networks) using long-term observational data.

Reproducibility and Replicability in Observational Studies

One result of the work on sociality is the realisation that there are way too many different ways to calculate basic aspects of animal social life from data, and that our data pipelines and current publishing formats do not ensure that two researchers, with the same data, derive the same insights about the animals they study. As most of comparative ethology is indirect (we read published papers and compare our results to theirs, even if they used a different method), we do not know whether reported differences between species are due to biological differences or because researchers used different methods to calculate dominance hierarchies, social networks etc. As a first step, we have started using simulation studies to quantify the impact measurement and sampling error have on different standard methods in animal sociality research, how the choice of different dominance or sociality measures affects results, and how different linear model specifications influence researcher interpretations.

Animal Play

Classically, studies of play have focused on partner choice - who plays with whom. In my work, I focus on the sequence of actions and reactions between players to test whether there are recognisable games and how predictable play is from the viewpoint of the individuals involved. As it is inherently more chaotic, and often faster, than 'serious' behaviours, play can be a measure for the most complex sequences an animal might encounter in their development. It is therefore a good indicator whether complex hierarchical sequence patterns, as we see them in human language, are evident in action sequences of animals - is there a 'grammar' of play, and how does it compare between species.

Non-verbal Communication - Gestures, Calls, and Facial Signals

I've been fortunate enough to work in groups that use different channels to understand non-verbal communication in humans and primates. I am currently involved in work on the syntax of chimpanzee gestural communication. I previously helped develop network-based approaches to quantify facial communication in humans and other species. In mangabeys, we showed the alarm calls follow predictions made by game theoretical models. Throughout, I have used of machine learning models for the study of animal communication systems (here and here for vocalisations; upcoming for gestural communication). I am working to prepare standard tools to analyse sequences of animal behaviour and communication to improve replicability and reproducibility of comparative research in this area.


Relevant PublicationPublications of specific relevance to the Centre for Brain and Behaviour


Relevant PublicationMielke A, Badihi G, Graham KE, Grund C, Hashimoto C, Piel AK, Safryghin A, Slocombe KE, Stewart F, Wilke C, Zuberbühler K and Hobaiter C (2024). Many morphs: Parsing gesture signals from the noise. Behav Res Methods 


Relevant PublicationRincon AV, Waller BM, Duboscq J, Mielke A, Pérez C, Clark PR and Micheletta J (2023). Higher social tolerance is associated with more complex facial behavior in macaques. eLife, eLife Sciences Publications vol. 12 
Relevant PublicationSchofield DP, Albery GF, Firth JA, Mielke A, Hayashi M, Matsuzawa T, Biro D and Carvalho S (2023). Automated face recognition using deep neural networks produces robust primate social networks and sociality measures. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Wiley vol. 14 (8), 1937-1951.  
Relevant PublicationMielke A (2023). Impact of dominance rank specification in dyadic interaction models. PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science (PLoS) vol. 18 (7) 


Relevant PublicationMielke A and Carvalho S (2022). Chimpanzee play sequences are structured hierarchically as games. PeerJ, PeerJ vol. 10 
Relevant PublicationMassen JJM and Mielke A (2022). Third-Party Interactions. Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior  6970-6977.  


Relevant PublicationMielke A, Waller BM, Pérez C, Rincon AV, Duboscq J and Micheletta J (2021). NetFACS: Using network science to understand facial communication systems. Behavior Research Methods, Springer Nature vol. 54 (4), 1912-1927.  
Relevant PublicationMielke A, Bruchmann C, Schülke O and Ostner J (2021). Grooming interventions in female rhesus macaques as social niche construction. Animal Behaviour, Elsevier vol. 173, 105-114.  
Relevant PublicationMielke A, Preis A, Samuni L, Gogarten JF, Lester JD, Crockford C and Wittig RM (2021). Consistency of Social Interactions in Sooty Mangabeys and Chimpanzees. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Frontiers vol. 8 


Relevant PublicationTkaczynski PJ, Mielke A, Samuni L, Preis A, Wittig RM and Crockford C (2020). Long-term repeatability in social behaviour suggests stable social phenotypes in wild chimpanzees. Royal Society Open Science, The Royal Society vol. 7 (8) 
Relevant PublicationJulle-Danière E, Whitehouse J, Mielke A, Vrij A, Gustafsson E, Micheletta J and Waller BM (2020). Are there non-verbal signals of guilt? PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science (PLoS) vol. 15 (4) 
Relevant PublicationMielke A, Crockford C and Wittig RM (2020). Predictability and variability of association patterns in sooty mangabeys. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Springer Nature vol. 74 (4) 
Relevant PublicationGba BC, Bene J-CK, Bi ZBG, Mielke A and Kone I (2020). Within-group spatial position and activity budget of wild sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys) in Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire. International Journal of Biological and Chemical Sciences, African Journals Online (AJOL) vol. 13 (7), 2991-3008.  


Relevant PublicationSamuni L, Mielke A, Preis A, Crockford C and Wittig RM (2019). Intergroup Competition Enhances Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) In-group Cohesion. International Journal of Primatology, Springer Nature vol. 41 (2), 342-362.  
Relevant PublicationMielke A, Crockford C and Wittig RM (2019). Snake alarm calls as a public good in sooty mangabeys. Animal Behaviour, Elsevier vol. 158, 201-209.  
Relevant PublicationMielke A, Crockford C and Wittig R (2019). Rank changes in female chimpanzees in Taï National Park. The Chimpanzees of the Taï Forest  290-300.  
bullet iconGogarten JF, Düx A, Mubemba B, Pléh K, Hoffmann C, Mielke A, Müller‐Tiburtius J, Sachse A, Wittig RM, Calvignac‐Spencer S and Leendertz FH (2019). Tropical rainforest flies carrying pathogens form stable associations with social nonhuman primates. Molecular Ecology, Wiley vol. 28 (18), 4242-4258.  


Relevant PublicationSamuni L, Preis A, Mielke A, Deschner T, Wittig RM and Crockford C (2018). Social bonds facilitate cooperative resource sharing in wild chimpanzees. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, The Royal Society vol. 285 (1888) 
Relevant PublicationPreis A, Samuni L, Mielke A, Deschner T, Crockford C and Wittig RM (2018). Urinary oxytocin levels in relation to post-conflict affiliations in wild male chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). Hormones and Behavior, Elsevier vol. 105, 28-40.  
Relevant PublicationMielke A, Preis A, Samuni L, Gogarten JF, Wittig RM and Crockford C (2018). Flexible decision-making in grooming partner choice in sooty mangabeys and chimpanzees. Royal Society Open Science, The Royal Society vol. 5 (7) 
bullet iconGogarten JF, Davies TJ, Benjamino J, Gogarten JP, Graf J, Mielke A, Mundry R, Nelson MC, Wittig RM, Leendertz FH and Calvignac-Spencer S (2018). Factors influencing bacterial microbiome composition in a wild non-human primate community in Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire. The ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology, Oxford University Press (OUP) vol. 12 (10), 2559-2574.  
Relevant PublicationMielke A, Preis A, Samuni L, Gogarten JF, Wittig RM and Crockford C (2018). Flexible decision-making in grooming partner choice in sooty mangabeys and chimpanzees. ROYAL SOCIETY OPEN SCIENCE vol. 5 (7) 


Relevant PublicationMielke A, Samuni L, Preis A, Gogarten JF, Crockford C and Wittig RM (2017). Bystanders intervene to impede grooming in Western chimpanzees and sooty mangabeys. Royal Society Open Science, The Royal Society vol. 4 (11) 


Relevant PublicationLameira AR, Hardus ME, Mielke A, Wich SA and Shumaker RW (2016). Vocal fold control beyond the species-specific repertoire in an orang-utan. Scientific Reports, Springer Nature vol. 6 (1) 


Relevant PublicationMielke A and Zuberbühler K (2013). A method for automated individual, species and call type recognition in free-ranging animals. Animal Behaviour, Elsevier vol. 86 (2), 475-482.  


solid heart iconGrants of specific relevance to the Centre for Brain and Behaviour
solid heart iconEarly Career Fellowship: Dr Alexander Mielke-GRANT TRANSFER
Alexander Mielke
£39,083 Leverhulme Trust (01-07-2023 - 31-10-2024)