Lynne A. Isbell

Lynne A. Isbell Portrait

Position Title

212 Young Hall
Office Hours
Spring 2024: On sabbatical


  • Ph.D., Animal Behavior, UC Davis, 1990
  • B.A., Ethology, Johnston College of the University of Redlands, 1976


Lynne Isbell studies primates to understand them as mammals, as members of ecological communities, and as building blocks to our own behavior. She focuses on their behavior and ecology, but she is also interested in their evolutionary history. Natural history and fieldwork are her preferred guides for greater understanding. Professor Isbell has published on multiple topics, including predation, food competition, dispersal, the ecology of primate social organizations, the evolution of bipedalism, and the origin of primates. She is a past president of the American Society of Primatologists, a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Research Focus

Professor Isbell’s overarching research interests are largely focused on primate socioecology, and she will study any topic that helps her understand more fully the ecological conditions that have influenced primate social organizations. These include all aspects of food (e.g., competition, spatial and temporal distribution, abundance, and nutrition), predation, dispersal, and ranging behavior. She is field-oriented, and has engaged in multi-year fieldwork in Uganda and Kenya, with briefer forays into Madagascar, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and India. She will not be accepting any new graduate students for Fall, 2025.

Selected Publications

  • Isbell, L.A. 2024. Primate Socioecology: Shifting Perspectives. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Isbell, L.A., Pantaleon, R., and Bradshaw, B. 2022. Black, Brown, and White: Stories Straight Outta Compton. Bobely Books, Davis. California.
  • Isbell, L.A., Bidner, L.R., Loftus, J.C., Kimuyu, D., and Young, T.P. 2021. Absentee owners and overlapping home ranges in a territorial species. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 75:21 (DOI: 10.1007/s00265-020-02945-7).
  • Isbell, L.A., Bidner, L.R., Van Cleave, E.K., Matsumoto-Oda, A., and Crofoot, M.C. (2018). GPS-identified vulnerabilities of savannah-woodland primates to leopard predation and their implications for early hominins. Journal of Human Evolution 118:1-13.
  • Ford, A.T., Goheen, J.R., Otieno, T.O., Bidner, L., Isbell, L.A., Palmer, T.M., Ward, D., Woodroffe, R., and Pringle, R.M. (2014). Large carnivores make savanna tree communities less thorny. Science 346:346-349.
  • Le, Q.V., Isbell, L.A., Nguyen, M.N., Matsumoto, J., Hori, E., Maior, R.S., Tomaz, C., Tran, A.H., Ono, T., and Nishijo, H. (2013). Pulvinar neurons reveal neurobiological evidence of past selection for rapid detection of snakes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110:19000-19005.
  • Isbell, L.A. (2009). The Fruit, the Tree, and the Serpent: Why We See So Well. Harvard University Press, New York.
  • Isbell, L.A. (2006). Snakes as agents of evolutionary change in primate brains. Journal of Human Evolution 51:1-35.
  • Isbell, L.A. (2004). Is there no place like home? Ecological bases of dispersal in primates and their consequences for the formation of kin groups. In Kinship and Behavior in Primates (B. Chapais and C. Berman, eds.). Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 71-108.


Regularly taught courses: ANT 54: Introduction to Primatology; ANT 154A: Evolution of Primate Behavior; ANT 154C/CL: Methods in Primate Behavior; ANT 250: Primate Behavioral Ecology

Honors and Awards

Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2022

President, American Society of Primatologists, 2020-2022

Primates 2020 Most Cited Paper Award for Isbell, L.A. and Etting, S.F. 2017. Scales drive visual detection, attention, and memory of snakes in wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus). Primates 58:121-129.

Elected Fellow, California Academy of Sciences, 2015

W.W. Howells Book Award, Biological Anthropology Section, American Anthropological Association, 2014, for The Fruit, the Tree, and the Serpent: Why We See So Well (Harvard University Press, 2009).

UC Davis Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award Graduate and Professional Teaching, 2010

Dean's Innovation Award, Division of Social Sciences, College of Letters and Science, UC Davis, 2010