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Dr Derek Murphy

Dr Derek Murphy

Research Associate

Room 3.01 David Attenborough Building


I am a postdoc working with Dr Hannah Mumby on the Bull Elephant Network Project, which aims to gain a greater understanding of the ecology and behaviour of male African elephants and to apply this knowledge to conservation efforts. I am interested in the social relationships between individuals. This is an area about which we know very little for male elephants. I use social network analysis to investigate the social environment and network dynamics of free-ranging male elephants in South Africa.

I did my PhD with Professor David Lusseau at the University of Aberdeen, and Professors Louise Barrett and Peter Henzi at the University of Lethbridge in Canada. My research focussed on the socio-ecological drivers of social network dynamics in monkey groups. Prior to that, I completed an MSc in Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter, with a research focus on vocal communication in primates.

Research Interests

I am interested in how groups of social animals function as complex adaptive systems. That is, I am interested in the patterns of interactions and associations between individuals within a social group, how these change over time and in response to social and ecological pressures, and the costs and benefits of maintaining these social ties to the individual and the group.


Key Publications

McFarland, R., Murphy, D., Lusseau, D., Henzi, S. P., Parker, J. L., Pollet, T. V., & Barrett, L. (2017). The ‘strength of weak ties’ among female baboons: fitness-related benefits of social bonds. Animal Behaviour126, 101-106.

Murphy, D., Lea, S. E. G., & Zuberbuehler, K. (2013). Male blue monkey alarm calls encode predator type and distance. Animal Behaviour85(1), 119-125. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.10.015