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Dr Elena (Hellen) Bersacola

Dr Elena (Hellen) Bersacola

Postdoctoral Research Associate

 Stella Turk Building 


University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE


My research combines biomonitoring data with local knowledge to help inform biocultural conservation approaches in agro-forest landscape mosaics. I currently focus my work in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, understanding interactions to identify mechanisms of coexistence between humans and nonhuman primates, particularly chimpanzees.


PhD Anthropology and Geography (2016-2019) – Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

MSc Primate Conservation (2011-2012) – Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK




Research interests

My main research interests include:

Human-wildlife interactions, spatiotemporal ecology of wildlife, conservation approaches in agro-forest landscapes, local ecological knowledge, biomonitoring techniques in anthropogenic environments.

I did my PhD on the spatiotemporal ecology of Critically Endangered western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) and other nonhuman primates – including the Endangered Temminck's red colobus (Piliocolobus temminckii), king colobus (Colobus polykomos) – inhabiting the agro-forest landscape of Cantanhez National Park, Guinea-Bissau (West Africa). Prior to my PhD I worked in Angola, carrying out surveys along the biodiversity-rich Angolan Escarpment, which led to describing a new species, namely the Angolan dwarf galago (Galagoides kumbirensis). Previous research also include primate surveys in Indonesian Borneo and Uganda.

Currently, I work with Dr Kim Hockings for our Darwin Initiative project that aims to promote biodiversity conservation, human health and socio-ecological resilience in Cantanhez National Park. Our project consists of a multi-stakeholder collaboration, including the Bissau-Guinean institute for biodiversity and Protected Areas (IBAP), women and youth representatives in Cantanhez and health workers.

Research projects

Darwin Initiative Project: Promoting public health in a biodiverse agroforest landscape in Guinea-Bissau

Main institution: University of Exeter; Principal Investigator: Dr Kim Hockings; Darwin Research Fellow: Dr Elena Bersacola; collaborating institutions: Instituto da Biodiversidade e das Áreas Protegidas (IBAP, Guinea-Bissau), ONG NADEL (Guinea-Bissau), Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia (CRIA, Portugal), Robert Kock Institute (RKI, Germany).



Beja, P., Vaz Pinto, P., Veríssimo, L., Bersacola, E., Fabiano, E., Palmeirim, J. M., et al. (2019). The Mammals of Angola. In B. J. Huntley, V. Russo, F. Lages, & N. Ferrand (Eds.), Biodiversity of Angola: Science & Conservation: A Modern Synthesis.

Bersacola, E., Cheyne, S. M., Rayadin, Y., Sastramidjaja, W. J., & MacDonald, D. W. (2019). Occupancy patterns of ungulates and pig-tailed macaques across regenerating and anthropogenic forests on Borneo. Hystrix, 30(2).

Bersacola, E., Bessa, J., Frazão-Moreira, A., Biro, D., Sousa, C., & Hockings, K. J. (2018). Primate occurrence across a human-impacted landscape in Guinea-Bissau and neighbouring regions in West Africa: using a systematic literature review to highlight the next conservation steps. PeerJ, 6, e4847.

Svensson, M. S., Bersacola, E., Mills, M. S. L., Munds, R. A., Nijman, V., Perkin, A., et al. (2017). A giant among dwarfs: a new species of galago (Primates: Galagidae) from Angola. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 163(1), 30-43.

Bersacola, E., Svensson, M. S., & Bearder, S. K. (2015). Niche partitioning and environmental factors affecting abundance of strepsirrhines in Angola. American Journal of Primatology, 77(11), 1179–1192.

Bersacola, E., Ehlers Smith, D. A., Sastramidjaja, W. J., Rayadin, Y., & Cheyne, S. M. (2014). Population density of Presbytis rubicunda in a small primary dipterocarp forest in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Asian Primates Journal, 4(2), 16–26.


IUCN Red List publications

Minhós, T., Ferreira da Silva, M.J., Bersacola, E., Galat, G., Galat-Luong, A., Mayhew, M. & Starin, E.D. 2020. Piliocolobus badius ssp. temminckii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T18247A92648587.

Svensson, M. & Bersacola, E. (2020). Cercopithecus mitis ssp. mitis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T136943A17984504.

Svensson, M., Bersacola, E., Nijman, V., Mills, S.L., Munds, R., Perkin, A. & Bearder, S. (2020). Galagoides kumbirensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T164378198A164378551.

Svensson, M., Bersacola, E. & Bearder, S. 2019. Galagoides demidoff. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T40649A17962255.




Supervision / Group

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