Home

Ashley Ward


My Work

Academic

I’m Professor of Animal Behaviour at the University of Sydney, where my research focusses on the social behaviour of animals including krill, fish, birds and mammals. I don’t limit myself to this topic, however – I’m equally interested in learning, communication and decision-making in animals. See my contact information below and get in touch.

Author

My first popular science book, The Social Lives of Animals (published previously as an audiobook under the title Animal Societies), was published in early 2022. I’ve since completed a follow-up on the topic of the senses, and since I hate having spare time, I’m now working on a third book.


News

I’m excited to announce that my new book, The Social Lives of Animals, has now been released!

The Social Lives of Animals is available through all good booksellers and is the hard copy version of my 2020 audiobook, Animal Societies.

Our modern world is connected as never before, the proliferation of social media has built upon existing networks to interweave our close personal relationships with a broader web of online associations and communication across the globe. Beyond these connections, society is organised by intricacies of government, law, commerce, public bodies and shared passions. We could be forgiven for thinking that we are the ultimate social animals, that our societies are a human invention. Yet as a species, we have been around for the shortest of periods in evolutionary terms. The oldest fossils of Homo sapiens are dated at around 300,000 years and it’s only in the last ten thousand of these that the Neolithic revolution ushered in a recognisably modern way of living in settlements, interacting with one another and beginning to build what we now think of as our civilisation.

Our animal ancestors – both near and not so near – recognised the benefits of working together, of living in groups, millions of years before our arrival on the planet. From the vast swarms of krill in the icy seas of Antarctica to the communities of our closest animal relations, chimpanzees, thousands of species have adopted a social way of life. By living together, these animals have discovered perhaps the most important behavioural solution to the challenges of life, achieving far more by working in unison than any single individual could alone. The roots of our own social tendencies can be seen in these animal societies, sharing, as we do, so much of our genetic heritage with them. Not only that, but we can find examples of increasingly widespread human problems of isolation, loneliness and depression, as well as the basis of our empathy, altruism and neighbourliness, within the social worlds of animals.


About Me

I’ve been fascinated with animals and their behaviour since I was a child, fossicking in streams, under logs or peering into rockpools. Eventually, I turned it into a career as a biologist and, most recently, as an author.

Using a scientific framework to answer the questions of how and why animals do what they do excites me as much as ever, even now, twenty years since starting my PhD

Address

School of Life and Environmental Science

University of Sydney

Sydney, NSW

Australia

Get In Touch

ashley.ward@sydney.edu.au

+61 (0)2 9351 4778

@ashleyjwward