Ashley Ward

My Work


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.


I recently completed my first popular science book, Animal Societies, and since I hate having spare time, I’ve begun work on a follow-up. Animal Societies is my fourth book, following earlier forays into fish behaviour and an academic book, Sociality, on the behavioural ecology of group-living animals


I’m excited to announce that my new book, Animal Societies, has been released on Audible

Animal Societies is available via: Audible UK, Audible Australia and NZ, Audible US, Audible Canada, Audible France, Audible Germany and Audible India

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


School of Life and Environmental Science

University of Sydney

Sydney, NSW


Get In Touch


+61 (0)2 9351 4778