Lydia Hopper, Ph.D.


Conservation & Science


Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes


Adjunct Scientist


Ph.D. – Psychology, University of St Andrews, UK
B.S. – Psychology & Zoology, University of Liverpool, UK


Areas of Expertise

  • Chimpanzee behavior
  • Primate social cognition
  • Comparative developmental psychology


Lydia joined the Fisher Center in 2012 and directed the non-invasive behavioral and cognitive research conducted with primates living at Lincoln Park Zoo. Lydia’s research focused on understanding how primates learn and innovate new skills, either through trial-and-error problem solving or by watching and copying others. Through her research, Lydia highlighted many nuances of nonhuman primate behavior and has also shown how it compares and relates to our own.

Lydia also applied what she discovers about primate cognition to enhance how we care for these animals in zoos and other captive settings. To measure and evaluate primate welfare, Lydia used a number of established and innovative tools, from observational behavioral assessments to touchscreen tasks that measure mood.

As the assistant director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes until May 2021, Lydia directed the center’s long-term touchscreen research program and designed other novel tool-use and problem-solving tasks to study primate cognition. She also helped train the next generation of primatologists by promoting the professional development of Fisher Center research assistants and interns, and shared the Fisher Center’s research by working with the zoo’s Learning department to interpret daily touchscreen research sessions for zoo guests.