UCL Anthropology

Dr Gul Deniz Salali

Dr Gul Deniz Salali

British Academy Research fellow

Dept of Anthropology

Faculty of S&HS

Joined UCL
1st Nov 2013

Research summary

In my work, I use an evolutionary biology framework to answer questions on human behaviour, health and culture. My current research is on diet, use of wild plants, child-rearing practices, social learning and health in small-scale societies. For this, I do fieldwork in Congo-Brazzaville living with the Mbendjele BaYaka Pygmy hunter-gatherers.

Ongoing research projects:

  • Social learning in hunter-gatherers and cultural evolution 

  • Diseases of modernity: Comparing physical activity levels, social networks and childrearing practices in hunter-gatherers and Western societies, and the implications on mental health and wellbeing

  • Dietary patterns, immune response and physical activity levels in transitioning hunter-gatherers of the Congo Basin

Teaching summary

Evolutionary Medicine: I teach the Evolutionary Medicine Master’s module as part of the Human Behaviour and Evolution programme. In this module, we explore applications of the tools and concepts of evolutionary biology to medicine. Incorporating examples from my ongoing research on extant hunter-gatherers, we cover a range of topics including evolutionary mismatches; social networks, child-rearing practices and lifestyle across different cultures and their implications on mental health; diet, microbiome and pathogens across hunter-gatherer, rural and urban groups and evolutionary theories on the increased prevalence of “diseases of affluence”; human life-history, development and reproductive health; cancer, aging and degenerative diseases. The course encourages students to gather and combine information from disciplines as diverse as evolutionary biology, anthropology, immunobiology, public health and psychology; actively participate in discussions; and develop their own ideas. 

BioSocial Medical Anthropology: I teach evolutionary medicine as part of the core course of the new Master's in BioSocial Medical Anthropology. 

Current Master's students (2018-2019):

Luke Kretschmer: Physical activity patterns across BaYaka hunter-gatherers with varying market integration

Gray Wirtanen: Childrearing practices in hunter-gatherers and Western societies and developmental outcomes


University College London
, | 2017
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
, | 2012
Universite de Montpellier II
, | 2011
Istanbul Teknik Universitesi
, | 2010


I studied Molecular Biology and Genetics at Istanbul Technical University. During my undergraduate studies I became interested in the field of Ecology and Evolution and did internships on animal behaviour in Switzerland and Ireland. I then went on to pursue a 2-year research Master's in Evolutionary Biology (MEME) funded by the European Union. I worked on projects using computer simulations to investigate evolution of social complexity and human cooperation. I also did behavioural economics experiments on how children learn social norms by copying others. After my Master's, I pursued my dream of doing fieldwork and investigating human societies. I did my PhD at UCL, researching cultural evolution and behavioural adaptations in Pygmy hunter-gatherers in the Congo. During my PhD, I was part of an inter-disciplinary Hunter-Gatherer Resilience team funded by the Leverhulme Trust. I obtained a postdoctoral research fellowship from British Academy after my PhD. I am currently working as a British Academy research fellow and proleptic lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology and Evolutionary Medicine at UCL.