UCL Anthropology

Dr Gul Deniz Salali

Dr Gul Deniz Salali

Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology

Dept of Anthropology

Faculty of S&HS

Joined UCL
1st Nov 2013

Research summary

I research on human behaviour and health using evolutionary approaches. Since 2013, I have been conducting fieldwork in the Congo rainforest studying Mbendjele BaYaka hunter-gatherers. 


My currently active research projects are: 

  • social learning and cultural evolution (check out my blogs on this)
  • evolutionary approaches to health-related behavior and mental health
  • hunter-gatherer diet, health and physical activity 

Teaching summary

I teach the Evolutionary Medicine Master’s course as part of the Human Behaviour and Evolution (HBE), and BioSocial Medical Anthropology Master's programmes at UCL.


In this module, we explore  questions such as “Why do we get sick?”, “Why hasn’t natural selection eliminated the genes causing schizophrenia?” and “Why do we age?”. We do so by exploring the applications of the tools and concepts of evolutionary biology to human health. Incorporating examples from my ongoing research on extant hunter-gatherers, we cover a range of topics including:

  • Evolution and human-microbe interactions
  • Hunter-gatherers as models in public health
  • Subsistence transitions, evolutionary mismatches and non-communicable diseases
  • Human life-history, development and reproductive health; 
  • Evolutionary perspectives on mental health and wellbeing; 
  • Applied evolutionary medicine: COVID-19, future of medicine and how evolutionary thinking can be applied to current health problems.


University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2017
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Other higher degree, Master of Science | 2012
Universite de Montpellier II
Other higher degree, Master of Science | 2011
Istanbul Teknik Universitesi
First Degree, Bachelor of Science | 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.