Circle of Life: Non-anthropocentric evolutionary tree - by Brenda de Groot

For a world beyond speciesism

Brenda de Groot profile picture

Hi there, and welcome to my website! My name is Brenda.
I am a PhD student at UCLA, studying primates (monkeys). I am interested in how they interact with each other, and how they navigate their lives in the Anthropocene. I am also a visual artist, compassionate conservationist, and animal rights advocate.

Whether it’s research, art, or advocacy that I do, I aim to create a better understanding of our fellow animals’ perspective of the world, and make the latter a better place for all sentient beings who call this planet home.

This website is a journal and portfolio of my animal-infused odyssey. Welcome aboard, and feel free to roam around!

Academic Timeline_

2023 - Now

PhD student

I am currently a PhD student in Primatology at the Department of Anthropology, UCLA.  I am interested in the affective and caring relationships of primates, including topics such as trust, social norms, cuteness perception, and infant handling, and how they navigate their lives in the Anthropocene. I have a sweet spot for lutungs (Trachypithecus spp.).

My ambition is to build bridges between ethology, anthropology, (human/critical) animal studies and ethics.

2020 - 2023

Research Assistant & Teacher

I am currently a teacher at Leiden University and conducting some research and paper writing on the side. I am affiliated with the Comparative Psychology and Affective Neuroscience (CoPAN) lab.

DISI Fellow & Project Coordinator

The Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI) is a 4-week full-time program hosted by the UCLA and funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation. As a participant, I lead a project exploring the opportunities of using ethnographic methods to study animal behaviour, minds and societies.

Since 2022 I worked as a Project Coordinator for DISI.

2019 - 2020

MA Ecology Futures

I followed the MA Ecology Futures visual arts and research pathway at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures. In my projects I critically analysed anthropocentrism in society and minds, and aimed to envision a sentiocentric alternative.

Specialisations: illustration, storytelling, sculpture.

Course in Animal, Nature, and Climate Ethics

During my MA, I followed the course Sustainable World: Humans, Animals and Nature from the MA Applied Ethics at Utrecht University

2013 - 2014

MSc Primate Conservation

Cum laude 

Specialisations: conservation education and the phylogeny, conservation and behaviour of Asian colobines (leaf-eating monkeys).

Thesis project #1: Tails of Cambodia
Thesis project #2: Ecology of the Germain’s Langur (T. germaini)

Grants awarded:
– PSGB Conservation Grant »
– Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Grant »
– Born Free Foundation small grant

2009 - 2012

BSc Psychology (Hons)

Cum laude 

Major in Social Psychology | Honours student

Thesis: Primate empathy: Review of the evidence in two taxa.

Poster presented at the conference Evolution & Human Behaviour in the Low Countries, April 2015, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Extra-curricular courses:
– Evolution and Human Behaviour
– Animal Cognition
– Philosophy of Mind
– Climate Change


Hypocriete veganist header chimpansee - Copyright: Brenda de Groot

Animal Ethnography

Upgrading ethology in the animal turn

I developed a new cross-disciplinary method for studying other animals (i.e. their behaviour, culture and subjective experiences), that takes them seriously as nonhuman persons, agents and subjects of a situated life. It carries the working title animal ethnography, as it applies ethnographic techniques including (but not limited to) participant observation, thick description and video. The approach embraces the collection and publication of qualitative data, to compliment, enrich and deepen existing quantitative studies, with the aim to promote a high level of scientific rigour while facilitating a holistic understanding of animal lives, societies, behaviours and minds.

Hypocriete veganist header chimpansee - Copyright: Brenda de Groot

The Moral Standing of Animals

The psychology of speciesism

How much moral concern do we have for different animals? And to what extend does their sentience, cognitive capacity and likability explain their respective places on the circle of moral concern? In this study explore people’s evaluations of moral standing of a large range of animal species, and the cognitive and affective determinants that contribute to this evaluation. 

This study is currently ongoing, and you can participate
Click the button below to fill out the online survey (~15-20 minutes).


Academic Skills Tutorial

Mentor & tutor
View course

Animal Consciousness

Theme within Consciousness

Psychology and Science

View course

History of Psychology

View course


It all started when my mother gave 3-year-old me a pencil and a piece of paper. I simply never let it go. I drew my way through childhood, fueled by the animals who I ‘studied’ through drawing. Later I added sculpture – which is essentially drawing in 3D – and writing to the mix.

While I love the practice for its own sake, I think art can also play a valuable role for science and animal ethics.

First, art can communicate scientific knowledge and ideas to a broad audience, as it can be viewed, understood and enjoyed by people of all ages, cultures, and corners of society. Thus, through art, academics can reach masses of people.  

Second, works of art have the ability to make people feel. Given that emotions are the leading drivers for our actions, it is art that has the potential to change people’s mindsets and behaviour.

And last but not least: art can show us an alternative of the world as it is. Through visual art and storytelling, we are able to share our visions of the world as it could be. If we know what our envisioned future looks like, then we can go build the path that leads there.

Now combine the ability of art to inform masses of people, make them feel intensely, and to deliver an image of a world we want to work towards, then I think art has great potential for changing the world for the better.

Vegan Monkey_

Fun fact: this website started as a vegan blog, to help inspire a wide audience to adopt a vegan lifestyle, a.k.a. become practicing sentientists.

My life has evolved, but you can still read the articles under the header Vegan Monkey. Note that only some articles are translated into English, since my audience was predominantly Dutch.

Cut the Crap

Twee verhalen over de dierenlevens en levende dieren waar we letterlijk en figuurlijk de schaar in zetten. Verhaal...

Ethics, Vegan
11 May 2019
Digital nomad work Macbook and ice coffee - Copyright Brenda de Groot

Contact me_

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