Vesta graduated in Philosophy at the Sapienza University of Rome in 2016. She received an MSc in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology in 2019 and an MSc in Psychology in 2021, both from the University of St Andrews.
Vesta´s research interests broadly regard animal social cognition and communication as well as understanding language evolution through a comparative lens. Vesta is particularly interested in the flexibility of the forms and functions of animal communication using chimpanzees and elephants as model species. Her MSc thesis investigated individual and group differences in the acoustic properties of chimpanzee buttress drumming as well as the functions of this signal for long-distance and short-distance communication. Her master’s research project explored the presence of syntax, reference, and teaching in the gestural communication of wild Central African chimpanzees.
Vesta´s PhD project explores the evolution and functions of multimodal communication by looking at how, when, and why African savannah elephants combine gestures and vocalizations in multicomponent and multimodal combinations. In order to do so, her PhD project represents the first systematic investigation of elephant gestural communication. Specifically, she is investigating whether elephants gesture with first-order intentionality to achieve cognitively represented goals (Dennett, 1983; Grice, 1969; Tomasello et al., 1985) and what is the repertoire of elephant gestures, and she aims to provide a first lexicon of their meanings (i.e., goals). Her PhD is part of the doctoral program DK Cognition and Communication based at the Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna, Austria.
Vesta has done field research and conservation in remote environments in South Africa and Uganda since 2018.
.. To wake up to the web of intelligence,
to the wild origins of sentience,
to find your voice and raise it,
that others may raise theirs’