Winter Is Coming (in Mongolia)

CHES graduate affiliate Tom Conte prepares for winter in Mongolia

Hi! My name is Tom Conte and I am a PhD candidate in evolutionary anthropology at Rutgers. My dissertation research focuses on human social behavior and how natural disasters and environmental risks affect humans' willingness and ability to cooperate with one another. Research suggests that cooperation may have given our earliest ancestors a selective advantage in being able to survive and reproduce in extremely variable East African environments.

Unfortunately, it's not particularly easy to infer how our earliest ancestors may have cooperated from the material and fossil record they left behind. Fortunately, we can also study these issues in living populations as well! My dissertation work focuses on how natural disasters affect cooperation among nomadic herders in Mongolia, where severe winters threaten livestock and economic livelihoods. 

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Experimental economic games are a fascinating way of looking at people's cooperative decision making. In Mongolia, this means a lot of planning and improvisation.

Mongolian herders are nomadic and move between four and eight times each year to new pastures. To remain mobile, most herders live in round felt tents known as gers in Mongolian. They are very comfortable and most are way nicer than my apartment in New Jersey!

Cooperation in Mongolia often centers on preparing for the harsh winters where temperatures can drop as low as -50 Fahrenheit. As I prepare for my first winter in Mongolia, I've decided to cover myself in down clothing and Gore-Tex. My house has been transformed into a sporting goods store.  

Orangutan Release in Borneo

CHES graduate affiliate Liz Ballare emails from Borneo

"I am currently in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia finishing sample collection and field work at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Center. I will continue to mentor a student assistant/counterpart who will return from the Bukit Batikap Release Forest mid-August to help me collect samples on one of three release-practice islands behind the center while collecting data for her undergraduate thesis. Additionally, I am in the final stages of obtaining sample export permits which will allow me to bring fecal samples to Yogyakarta, Indonesia and urine samples back to Rutgers University for analyses."

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"This is a photo of me releasing orangutan Ella with BOSF post-release monitoring coordinator Coral Weaver on April 19, 2016. Ella was confiscated from a local resident in the Pulang Pisau Regency of Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia in 2005. She came to the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Center at two years old weighing just 11kg. After a successful rehab process and time in forest school, Ella was moved to pre-release Kaja Island behind the center where she spent two years before her official release to Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest. Ella is doing remarkably well, enjoying her new found freedom exploring the forest and foraging for food."

Trail Ride

CHES graduate affiliate Michelle Night Pipe writes...

"I have been in South Dakota this summer, mostly working on the Crow Creek Reservation, but also traveling to Rosebud, Yankton, and Lower Brule Reservations for brief visits. I participated in the Sacred Horse Society Ride to Honor the Women and Children (Wayne as well) and I rode nearly five miles. I am beginning the ethnographic portion of my dissertation research, which involves an exploration of the positive intergroup relationships formed between the Native and non-Native communities in central South Dakota, as a result of the annual 176 mile ride."