Carel van Schaik lecture

van SchaikCarel van Schaik (Director, Anthropological Institute, University of Zürich) gave a lecture today on cognition in orangutans. He focused on how curiosity (or rather, a fascinating apparent deficit in curiosity in orangutans), social experience when young, and ecological conditions help to explain the advanced cognitive and innovative skills of this Great Ape. Part of Dr. van Schaik's discussion also focused on very interesting differences between the Sumatran and Bornean species of orangutans, as well as the contributions of research on orangutans in captivity and in rehabilitation centers in Indonesia.

CHES Grad Affiliate Brittain Gets Grant


CHES Graduate Affiliate Rebecca Brittain just received a grant from the American Institute for Indonesian Studies (AIFIS) Henry Luce Foundation. These funds will help to support the dissertation research that Becca is currently doing in Indonesia, "The Role of the Gut Microbiome in Digestion and Energy Production In Wild Borenean Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii)." Becca is also supported by a CHES Albert Fellows Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant. Congratulations, Becca!

Third Lembersky Conference Success

CHES Lembersky Conference 2019A highly successful Third Lembersky Conference ended today. Organized by Erin Vogel (CHES Faculty Member) and Jessica Rothman (Hunter College), the program in primate nutritional ecology, energetics, and health included presentations by 22 scholars including CHES members Gloria Dominguez-Bello, Dan Hoffman, Dominique Raboin, and Erin Vogel, as well as CHES Alumni (now pursuing postdocs) Tim Bransford and Mareike Janiak. What was especially stimulating were the discussions among all of the participants and audience members.

CHES alum Dr. Tim Bransford begins Postdoc

BransfordTim Bransford successfully defended his dissertation less than two months ago, and has now begun working with Dr. Mitch Irwin as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University. For his dissertation, Tim investigated the energetics and nutrition of wild mother orangutans during lactation. For this postdoc, Tim will be continuing work on primate nutrition, but this time with various species of lemurs found at Tsinjoarivo, Madagascar. One of his early projects will be studying the diet of the bamboo lemur, which includes foods very high in the deadly chemical cyanide. This primate’s daily intake of cyanide is four times greater than the amount that would kill a human and twelve times higher than the dose that would kill a similarly sized primate. How do these lemurs manage to handle such high levels of this toxin? Tim’s research will provide some answers. We wish Tim the best of luck!

Grad Affiliate Fred Foster Publishes Paper on Dental Evolution


CHES PhD student Fred Foster just published with coauthor P.J. Constantino a paper testing the hypothesis that wear resistance of tooth enamel changes as a tooth is worn down. Fred and his collaborator applied the microscratch test to the surface of three transverse sections cut through molars from an olive baboon, each of which simulated different degrees of microwear. The research, funded by CHES, showed that as macrowear accrues, the ability of baboon tooth enamel to resist microwear changes, such that a moderate degree of macrwear offers the best resistance to microwear. In the first use of helium ion microscopy to study tooth enamel, Fred imaged prism orientation at each of the three sample surfaces, which generated evidence suggesting different mechanical processes may be involved in the removal of enamel due to microwear, depending on the extent of microwear. The paper can be found at:

Foster, F.R. and Constantino, P.J. 2019. Macrowear and the mechanical behavior of enamel. In: Dental Wear in Evolutionary and Biocultural Contexts (C.B. Schmidt and J.T. Watson, editors). Elsevier, Amsterdam.

CHES Alum Dr. Sarah Hlubik begins Postdoc

Hlubik news storyCHES Alum Sarah Hlubik has just begun a postdoc at the Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology at George Washington University. Sarah obtained her PhD in Anthropology in 2018 for her dissertation "Finding Prometheus: Evidence for fire in the Early Pleistocene at FxJj20 AB, Koobi Fora, Kenya." For her postdoc, she will be working Dr. Dave Braun on the faculty at GW (who is also a CHES Alum, 2006!) to further develop her research on fire from a site-based to a landscape-based perspective. One aspect of this research will allow Sarah to better estimate when fire use became widespread in the hominins inhabiting the Turkana Basin of northwestern Kenya. Congrats on the postdoc, Sarah.

CHES Grad Affiliate Tim Bransford passes Dissertation Defense

Bransford news storyCHES Graduate Affiliate Tim Bransford (center in photo) passed his doctoral dissertation this afternoon. Tim's dissertation, "The Energetic and Nutritional Costs of Motherhood in Wild Bornean Orangutans" is based on his research in Borneo for almost two years as well as a database of long-term data collected by many researchers at the Tuanan Research Center over the last 15 years. Tim analyzed an impressive array of diverse data sets, ranging from the behavior and activities of lactating female orangutans, to patterns of fruit production in the peat swamp forest, to nutritional aspects of foods eaten, to physiological states (such as the hormone cortisol, C-peptide of insulin, and ketones, all extracted from urine samples). By comparing how females with infants of different age and in different periods of food productivity, Tim's work sheds much light the challenges of motherhood and the adaptive strategies that allow females to handle them. The members of Tim's dissertation committee were, from left to right: Ryne Palombit, Maria van Noordwijk (outside member, University of Zürich), Erin Vogel (Chair), Rob Scott and, not shown, Melissa Emery-Thompson (outside member, University of New Mexico). Congratulations, Tim!

In the News...