News

Melanie Fenton Awarded NSF Grant

Melanie Felton CHES Graduate Affiliate Melanie Fenton was just awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation to support his research "Contextual and physiological correlates of complex behavioral strategies in primates." Melanie's research investigates aspects of the "third mechanism" added to Darwin's sexual selection theory: sexual conflict. She's currently in the field collecting behavioral and hormonal data on wild olive baboons to test hypotheses about how females respond to coercive versus friendly interactions with males, and ultimately how these interactions affect mating success. Olive baboons are especially useful subjects for such a study because the nature of social relationships between males and females varies tremendously compared to other primates, from close, affiliative bonds to aversive, antagonistic relations.

The broader impacts of Melanie's research include undergraduate laboratory training here at Rutgers as well as a major project promoting education of Kenyan school children about conservation and human-wildlife conflict in their country and globally. Working with a Kenyan scientist and local conservation organizations, Melanie will be regularly visiting several primary schools in Kenya over the course of her 18-month study, doing exercises with the students and assessing their effectiveness in achieving the educational goals she has set.

As a recipient of the CHES Albert Fellows Dissertation Research Award, further details of Melanie's study can be found here.

Fred Foster Awarded NSF Grant

Foster lab copyCHES Graduate Affiliate Fred Foster was recently awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation to support his research "Microstructure and mechanical properties of primate dental enamel." Fred is using methods from material science engineering to study the adaptations in teeth that help them perform and resist failure over lifetimes, which are relatively long in the nonhuman primates.

The broader impacts of Fred’s project will contribute to advancing and developing biomedical engineering, one of the fastest growing job markets in the country. For example, Fred’s work will improve the curriculum in Biomedical Engineering program here at Rutgers, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, partly by developing a laboratory component that emphasizes the value of understanding the mechanical properties of teeth in biomedical engineering applications.

Ashley Hammond Lecture on Human Evolution

Hammond Ashley talk Mar 08 19 v1Dr. Ashley Hammond, who recently was appointed Curator of Biological Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, gave a lecture today on the evolution of bipedalism and hip anatomy in humans past and present. Dr. Hammond's research takes her to a number of fossil sites in East Africa, where she and her team are unearthing the remains of human ancestors as well as extinct apes of the Miocene epoch (23 - 5 million years ago). She is also pursuing extremely detailed analyses of hip anatomy using museum specimens. As she made clear in a fascinating lecture, Dr. Hammond's research is shedding much light on that initial innovation that in a sense launched the human lineage about 6 million years ago: walking on two legs.

CHES Faculty Member Erin Vogel Gets Award

Vogel award 2019Erin Vogel recently received the Robert W. Sussman Award for Scientific Contributions to Anthropology. Congratulations to Erin!

CHES Grad Affiliate Tom Conte Passes Dissertation Defense

Conte diss defenseCHES Grad Affiliate Tom Conte passed his doctoral dissertation defense this afternoon. Tom's dissertation, Steppe Generosity: Cooperation , Labor Sharing, and Generous Giving Among Mongolian Pastoral Nomads, is based on his 9-month study of pastoralist families in Tosontsengel, Mongolia, one of the most challenging and beautiful environments on the planet. Tom combined ethnographic methods such as participant observation with the implementation of carefully designed economic games, to generate data clarifying the influence of kinship, individual reputation, social networks, and environmental disasters (the "dzud") on human cooperation. The members of Tom's dissertation committee were Lee Cronk (Chair), Dorothy Hodgson, Ryne Palombit, and outside committee member, Simon Wickham-Smith. Congratulations, Tom!

Third Lembersky Conference, October 23-25, 2019

VogelRothmanRaubThe Third Lembersky Conference in Evolutionary Studies this coming October will focus on "Advances in Primate Nutritional Ecology, Health, and Energetics".  CHES member Erin Vogel (far left in photo) has begun work with collaborators and co-organizers Jessica Rothman (Hunter College, middle in photo) and David Raubenheimer (University of Sydney, far right in photo) on the scientific program, which will examine how nutrient availability varies in ecologically challenging habitats, how primates respond flexibly to this variation by modifying their nutritional strategies, and ultimately how the health of individuals is understandable in light of these processes. The conference will bring together a large group of international scholars and researchers who study both human and nonhuman primates The goal of the conference is not only to enhance significantly our understanding of extant human and nonhuman primate biology, but also to shed light on evolutionary models of hominin energetic responses to the environmental fluctuations that shaped our evolution. 

CHES researchers publish paper on human parent "preferences" for sons versus daughters

canstockphoto18179008"CHES Faculty Member Lee Cronk and CHES alumni Robert Lynch and Helen Wasielewski recently published a paper “Sexual conflict and the Trivers-Willard hypothesis: Females prefer daughters and males prefer sons” in Nature Scientific Reports. The TW hypothesis predicts that parents who are in good condition will bias investment towards sons, while parents who are in poor condition will bias investment towards daughters. Contrary to the expectations of this hypothesis, the researchers found that the socioeconomic backgrounds of the human participants had no effect on their expressed preferences towards offspring of either sex. Instead, however, Cronk, Lynch, and Wasielewski found that in general women prefer daughters and that men have either a slight preference for sons or no preference at all. These patterns were seen across the four measured variables: 1) explicitly stated preferences; 2) responses to timed “Implicit Association Tests” (which detect attitudes that people may be unwilling or unable to report); 3) donations to charities supporting either boys or girls after an experimental prime and; 4) asking subjects if they would rather adopt a daughter or a son. Cronk and colleagues are planning a follow-up study that uses a new design they think is more sensitive to preferences for sons and daughters as a function of socioeconomic status.

Melanie Fenton Awarded Grant from Leakey

Melanie FentonCHES Graduate Affiliate Melanie Fenton was just awarded a major grant from the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation to support her dissertation research "Coercive and affiliative mating tactics in olive baboons (Papio anubis)”. Melanie just arrived in Kenya a few weeks ago to commence this research. More details about her field study can be found at the CHES webpage for the Albert Fellows Dissertation Award. Congratulations Melanie!

CHES Featured Research Evening: Tim Bransford

 “Featured Research Evening” showcasing the work of CHES Graduate Affiliate Tim BransfordYesterday CHES held another “Featured Research Evening”, this time showcasing the work of CHES Graduate Affiliate Tim Bransford. For the research that forms the basis of the PhD dissertation he is currently writing, Tim investigated how wild orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) mothers modulate their diet and activity to meet their energetic demands while lactating as well as to buffer their infants from uncertain and variable energy availability. To do this, he had to collect data on orangutan behavior and physiology (from urine samples) as well as phenological data on forest productivity. Tim also talked at length about what it's like doing field research in the peat swamp forests of Borneo.

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