CHES Graduate Affiliate Elizabeth Ballare passed her doctoral dissertation defense today. Liz’s dissertation “Health Effects of Rehabilitation and Reintroduction on Bornean Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii)” is based on her two-year fieldwork study in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Centre and the BOSF Bukit Batikap Reintroduction Forest. Liz also completed laboratory training in the College of Medicine at the University of Florida and one year of laboratory analyses in the Laboratory for Primate Dietary Ecology and Physiology at Rutgers University. Liz’s research was an investigation of the health of orangutan populations in different stages of rehabilitation and reintroduction. Along with a team of assistants and student counterparts, Liz collected urine samples from each population noninvasively and quantified biomarkers of protein balance, energy balance, inflammation, and immune system responsiveness as proxies. She compared these analytes within and amongst each population as well as with data from a wild population, the Tuanan Orangutan Research Project, also in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Liz’s research showed how existing physiological methodologies can be used to assess the health of rehabilitant and reintroduced orangutans and how it can be used to make recommendations in program protocols. Additionally, her research showed how conservation physiology can be used as a tool to objectively measure rehabilitation and reintroduction efforts and create a collaborative community of researchers, conservationists, and governmental and non-governmental organizations. The knowledge gained from her project will provide critical insights into releasing these critically endangered animals and help build a health plan for orangutan rehabilitation and reintroduction that can maximize their survival and fitness in the wild.
Beginning with the photo on the top right and moving counter-clockwise, the members of her committee were Erin Vogel (Dissertation Committee Chair and Director of the Laboratory for Primate Dietary Ecology and Physiology), Henry John-Alder (Professor and Department Chair of the Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolution), Julie Lockwood (Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources), and Lyle (Linc) Moldawer (outside committee member; Science Research Professor of Surgery, College of Medicine, University of Florida). Liz is highlighted at the bottom in yellow. Congratulations Liz!