Advisor: Dr. Ryne Palombit
M.S. in Primate Behavior, 2013, Central Washington University
B.S. in Biology, 2008, University of New South Wales, Australia (minor in Zoology)
I am interested primarily in the social systems of primates, although I am most familiar with cercopithecines. My MSc focused on measuring personality in a group of free-ranging, provisioned, Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana). I hope to incorporate some measures of personality into my future research while exploring how individuals 'choose' who to affiliate with. I am interested, more broadly, in measuring non-human primates' cognitive understandings of group dynamics and tolerance levels between individuals using social analyses. Finally, I am interested in examining the anthropogenic effects of urban environments on primates and how peoples' perceptions and behaviors impact nonhuman primate behaviors and interactions.
You can follow my current work on Twitter @SwmngInAFshbwl. I am conducting my dissertation fieldwork at my advisor's field site in Laikipia, Kenya. I am using experimental measures to quantify inter-individual variation in the stress response, as understood via the coping style and stress reactivity frameworks. Together with field staff, I also record behavioral data using focal animal follows and collect fecal samples for subsequent Glucocorticoid assays. Finally, daily GPS tracks (see heat map image) are used to control for ecological/anthropogenic influences on group social behavior. Additionally, I am conducting personality surveys of the monkeys and gathering genetic samples for subsequent work.
My work is significant for understanding the social and evolutionary implications of individual differences, specifically in the relatively conserved stress response. Gaining insight into such variation in our closest ancestors provides an important baseline for elucidating shared elements of our own biology, divorced from the socio-cultural complexities intrinsic to our own species.
My work is proudly funded with support from the: Center for Human Evolutionary Studies, Anthropology Department of Rutgers, National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Sigma Xi, American Society of Primatologists, and American Society of Mammalogists. I aim to follow my current work by building on my dissertation experiences and developing additional experimental methodologies to parse out individual variation as well as social effects, preferably while retaining laboratory components.