Albert Fellows Dissertation Research Grant

FentonBaboons v1Melanie Fenton

Coercive and affiliate mating tactics in olive baboons (Papio anubis)

Studies of sexual selection in primates have long focused on the mating strategies of the sexes in relative isolation of one another (male-male competition, the effect of dominance rank, female choice). In recent decades, however, it has become clear that a full understanding of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection—and its relevance for explaining aspects of human behavior—requires more careful study of how male and female reproductive strategies interact, and particularly the circumstances under which they are in conflict with one another.

The goal of this study is to test several hypotheses concerning the nature of male-female interactions and the effect of these interactions on the probability of mating in olive baboons (Papio anubis) at CHES Faculty Ryne Palombit's field site. Fenton is collecting systematic behavioral and hormonal data to compare the mating benefits to males of coercive versus friendly social strategies of interaction with females. Sexual coercion can occur as a long-term strategy (“intimidation”) to promote future matings, or as a short term strategy (“harassment”) to gain immediate sexual opportunities. Conversely, males can obtain mating opportunities through the contrasting strategy of providing beneficial services to females, either as part of a long- term strategy of social bonding or as a short-term “groom-for-sex” tactic. Fenton is determining the benefits and costs of these various strategies for males and females. Variation in fecal glucocorticoid levels are being measured to test a crucial aspect of the sexual coercion hypothesis that male aggression is costly to females.


AlysseMoldawer v1Alysse Moldawer

A multi-species ethnography of Bornean orangutans at an active research field site

Alysse Moldawer is studying wild Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) as biological entities with cultural, political, and economic significance. The acquisition of knowledge about wild primates is not limited solely to scientific research methods, but arises through the cooperation of diverse people with varying historical, cultural, and political relationships to the organism. These groups of people include researchers (both international and national), governmental and non-governmental organizations, and local residents. The aim of Moldawer’s research is to examine how these people co-produce the knowledge about orangutans that is utilized in conducting research as well as applied in doing conservation work. Moldawer integrates methodologies from primate behavioral ecology, physiology, and ethnography to study how human-orangutan interactions can be understood as outcomes of the characteristics of orangutans and the humans belonging to these the different groups.

Moldawer’s research expands the use of social theory in the discipline of ethnoprimatology to explain how humans cooperate and interact with wild orangutans and one another. By utilizing science and technology studies to evaluate the relationship between science and conservation, her work will contribute to conservation initiatives generally as well as with respect to this highly endangered great ape.