We are interested in the biological diversity of primates from the molecular to macro scales. We use a wide variety of quantitative techniques, including phylogenetic comparative methods, GIS and spatial statistics, ecological modeling, and molecular data analysis. Much of our work is interdisciplinary and collaborative. We are currently working with faculty and students from numerous universities including Arizona State U., CUNY, U. Arizona, NYU, and George Washington U.
Evolution of Behavior and Life History
We are interested in the factors shaping behavioral, ecological, and life history diversity. Primates are long-lived and highly social animals, yet there is noticeable variation in their behavior and life history within and across species. We use various approaches to examine the effects of local ecology, genetics, geography, and evolutionary history on behavior and life history. In addition, some of this research is focused on understanding primate variation in the broader context of other mammals. Some of our ongoing work focuses on the behavior, ecology, and genetics of Kinda baboons at Kasanka National Park, Zambia. This baboon group has been studied by doctoral student Anna Weyher since 2011.
Primate and Bat Microbiomes
Currently, we are working on several projects examining primate hair and gut microbiomes. One study is focused on the microbiome diversity of primate hair within and across species (funded by the Leakey Foundation). Other projects are examining the gut microbiomes of lemurs and baboons in the context of habitat disturbance, and food and water distribution (funded by NSF and the Leakey Foundation). Our newest project focuses on microbial transmission between migratory straw-colored fruit bats and Kinda baboons at Kasanka National Park, Zambia.
Biogeography and Community Ecology
Understanding the factors affecting the distribution and coexistence of species is a central goal of ecological research. Primates are typically regarded as tropical species, but vary in their distribution within and between continents. Our research examines numerous factors that influence primate biogeography, including past and present climatic conditions, interspecific competition, evolutionary patterns of dispersal and vicariance, and anthropogenic impacts. GIS and spatial statistics play a critical role in this research. Our work has been funded by the National Science Foundation and is collaboration with Kaye Reed and Lydia Beaudrot.
Evolutionary Ecology of Hair Morphology
Primates vary in their hair patterns within and across species, yet research explaining this diversity is relatively sparse. We are examining how natural selection, sexual selection, and evolutionary history influences primate hair coloration, density, and length. This research utilizes digital image analysis and reflectance spectroscopy of museum specimens and molecular data from captive and wild primates. One product of our hair evolution work will be the creation of an online database of primate museum skins. This research is being conducted in collaboration with Brenda Bradley at George Washington University and is funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the National Science Foundation.