3 Selected Publications

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There is a growing need to understand how threatened species are affected by climate variability and climate change. We studied how annual birth rates and survival rates vary in relation to climate variability in natural populations of seven primate species that have been studies for 29–52 years. We found climate signals in the birth rates of three species, and a strong climate signal in the infant survival rates of one species. These findings inform us about the resiliency of primate populations to climatic fluctuations, and they reveal ways that climate change could affect the fates of wild primates.
2017 | Global Change Biology, 2017.

We examine primate population growth in relation to climate variability. We focus on the effects of rainfall and the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Rainfall patterns closely tracked phases and intensity conditions of the ENSO. The population grew rapidly after the park’s establishment and recently stabilized. El Niño conditions before census years predicted lower female fertility, as indicated by the ratio of adult females to immature animals.
2015 | Biological Conservation, 2015.

We examined the home ranges of white-faced capuchins at different spatial and temporal scales to examine the factors that drive variation in home range characteristics. Group mass was the primary driver of home range area at all scales examined. Higher temperatures and fruit abundance favored smaller monthly ranges. Seasonally hot and dry weather led to increased use of mature evergreen forest. The study demonstrates how inferences about animal space use may depend critically on spatiotemporal scale.
2014 | Anim Behav, 2014.


My research investigates the behavioral and demographic consequences of environmental change in wild animal populations.

Climate variability and vital rates

How do climate fluctuations affect survival and fertility?

Sex differences in health and survival

Why do men die earlier but appear healthier? And why don’t baboons show this same pattern?

Responses to early-life adversity

To what extent can primates overcome a bad start in life?

Responses to Environmental Stress

Behavioral thermoregulation and urine-washing.

Primate Life History Database

An exceptional archive of primate life history data.

Movement Ecology

Understanding the drivers of animal space use.

Social Connectedness

Are life outcomes affected by differences in social support?

Predation Risk

Navigating a landscape of fear.

Dispersal and kinship

Differential access to kin as a driver of dispersal decisions.

Maternal age effects on offspring

Are aspects of offspring fitness affected by maternal age?

Foraging and nutritional ecology

How and why animals select their foods.

Conservation Priorities

Conservation guidance for critically endangered primates.

Field Site

Área de Conservación Guanacaste

My recent field research has focused on primates in the Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG), a Unesco World Heritage site in northwestern Costa Rica that supports extraodrinary biodiversity. The conservation area comprises several different sectors that extend from the Pacific Ocean over a chain of dormant volcanos to the Atlantic slope.


One particularly well-studied part of the ACG is the Santa Rosa sector. The white-faced capuchins in Santa Rosa are studied under the directorship of Linda Fedigan, Katharine Jack, and Amanda Melin.

The black-handed spider monkeys are studied by Filippo Aureli and Colleen Schaffner.


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I believe that my foremost responsibility as an educator is to provide students with skills that prepare them for rewarding careers. A broad-based education that merges natural and social sciences can serve this goal by encouraging critical thinking and promoting integrative approaches that embrace diverse points of view. My teaching philosophy is oriented around meeting this responsibility, and it has three pillars: meticulous preparation, fundamental respect, and a dedication to challenging students to become informed and engaged citizens.


Courses Taught

As Professor of Practice at Tulane University

Approaches in Environmental Studies

  • Sections: Spring 2017 (24 students)
  • Quantitative and qualitative methods in integrative social–ecological systems research.

Introduction to Environmental Studies

  • Sections: Fall 2016 (25 students), Spring 2017 (35 students)
  • A broad overview of environmental challenges that we face as well as sustainable solutions.

Introduction to Biological Anthropology

  • Sections: Fall 2016 (22 students)
  • A broad introduction to the multidisciplinary field of Biological Anthropology.

Primate Behavior and Ecology

  • Sections: Fall 2016 (9 students)
  • A comprehensive introduction to the behavior and ecology of nonhuman primates.

As Sessional Instructor at the University of Calgary

Introduction to Primatology and Human Evolution

  • Sections: Fall 2014 (98 students)
  • This course explores the evolutionary origins of the human species to understand how we fit into the natural world.

Primate Behaviour

  • Sections: Fall 2014 (165 students), Fall 2014 (120 students)
  • This course provides a comprehensive introduction to research and theory on the nonhuman primates.

As Teaching Assistant at the University of Calgary

Field Studies in Primatology

  • Sections: Spring 2012 (In Ghana), Winter 2010 (In Costa Rica), Winter 2007 (In Costa Rica)
  • Intensive training and practice in field methods in the study of primate behavior. The course focuses on experiential learning of field work and data collection, emphasizing completeness and accuracy in data collection, data manipulation and preliminary analysis, and general conduct as a field worker and researcher.

Primate Behaviour and Research Design

  • Sections: Winter 2010 (In Costa Rica), Winter 2007 (In Costa Rica)
  • Focuses on learning the basics of research design and data collection, as well as acquiring the diverse skills required of a successful field worker (organization, record keeping, data entry, first aid, problem solving).

Independent Study on Neotropical Primates

  • Sections: Winter 2010 (1 student supervised), Winter 2007 (1 student supervised)
  • Design of a research project: identifying a research question, collecting and analyzing data, writing a comprehensive literature review, and presenting a research paper (formatted as a conventional journal article) on the results of the study.

Introduction to Primatology and Human Evolution

  • Sections: 3 courses in 2006–2012
  • This course explores the evolutionary origins of the human species to understand how we fit into the natural world.

Introduction to Anthropological Statistics

  • Sections: 2 courses in 2007 and 2006
  • Brief Description: This course provides an introduction to statistical concepts and methods used by Anthropologists to analyze quantitative data .

Primate Behaviour

  • Sections: 1 course in 2005
  • Brief Description: This course provides a comprehensive introduction to research and theory on the nonhuman primates.