I am interested in social behavior and social cognition from an evolutionary perspective. My research on social cognition in primates focuses on the cognitive abilities that underlie social behavior. Specifically, I look at how dominance and family relationships structure primate social groups and then ask what do the members of these groups know about this structure? Ultimately, I am interested in the causal connections between sociality and cognition. I am also interested in vocal communication, primarily as it relates to other social behaviors. How do vocalizations mediate social interactions? What social factors might favor larger vocal repertoires? Much of my research addresses sexual selection, looking at how primates assess competitors and potential mates. Recently, I have become interested in hormone-behavior interactions. I use non-invasive hormone sampling as a way to both measure the physiological consequences of behavior and to assess potential determinants of behavior. Finally, I am interested in the ways that ecology shapes social systems and behaviors.
My research addresses these questions in three types of free ranging primates: 1) baboons (members of the genus Papio) in Ethiopia and Botswana, 2) gelada monkeys (Theropithecus gelada) in Ethiopia, and 3) howler monkeys (members of the genus Alouatta) in Mexico. My research involves observation, vocal recordings, hormonal and genetic sampling, as well as playback experiments.
I received a B.S. in Zoology and Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin in 1993. I received a Ph.D. in Evolutionary and Population Biology from Washington University in 2000. For my dissertation, I studied behavior and reproductive success in hybrid baboons in Ethiopia. I was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania from 2001 to 2005 studying social behavior and cognition in baboons in Botswana. Since 2005, I have been co-director of the University of Michigan Gelada Research Project (UMGRP).