Research

Most of my current research is conducted as part of the University of Michigan Gelada Research Project that I co-direct with Dr. Jacinta Beehner. You can read about that project and see our publications here.

My other research focuses on Hybrid zone studies. Hybrid zones allow animals of diverse genetic backgrounds to be compared under similar social and ecological conditions. As such, hybrid zones provide an ideal setting to study the proximate causes of behavioral variation. Furthermore, the relative competetive abilities of the hybridizing animals can determine the fate of the hybridizing taxa making sexual selection critically important. For my PhD research, I studied these factors in a baboon (Papio spp.) hybrid zone in the Awash National Park of Ethiopia.

Since 2008, I have been collaborating with Dr. Liliana Cortes-Ortiz (here at the University of Michigan) and Dr. Dawn Kitchen (at Ohio State University) on a hybrid zone between mantled (Alouatta palliata) and black (Alouatta pigra) howler monkeys in southern Mexico. The research builds on Dr. Cortes-Ortiz’ genetic and morphological characterization of the hybrid zone to look at the causes and consequences of vocal variation. Specficially, we are interested in how vocal differences between the two species come about and how these differences contribute to sexual selection and hybrid zone dynamics. We are currently collecting the acoustic and behavior data to begin addressing these questions. We will begin conducting playback experiments in 2012.