Research

Research interests: My research centers primarily on sexual selection. Specifically, I am interested in behavioral endocrinology, reproductive strategies, the costs & benefits of dominance, male competition & cooperation, and mate choice, especially in human and non-human primate males.

You can hear me speak briefly about my research in this video: Innovation@Glendon

Current NSERC-funded research:

1) I am interested in the ecological, social, and physiological factors that influence, and are influenced by, individual variation in behavior and reproduction. My developing research program focuses on the behavioural ecology and life-history of wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus). I use an individual approach to examine behavioural and physiological differences between individuals, but just as critically important is my use of a longitudinal approach, which will allow me to examine intra-individual variation across different life-history stages. Males are expected to invest differentially in various behavioural and reproductive strategies based on internal (e.g., age, health, hormones) and external factors (e.g., number of fertile females, number and quality of male competitors). These factors likely influence the conditions under which a particular male invests in the attainment and maintenance of high dominance rank or instead opts for low-ranking subordinate status.

Vervet monkeys at Lake Nabugabo, Uganda

2) I am expanding my dissertation research on capuchins to examine immunocompetence (i.e., gastrointestinal parasite) in relation to male dominance, reproductive effort (measured by testosterone and DHT), stress, and nutrition.

Filariopsis sp.

3) Comparative project looking at the costs of social dominance in red colobus monkeys (Procolobus rufomitratus), a species with a very different social system from capuchins, by examining the association of parasites with nutrition, glucocorticoids (i.e., stress), and androgens in Kibale National Park, Uganda.

RC_SRS_2299

Additional projects:

  • Influence of behavioral and hormonal variation on actual paternity success (with Eva Wikberg, Linda Fedigan, Katharine Jack, Amanda Melin);
  • Role of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) in mate choice (with Jessica Lynch Alfaro, Katharine Jack).

Past research:

Subordinate subadult, subordinate adult, and alpha adult male white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus).

Subordinate subadult, subordinate adult, and alpha adult male white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus).

My doctoral thesis focused on beginning to understand how alpha males sire the majority of offspring given that overt male competition within groups is rare, while interactions between groups are agonistic and require male cooperation. Alpha males obtain only a slightly disproportionate number of copulations, but the timing of these in relation to female reproductive state have been difficult to identify given that females have concealed ovulation. Using data collected over 18 months in the field, my dissertation examined variation in male behavior and hormone profiles (testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, glucocorticoids) in relation to dominance and female reproductive state (as determined by fecal progesterone and estradiol levels), as well as looking at variation in male-male relationships and parallel dispersal (joint immigration or emigration).

I also have experience conducting research aimed at evaluating USDA recommendations on social housing for primates used in biomedical research, and to develop strategies for providing pair housing for laboratory primates to determine which type best promotes overall well-being and species-typical behavior (with Dr. Kate C. Baker, Tulane National Primate Research Center).

As an undergraduate student, I developed an honors project examining the relationship between perceived male vocal attractiveness and 2D:4D, a rarely studied correlate of prenatal testosterone exposure (with Dr. Robert D. Montgomerie, Queen’s University).

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The Nacey Maggioncalda Foundation
funding primate research and conservation
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