I am a biological anthropologist focusing on field studies of wild primates. My research interests focus on the intersecting aspects of primate social behavior, ecology, genetics, and conservation, with a particular focus on Neotropical taxa. I have conducted behavioral and population studies of Central American black howlers (Alouatta pigra) in Belize, white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus) in Costa Rica, and mantled howlers (Alouatta palliata) in both Ecuador and Costa Rica.
My current research investigates aspects of intraspecific variation in social behavior in mantled howlers (Alouatta palliata palliata) inhabiting the fragmented forest at La Pacifica, Costa Rica. La Pacifica is a 1330 ha privately owned cattle, rice, and aquaculture ranch located in the Guanacaste province of northwestern Costa Rica. My research interests focus on how individuals navigate the complex interplay of competition, tolerance, and cooperation while living in complex social groups. To that end, I integrate molecular primatology into my behavioral ecology research to investigate the extent to which genetic relatedness impacts individual fitness and social structure, as well as to examine the genetic population structure within fragmented primate populations like La Pacifica. Noninvasive genotyping techniques have not been well-developed for mantled howlers, yet molecular methods have become increasingly important in primatology to address research questions that are difficult to examine solely from observational studies. Ultimately, I hope to gain a better understanding of those factors constraining social flexibility in primates, and to use those data to inform future conservation management plans.
My teaching philosophy emphasizes an active student engagement by promoting critical thinking and scientific rigor, which is achieved by initiating classroom discussion and student involvement. Through my research, I hope to bring new experiential learning opportunities for those students broadly interested in biological anthropology, and more specifically in primate behavior, genetics, and conservation. I encourage students interested in gaining research experience in primatology to contact me to discuss their interests and career objectives. I offer experiential learning opportunities for students in the field through an annual field school in primate behavior and ecology at my study site in Costa Rica every summer, and in the genetics laboratory students may work as a research laboratory assistant.