Ph.D. - Zoology, University of Wisconsin - Madison, 1996.
M.Sc. - Zoology, University of Wisconsin, - Madison, 1993.
B.S. - Biology and Psychology (double major), University of South Carolina, 1989
Research Scientist, Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, 1998 – present.
Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Gustavus Adolphus College, MN, 1997-98.
Lecturer, Depts of Psychology, Zoology, & Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, 1995-97.
My main research interest is the evolution of sociality. My research focuses on the causes and consequences of sociality in one of our closest relatives, the gorilla. Gorillas are a particularly interesting species because they occupy a wide range of habitats across Africa and exhibit variation in their social structure. Through a behavioral ecology approach, I am examining topics related to gorillas’ ecology, social behavior, reproductive strategies, population dynamics, endocrinology, and genetics. Specific topics include:
Feeding Ecology: What is the diet of gorillas and how does it vary according to food availability? How does food availability influence ranging patterns and habitat utilization?
Reproductive Strategies and Social Behavior: What strategies are used by males and females to maximize their reproductive success? How do dispersal patterns influence social behavior and group dynamics? How do ecological conditions influence social relationships? How do social relationships vary among males and females?
Population Dynamics: How do populations change in size and structure over time? How do particular factors influence the changes in a population, in particular, the ecological conditions, levels of human disturbance, as well as intrinsic factors? How do life history variables differ among individuals and what impact does this have on reproductive success?
Genetics: In collaboration with the genetics lab of our department, we are able to address questions concerning paternity, relatedness, as well as group size and structure.
I also believe that any research on endangered species should involve a conservation component. While science alone will not lead to protection of endangered gorillas, research should be an integrated part of any conservation strategy. Therefore, I have collaborated with conservation groups working in the Virunga Volcanoes and Bwindi to carry out censuses of the gorillas as well as conduct projects concerning their demography and ranging patterns.
I started my research career at the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda, where I conducted my PhD research on the mountain gorillas from 1990 to 1992. In 1998, I began my ongoing long-term research project in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, where I am studying the other population of mountain gorillas. In 2005, in collaboration with Christophe Boesch, I began a field project of western gorillas and chimpanzees in Loango National Park, Gabon. In recent years I have had collaborations and student projects at some other gorilla research sites including Mbeli Bai, Bai Hokou, and Karisoke. It has been a wonderful experience to observe habituated gorillas over such a long time period as well as see many different forests inhabited by gorillas.