As a behavioral ecologist, I’m interested in the relationships between primates and their social and environmental conditions, and on how primate evolution has been shaped by ecological and social factors. Following this curiosity, I have worked in various field sites on different species of primates, in the conservation and fundamental research domains (see CV).
The heart of my interest is to unravel the proximate mechanisms of territorial behavior in chimpanzees and, ultimately, how much the presence of “others”, not belonging to the same community, has counted in the evolution of chimpanzees and human ancestors, especially for social and cognitive adaptations. The reasons why chimpanzee communities are violent with each other have been long debated, although years of observation in various filed sites have demonstrated a ubiquitous pattern of hostility. However, variations in territorial behavior exist between populations, as well as within population; similarly, temporal variations in the adoption of territorial strategies, linked to demographic circumstances, have been reported. So it seems that chimpanzees are not always responding to strangers in a similar way.
My PhD project
I’m currently undertaking a PhD under the supervision of Dr. Roman Wittig and Dr. Cathy Crockford. From October 2013 to September 2016, I have been the manager of the Tai Chimpanzee Project field site in the Tai National Park, Cȏte d’Ivoire, where three neighboring communities (North, South and East) are simultaneously monitored and studied.
I’m studying the relationships between these neighboring communities, by investigating the importance of the neighbor effect on the daily behavior of chimpanzees, in particular the effects on spacing and ranging patterns, vocalization rates and social dynamics. I wish to understand the spatio-temporal variation of territorial behavior and how different territorial strategies are used, in function of neighbors’ proximity, relative power of the communities, intra- community social dynamics, and variation in socio-demographic and environmental conditions.
This work aims to add new insights on the evolution of territorial behavior in chimpanzees, with an integrative approach using social, ecological and spatial data, from a population perspective; it tackles the broader question of the evolutionary roots of inter-community violence, and how inter-group competition in social apes can be linked to intra-community sociality, to community survivorship and community fitness.