Research

Dr. Cheryl Knott and field assistant, Rusda, observe an orangutan at Cabang Panti Research Station. Photo © Tim Lama.

Dr. Cheryl Knott and field assistant, Rusda, observe an orangutan at Cabang Panti Research Station, Gunung Palung National Park, in the summer of 2014. Photo © Tim Laman.

Gunung Palung Orangutan Project (Director)

My long-term research program uses cutting edge scientific techniques to investigate orangutan reproduction, behavior, social organization and physiology within an ecological context. Since 1994, the project has collected almost 66,000 hours of direct observation of wild orangutans, one of the most extensive data sets on a wild great ape ever collected. Detailed behavioral data are collected in addition to urine samples from which hormones can be measured. All orangutan foods are collected and processed to analyze the caloric and nutrient composition of the orangutan diet. To date over 600 food samples and more than 3,000 urine samples have been collected and analyzed. The project is also investigating broader issues related to great ape and human evolution. Our research is relevant to understanding the limits on the reproductive potential of orangutan populations and will contribute to the overall conservation effort to save this endangered great ape. For more information, visit http://people.bu.edu/orang/.

We are currently collecting data on a number of topics, including:

  • Orangutan interbirth intervals and female hormonal functioning
  • Hormonal, behavioral and energetic differences between males: bi-maturism and intra-sexual dimorphism in males
  • Juvenile development, dependency and learning
  • Sex differences in feeding behavior, nutritional intake and foraging
  • Inter-population comparison of cultural behaviors and tool use
  • Ranging patterns, habitat use and energetics
  • Socio-sexual behavior and hormonal correlates
  • Orangutan social organization
  • Genetic studies of paternity and relatedness
  • Skeletal evidence of male-male competition
  • Digestion and fecal analysis of juveniles vs. adults
  • Infection, parasite load and medicinal plant use
  • Habitat quality and orangutan densities
  • Canopy locomotion and positional behavior
  • Maternal behavior and energetics.

Other Affiliations

Associate Professor, Boston University Dept. of Anthropology

Director, Primate Reproductive Ecology Laboratory, Boston University

Research Affiliate, Yale Center for Human and Primate Reproductive Ecology

Research Associate, San Diego Museum of Man

Scientific Advisor, Balikpapan Orangutan Society

Scientific Advisor, The Orangutan Conservancy

National Geographic Society Emerging Explorer

Great Ape Advisory Panel of the IUCN–SSC Primate Specialist Group

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