People

POST DOCTORAL ASSOCIATES

Dr. Erin Kane

Dr. Erin Kane

Erin Kane is a postdoctoral research associate at Boston University, working with Dr. Cheryl Knott on a project examining life history influences on orangutan feeding ecology in Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, with an emphasis on nutritional and endocrine analysis. She completed her PhD at Ohio State University in 2017. Her dissertation examined the social, ecological, and reproductive consequences of seasonal changes in food availability for Diana monkeys living in Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire. She  is broadly interested in understanding primate responses to fluctuating food availability, particularly from socioecological, endocrine, and morphological perspectives. She also aims to make anthropology and primatology more inclusive and accessible sciences for a diverse group of scientists.

GRADUATE STUDENTS

Amy Scott

Amy Scott, enjoying an orangutan follow in Gunung Palung National Park during her pilot study

Amy is in the 5th year of her Ph.D. program at Boston University and is currently conducting her fieldwork in Gunung Palung National Park, studying reproductive strategies of male and female orangutans. Orangutans are the only non-human primate that regularly practice forced copulations, but still female strategies indicate the importance of female choice. Amy is using behavioral data, genetic paternity determination, and ranging behavior to better understand these mating strategies.  Email: amscott@bu.edu

Andrea Blackburn

Andrea B

Andrea Blackburn follows an orangutan at Gunung Palung National Park

Andrea Blackburn is a doctoral candidate currently studying orangutan seed dispersal behavior at the Cabang Panti Research Station in Gunung Palung National Park. She is examining which fruits orangutans are dispersing, the effectiveness of orangutan seed dispersal services, and how orangutan spatial movement patterns shape  seed dispersal behavior. If orangutans are effective and critical seed dispersers, they may be essential to the maintenance and regeneration of the tropical forests they inhabit.
Email: andreabl@bu.edu

Faye Harwell

Faye Harwell crosses a flooded trail in Gunung Palung National Park

Faye is a PhD candidate in the anthropology department at Boston University. Previously, she received a master’s degree in biology from Clark University, where she studied amphibian locomotion. She is broadly interested in orangutan growth and development. Specifically, she is examining the process of flanging in male orangutans as well as the physiological and morphological changes experienced by juvenile orangutans. She is particularly interested in the hormonal changes males and females experience prior to adulthood. For her dissertation research, she will be using a number of methods such as photogrammetry, endocrine analyses, behavioral observations, and statistical analyses. She is collaborating with a number of zoos throughout the United States for her research.

Email: fharwell@bu.edu

Laura Brubaker-Wittman

Laura Brubaker Wittman Fecal collection.png

Laura collects a sample from a wild orangutan.

Laura Brubaker-Wittman is a PhD student in the Biological Anthropology program at Boston University. She holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development and Policy Advocacy from the School for International Training. Her doctoral research focuses on the human-nonhuman primate interface by using the mixed methodology of ethnoprimatology, incorporating theories and techniques from cultural and biological anthropology. Specifically, her work asks questions about how orangutans and humans interact and co-exist in landscapes that have been shaped by human disturbance and what this means for orangutan health and behavior. Ultimately, she hopes her work can bring together science, conservation, and environmental justice to help protect orangutans and support local communities at the same time.

Email: laurabw@bu.edu

RECENT FORMER STUDENTS

Dr. Andrea DiGiorgio

Andrea DiGiorgio at the research camp, cleaning the drying oven for her fruit samples  in Gunung Palung National Park

Andrea was awarded her PhD in Anthropology at Boston University in May 2019, for her study of orangutan nutrition and habitat use. Her interests are in primate evolution, diet, and conservation. She conducted her doctoral fieldwork at the Cabang Panti Research station in Gunung Palung National Park. Andrea’s work investigated the nutrient drivers of orangutan foraging behavior, with a focus on non-fruit foods.  She is also using movement ecology to understand how these endangered apes use their habitats to find scarce resources.

Email: andreadi@bu.edu

Dr. Jacob Negrey

Jacob - Cheryl's Website

Jacob sits with a small group of chimpanzees as they socialize between meals.

Jacob Negrey was awarded his PhD in Anthropology in May 2019. His doctoral research explored the relationship between health, hormonal functioning and social status in wild male chimpanzees. He conducted his work with the largest wild chimpanzee community ever studied – the Ngogo chimpanzee community, living in Kibale National Park, Uganda. He conducted laboratory analysis of chimpanzee urinary hormones in the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Email: jnegrey@bu.edu

Dr. Caitlin O’Connell

Caitlin O'Connell in the field, Gunung Palung National Park.

Caitlin O’Connell records behavioral data in the field, Gunung Palung National Park.

Caitlin was awarded her PhD in Anthropology from Boston University in January 2018. She spent a full year, from 2013 to 2014, in Gunung Palung National Park, and witnessed an incredible amount of social and sexual behavior that we do not usually expect from Bornean orangutans.  Her work has explored when and why social behavior takes place in order to understand the costs and benefits of gregariousness for an ape that often ranges alone.  Her thesis looked at differences in the tendency for socializing, affiliation and agonism, stress, and parasites across different age-sex classes  and examined these factors within their ecological and social contexts.       Email: coc@bu.edu

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