Research

Forest Baboon Nutrition & Ecology

My dissertation research explores how nutritional priorities are shaped by the environment in a generalist omnivorous primate - the baboon. The focus of this research is a troop of olive baboons (Papio anubis) living in Kibale National Park, Uganda, that I began studying in 2009. I use the framework of nutritional geometry (developed by Stephen Simpson & David Raubenheimer, University of Sydney) to explore the nutritional goals of forest-living baboons, and assess how these goals may be affected by environmental variation. 

While savanna-living baboons are some of the most intensively studied mammals on earth, little is known of baboon ecology in forested habitats. This project will significantly expand our understanding of intraspecific variation in behavior and ecology. By examining baboon ecology in a forested habitat, I aim to shed light on the environmental conditions that led to adaptations of early hominins as they transitioned from closed to open habitats in the Plio-Pleistocene. This research will also aid paleoecological reconstructions of African fossil hominins and papionins, and inform extant primate management, as baboons converge on human food resources and come into conflict with people across Africa. Information on the ecology of baboons in forested environments also improves our knowledge of interspecific interactions with wild primates – such as chimpanzees, which converge on similar food resources – to investigate community ecology. 

Neuroenergetics

As a postdoctoral researcher at ASU, I investigate how early life experiences and nutrition shape neurobiology and social behavior in primates. In collaboration with Dr. Katie Hinde, I oversee neuroimage analyses including PET and fMRI to determine how neuroenergetics are influenced by these experiences, and may underlie differences in temperament and fitness outcomes in primates. Although neuroenergetics is a well-established field in biopsychology, it is a new area of research in biological anthropology with clinical impacts that will improve human health

Olive Baboon (Papio anubis). Photo by C. Johnson

Olive Baboon (Papio anubis). Photo by C. Johnson

Baboon Project Field Assistants, James Magaro and Moses Musana in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Photo by C. Johnson

Baboon Project Field Assistants, James Magaro and Moses Musana in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Photo by C. Johnson