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Learning from and about wild African great apes using indirect and non-invasive methods

Primatological research continues to uncover the complexity of great ape ecology and behavior in the wild using direct observations, still discovering fascinating new aspects of their diet, sociality and culture. However, direct observations require to habituate the animals to human observers, which can take many years or even decades in chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas. Moreover, habituation makes them vulnerable to the existential threats of human pathogens and poaching. In the Primate Ecology and Molecular Anthropology (PEMA) lab at UCSC (www.pema-lab.com), we predominantly employ indirect and non-invasive methods to study the dietary ecology and behavior of African great apes. These methods include molecular tools such as stable isotope analysis of ape hair and feces to study diet and life history, e.g. the weaning of bonobo infants or the origins of female chimpanzees immigrating into a new community. We also use video footage from motion-triggered camera traps to study the behavior of chimpanzees at termite mounds to understand how infant chimpanzees learn to exploit termites and based on which environmental cues adults determine it is a good day to termite fish. In my talk, I will share some unique camera footage as well as the newest results of our research in the PEMA lab.

Speaker: Vicky Oelze, UC Santa Cruz

Wednesday, 11/20/19


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Science on Tap

The Crepe Place
1134 Soquel Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Website: Click to Visit