Ethnoprimatology integrates multiple anthropological approaches to better understand human-nonhuman primate interactions. Ethnoprimatologists recognize that humans and nonhuman primates have acted as mutual participants in each other's ecology, evolutionary history, and social lives for millennia. Using an ethnoprimatological approach, I am currently working with the Waiwai people in the far south of Guyana on a long-term, multi-faceted study of human-nonhuman primate interactions. The primary goal of this partnership is community-based management of primate hunting, biodiversity conservation, and health.
Sustainability of Waiwai Primate Hunting
While subsistence hunting is one of the most important threats to primate conservation throughout the world, nonhuman primates are an extremely important food resource for many indigenous Amazonians. Indigenous people have been increasingly successful at securing their land rights throughout Amazonia and indigenous reserves now make up over 20% of the land area of the Amazon Basin. Groups that depend on primates as a food source and primate conservationists share a mutual goal - long-term conservation of primate populations. Therefore, I am working with the Waiwai to develop methods for community based management of their subsistence hunting, including participatory GIS modeling, line-transect surveys, and hunter harvest self-monitoring.
Shared Human-nonhuman Primate Social and Ecological Landscapes
In addition to providing an important source of protein for indigenous Amazonians, nonhuman primates often play an important role in their symbolism, mythology, material culture, and group identity. Cultural beliefs and practices, in turn, strongly influence hunting behavior and modulate harvesting decisions. By integrating theoretical and methodological approaches from both cultural and biological anthropology, my research seeks to better understand the complex cultural connections between the Waiwai and nonhuman primates.
I am also interested in how humans and nonhuman primates co-create ecological landscapes throughout the Neotropics. Many parts of the Amazon that were once thought of as "pristine" and untouched by humans, are now recognized as highly anthropogenic habitats. Therefore, human subsistence activities, particularly hunting and landscape modification associated with slash and burn agriculture, have long influenced the community ecology of sympatric primates. I am currently studying how primates use anthropogenic fallow forests and the extent to which humans may have a stabilizing impact on sympatric primate populations.
Zoonotic Disease Emergence
The high degree of contact between humans and nonhuman primates and their phylogenetic similarity results in high potential for bi-directional disease transmission. Hunting, butchery, and consumption of primates provides a particularly important interface for pathogen exchange and some of the most virulent diseases in human history, like HIV and Ebola, have emerged through this interface. I am collaborating with colleagues from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine, and Emory University to study the pathogens present in primates hunted by the Waiwai and assess how cultural factors like hunting methods, food taboos, and food preparation methods enhance or limit pathogen exchange.