In the past year, I’ve watched a lot of my friends finish their dissertations and move on to jobs as adjunct teaching faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and the rare tenure track job. One of my friends (@ZCofran) even left the U.S. (see Lawn Chair Anthropology) to bring biological anthropology to Kazakhstan. Soon I can officially join them in “post-dissertation world” and start my next project. It turns out that 2013 will indeed be the “Year of the Defense”, and 2014 will be the year I go back to Ethiopia and the “bleeding heart” baboons.
This past week, I learned I was awarded an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology. My project falls under “Divsion II: Integrating Biology with Math and Physical Sciences.” I’ll be based out of Dan Rubenstein‘s lab at Princeton University, and collaborating with Tanya Berger-Wolf at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Although I’m still studying geladas, I’m shifting focus to larger patterns of social structure, ecology, and collective movement. Here is the title and abstract (also listed on the NSF website):
Dynamic network analysis of collective movement and herding in a complex primate society
This project combines field-based data with computational network analysis to understand how social relationships and ecological pressures mediate collective movement and herding in a complex primate society. Through using dynamic network analysis, this research will transform how biologists understand the adaptive value of association in changing environments. The project will focus on the gelada (Theropithecus gelada) a primate species that lives in an extremely large modular society with high fission-fusion dynamics. Behavioral, ecological, and demographic data will be collected from a population of habituated geladas living in the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. Potential findings will be of great interest to computational scientists and behavioral ecologists interested in the evolution of cooperation, coordination, and complex systems.
This research will help conserve the Afroalpine habitat of the Simiens Mountains National Park (SMNP), Ethiopia—a UNESCO World Heritage Site “In Danger”. The fellow will give public talks on conserving Ethiopian biodiversity at a local ecotourism lodge and train Ethiopian nationals as field assistants to collect behavioral, ecological, and GPS data for the duration of this project. The fellow will also organize a workshop on applying network analysis to biology at Addis Ababa University. Additionally, the fellow will give talks to high school biology students and maintain a science blog while in the field. Open source software will be used when possible, and all code derived for analysis will be made freely available on the Internet upon completion of the project.