CHES Graduate Affiliate Melanie Fenton was just awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation to support his research "Contextual and physiological correlates of complex behavioral strategies in primates." Melanie's research investigates aspects of the "third mechanism" added to Darwin's sexual selection theory: sexual conflict. She's currently in the field collecting behavioral and hormonal data on wild olive baboons to test hypotheses about how females respond to coercive versus friendly interactions with males, and ultimately how these interactions affect mating success. Olive baboons are especially useful subjects for such a study because the nature of social relationships between males and females varies tremendously compared to other primates, from close, affiliative bonds to aversive, antagonistic relations.
The broader impacts of Melanie's research include undergraduate laboratory training here at Rutgers as well as a major project promoting education of Kenyan school children about conservation and human-wildlife conflict in their country and globally. Working with a Kenyan scientist and local conservation organizations, Melanie will be regularly visiting several primary schools in Kenya over the course of her 18-month study, doing exercises with the students and assessing their effectiveness in achieving the educational goals she has set.
As a recipient of the CHES Albert Fellows Dissertation Research Award, further details of Melanie's study can be found here.