Ongoing Research Topics

What determines the presence of infectious disease in natural populations?
Distributions of pathogens in nature are affected by a wide variety of factors. As part of the Kibale EcoHealth Project, we are involved in studies of how demography, ecology, sociality, and host genetics combine to affect disease susceptibility within and between species in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Currently, we are using distributions of primate disease across Kibale to understand how evolution has shaped disease-associated genomic variation in wild primates.

What factors shape the assembly of microbial communities hosted by primates?
The gut microbiome has been implicated in a variety of health consequences, but we lack a complete understanding of what affects the composition of these microbial communities in wild animals. We are studying this issue in primates, looking at how both host genetic background and host behavior affect the gut microbiome. The results will hopefully provide further information on the connection between evolution, environment, behavior, and health.

How does environmental change affect population dynamics?

An understanding of how rapidly changing environments will affect wildlife populations is crucial to the maintenance of biodiversity. We are thus interested in how primate population dynamics have been affected by environmental change, including both climate change in the distant past and recent human-related habitat alteration. This work is ultimately important to informing theory and practice in conservation biology as natural populations face increasing levels of human environmental disturbance.

How can population abundance, demography, and sociality be inferred through the use of non-invasive methods?
A lack of information on endangered species often occurs because such taxa are difficult to study. Non-invasive sampling can now be used to estimate population abundance, density, demography, and social structure, thus allowing for the monitoring of cryptic wildlife. Such information is essential to establishing baseline data on the status of threatened taxa, inferring trends in population size and demography, and understanding social behavior in elusive animals.

We would like to thank the following organizations for having funded various projects in the Ting Lab.

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