I was first introduced to primates at the Duke Lemur Center as an undergraduate, where I became fascinated with primate development and cognition. I completed my Ph.D. in 2003 at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Center for Primate Studies at the University of Minnesota, focusing on sex differences in the development of tool-use skills in the wild chimpanzees of Gombe National Park. I was then the founding Director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo before joining the faculty of Franklin and Marshall College in 2012. In July of 2022, I joined the Emory Anthropology Department. My current research focuses on primate behavioral development and I co-direct the Gombe Ecosystem Health Project and the Gombe Mother-Infant Project.
The overarching goal of my scholarship is to understand the interplay of development and health in non-human primate behavior as a model for the evolution of human childhood. I am interested in the various influences that shape a primate’s life from birth to adulthood, and the resultant outcomes in terms of survival, reproduction, and behavioral variation. Chimpanzees exhibit one of the lengthier periods of pre-reproductive dependency among primates and grow up in a dynamic and complex social and physical environment. As such, young chimpanzees have much to learn about social dynamics, diet acquisition and complex skills such as tool use. Over the past decade, I have integrated multiple long-term datasets and worked with several collaborators to examine the causes and consequences of developmental variation. In addition to studying chimpanzees in the wild, I have studied multiple nonhuman primate species in a variety of settings.