The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Anthropological primatology: What field primatologists can contribute to the field


Anthropology, Iowa State University

Thursday 2:00-2:15, Ballroom A Add to calendar

In the 1950s, Washburn’s ‘New Physical Anthropology’ marked the beginning stage of modern primatological fieldwork. Moving from a focus on natural history studies of primates as models of early humans, primatologists in anthropology departments today have broadened their perspective and focus on hypothesis testing. Although technological advances have made the field primatologist’s life easier, the basic methodology, as well as the ultimate goal of studying evolutionary adaptation within our scientific Order, remains the same. However, new analytical and theoretical possibilities combined with conservation and ethical concerns about the subjects of study require the field primatologist to adapt. I explore these changes using my research on savanna chimpanzee behavior and ecology at Fongoli, Senegal as an example, and I suggest future directions in arguing that the field primatologist provides an invaluable resource for an array of scientists within and outside of the field of anthropology. Primatological anthropologists occupy a unique niche, in providing established field sites where wild primates are habituated to observer presence as well as long-term data on specific individuals. Such a resource is invaluable to a range of disciplines. The Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project has thus far collaborated with colleagues in genetic, parasitological, endocrinological, archaeological, isotopic and cultural anthropological studies. The challenge for anthropological primatology is to be at the cutting edge of theoretical development in addition to being a valuable resource for a multitude of scientific inquiries. In forming collaborative arrangements, the field primatologist can broaden their involvement at the forefront of scientific advancement.

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