Research

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Joanna Lambert is an evolutionary ecologist and integrative biological anthropologist. With a team of research assistants, students, and collaborators, she integrates field data on animal behavior, ecology, and human attitudes towards animals with lab data on physiology, genetics, and nutritional chemistry. As Joanna has endeavored to illustrate in her published work and teaching, these data intersect at numerous theoretical and empirical scales, with implications for understanding both the evolutionary past and the reality of living in the ever-changing ecological present of human-modified habitats.  Since 1991, she has carried out long-term research on primates and forest biology at her primary field site, Kibale National Park, Uganda, where she is the director of the Kibale Primates & Plants Project (KPPP).  In addition, Joanna is currently developing research in the western regions of North America, with a focus on hypo- and mesocarnivores, their roles as seed dispersers, and their resilience in the face of increasingly urbanized landscapes.  Research carried out in the Lambert lab has developed along two interrelated themes:

Animal Feeding Biology and Nutritional Ecology Research by Joanna and her students on feeding biology and nutritional ecology has focused on primates and most recently carnivores, with questions centering on diet and nutrition, the natural selection and plasticity of feeding-related adaptations and the evolution of clade-level feeding traits.  Representative past, current, and developing research in these areas include:
• Signals of diet-related selection in the coyote (Canis latrans) microbiome and metabolome (in collaboration with the Denver Urban Coyote Project)
• The function of cheek pouches in assimilation of starchy carbohydrate energy
• Carbohydrate fermentation and short-chain fatty acid profiles in primates and frugivorous carnivora
• Comparative gut physiology and digestive strategy in primates and carnivora
• Non-invasive genetic pyro-sequencing of wild primate diet

Interactions and Coexistence Among Species Research by Joanna and her students on species interactions and coexistence has focused on how feeding and digestive strategy facilitate mechanisms of coexistence, how feeding biology impacts seed dispersal and forest regeneration, and how animal behavioral ecology influences human-wildlife conflict and coexistence. A few representative past and current research in these areas include:

• Resource switching as a a facilitator of coexistence among closely related sympatric monkey species
• Primate and bird frugivory and its impact on seed dispersal and forest regeneration
• Human use of resources from plants requiring primates for seed dispersal
• How apes and humans share habitat
• Conflict and coexistence among humans and baboons
• Human attitudes towards resilient carnivore species

Joanna and her students gratefully acknowledge research funding from:

National Science Foundation
US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Wildlife Conservation Society
Primate Conservation, Inc
Fulbright Foundation
Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society
Tinker Foundation
American Society for Primatologists
International Primatological Society
West Africa Research Association (WARA)
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Oregon
University of Wisconsin – Madison
University of Texas at San Antonio

Funding