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Former Graduate Students

Former Graduate Students of Lynne Isbell's Lab

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Kimberly VanderWaal

Dr. Kim VanderWaal's dissertation research examined wildlife epidemiology using social network methodology.  Her project had two objectives: 1) to examine how strongly association patterns affect intraspecific bacterial transmission in giraffes, and 2) to quantify the extent and directionality of interspecific transmission of E. coli bacteria between wild and domestic ungulates.  Her research was conducted at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy on the Laikipia Plateau, in Kenya. Kim is now a postdoc in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine at the University of Minnesota.



Stephanie Etting


Dr. Stephanie Etting’s dissertation research involved a series of experiments that examined the behavioral and morphological responses of primates to snakes, evolutionarily their most ancient class of predator.  Her research was largely conducted on captive rhesus macaques at the California National Primate Research Center, but she also studied other primate species at Safari West and the Oakland Zoo for comparative purposes.  Stephanie is currently a visiting lecturer at Sonoma State University.



Katie McHugh

Dr. Katie McHugh’s dissertation explored development of the behavior of juvenile bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Florida under the field guidance of Randy Wells. She is now a Staff Scientist with the Chicago Zoological Society and continues to work with the dolphins of Sarasota Bay.


John Bunce Dr. John Bunce's dissertation was on the evolution of color vision in primates. He used the small South American titi monkey (Callicebus brunneus) as a model animal to test the hypothesis that "red-green" color vision evolved in primates because it provided a foraging advantage in the task of finding red, orange, and yellow fruit against a green leaf background. John spent 24 months in eastern lowland Peru (Manu National Park) collecting behavioral data on the titi monkeys, and about that long in the Molecular Anthropology Laboratory of Dr. David Glenn Smith here at UC Davis to genetically determine the color vision genotypes of his study animals.  He is currently the PI on an NSF study of human behavioral ecology in Peru.
Brianne Beisner


Dr. Brianne Beisner’s dissertation research investigated how the ecology of the captive environment influences social behavior of rhesus macaques. At the California National Primate Research Center, groups of macaques are housed in quarter-hectare enclosures. Some enclosures have grass as the ground cover and some have gravel. One of her questions was whether the kind of substrate affects activity budgets, particularly time spent in foraging and grooming, and whether the time spent grooming can explain differential degrees of hair loss (e.g. do animals that live in enclosures with gravel forage less and therefore groom more?). She is now an Assistant Project Scientist with the Department of Population Health and Reproduction at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Noa Pinter-Wollman


Dr. Noa Pinter-Wollman’s dissertation research examined the behavior of elephants in Kenya that were moved from a small national reserve (Shimba Hills) where they were in conflict with humans to a much larger national park (Tsavo East) with fewer people nearby. Noa was particularly interested in the process of adjustment (or not) to a novel social and physical environment. She is now Research Scientist with the BioCircuits Institute at UC San Diego.


Rebecca Chancellor


Dr. Rebecca Chancellor’s dissertation research examined details of resource competition among female primates using both captive experimental and field observational techniques. One of her findings is that high-ranking captive rhesus macaques behave aggressively toward lower-ranking macaques not before but after they have obtained choice foods, and this punishment increases the likelihood that higher-ranking individuals will get food in the future. Another finding is that in Uganda, female gray-cheeked mangabeys under greater food competition do not necessarily increase their rate of aggressive interactions but instead adjust their ranging behavior (e.g., they increase inter-individual distance and often break up into subgroups), thereby keeping contest competition in check.  She is now the PI of a field study of chimpanzees in Gishwati Forest, Rwanda and Assistant Professor in the Departments of Anthropology/Sociology and Psychology at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.  

Karin Enstam Jaffe

Dr. Karin Enstam Jaffe’s dissertation explored how habitat structure affects perceived risk of predation and anti-predator behavior in closely related, sympatric patas and vervet monkeys in Laikipia, Kenya. She is now Professor of Anthropology at Sonoma State University, California, and director of SSUPER (Sonoma State University PrimatE Research project).