In addition to my primary research foci, I also maintain a number of active field, laboratory, and conservation-based collaborations across the country & internationally.
RUFFED LEMUR SOCIALITY & THE MICROBIOME
Dr. Tim Webster and I are currently investigating the diverse mechanisms driving microbiome diversity and similarity in two wild communities of black-and-white ruffed lemurs in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. This research has received funding from The Leakey Foundation, National Science Foundation, PSC-CUNY, and Hunter College.
Relevant publications and abstracts include: Baden & Webster 2020 AJPA
LEMUR POPULATION DEMOGRAPHY
Together with PMEL alumna Aparna Chandrashekar (San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research), and Dr. Carlo Pacioni (Murdoch University), we are reconstructing population demography across five diurnal lemur species in Ranomafana National Park with aims of identifying natural and anthropogenic pressures driving population decline in the region. These species -- Milne Edwards' sifakas (Propithecus edwardsi), brown lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons), red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer), bamboo lemurs (Hapalemur griseus), and ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata) vary in their locomotor patterns, dietary diversity and degree of specialization, group size and structure, and mating patterns. Together, these variables will allow us to investigate whether and how anthropogenic pressures differentially impact morphologically, phylogenetically, and behaviorally diverse lemur species within the same habitat.
Relevant publications include Chandrashekar 2018; Chandrashekar et al. in prep
SPECIES DISTRIBUTION MODELING
Drs. Toni Lyn Morelli (UMass, Amherst; USGS), Adam Smith (MOBOT) and I, in collaboration with a team of international researchers, non-profits, and conservation organizations (below) are working to model the impacts of forest loss and climate change on ruffed lemur distributions throughout the remaining rainforest habitats in Madagascar. Our work was recently published in Nature Climate Change and has been covered by National Geographic and Newsweek.
Collaborators include: Drs. Liz Balko (Cornell), Cortni Borgerson (Montclair State), Rainer Dolch (Mitsinjo), Zach Farris (Appalachian State), Sarah Federman, Chris Golden (Harvard), Sheila Holmes (Univ. Calgary), Mitch Irwin (Northern Illinois Univ.), Rachel Jacobs (USFWS), Steig Johnson (Univ. Calgary), Tony King (Aspinall Foundation), Shawn Lehman (Univ. Toronto), Ed Louis (Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo), Amanda Mancini (PhD student, CUNY, NYCEP), Asia Murphy (PhD student, Penn State), Onja Razafindratsima (College of Charleston).
Relevant publications include Morelli et al. 2020
RED-BELLIED LEMUR ALLOMATERNAL CARE
Since 2013, Dr. Stacey Tecot and I have been studying allomaternal care in red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer) to better understand the evolution and maintenance of facultative allomaternal care. This species is one of few lemurs in which nonmaternal kin habitually carry infants. This research has been supported by The L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Rowe-Wright Primate Foundation, the University of Arizona, and Hunter College.
RING-TAILED LEMUR MOLECULAR FORENSICS
Together, Drs. Marni LaFleur (San Diego State, Lemur Love, LLC), Tara Clarke (Mad Dog Initiative) and I initiated a project to use noninvasive sampling and molecular forensic techniques to identify hotspots of illegal capture and trade of Madgascar's flagship species, the ring-tailed lemur. Along with our collaborators, Drs. Richard Lawler (James Madison), Joyce Parga (Toronto), Michelle Sauther and Frank Cuozza (Univ. Colorado, Boulder), we are using total genomic DNA from noninvasivelly collected fecal samples to genotype wild ring-tailed lemurs, and using Bayesian assignment methods, identify provenience of confiscated, illegally kept ring-tailed lemur pets. These methods have been successfully used to track illegal trade networks in elephant ivory; we are hopeful that through long-term commitment and large-scale collaborative efforts across research groups, we can achieve similar success. This research has been supported by Conservation International and Hunter College, as well as through crowd sourcing efforts led by Lemur Love, LLC.
Relevant publications include LaFleur et al. submitted (Conservation Biology).
CLIMATE CHANGE & LEMUR LIFE HISTORIES
Lemurs are unusual among primates in that their reproduction is strictly entrained to photoperiod (i.e., they exhibit narrow windows of sexual receptivity). Many lemurs time gestation and weaning to phenological (fruiting) patterns, which means that even in cases of flexible breeding periods, reproductive timing plays an important role in successful reproduction (e.g., Tecot 2010).
During my dissertation research, I observed extreme lags in ruffed lemur reproduction, a phenomenon that has also been observed in norther V. rubra populations (Vasey 2008). Given that ruffed lemurs are among the most frugivorous of the lemurids, this pattern led me to ask whether and to what extent climate change (and corresponding phenological change) has influenced ruffed lemur reproductive timing. Funnily enough, Dr. Sheila Holmes noticed these same patterns at her research site, Kianjavato. Together, we are now in the process of initiating a long-term, cross-site study to evaluate whether and how climatic and phenological unpredictability influences the timing of ruffed lemur reproduction, and whether these patterns might also apply to other seasonally breeding lemur species.
LEMUR SENSORY ECOLOGY
Together with Drs. Brenda Bradley, Rachel Jacobs (USFWS) & others, we are exploring the relationships between genotype-phenotype-fitness in primates, focusing on the possible fitness benefits of polymorphic color vision in Malagasy strepsirrhines.
Relevant publications and abstracts include: Jacobs et al. 2016, 2017, in prep
Madagascar has lost most of its large-bodied fauna since the arrival of humans more than 2000 years ago. Because megafauna are often key actors in complex ecological networks, conserving Madagascar’s remaining megafaunal diversity is essential to preserve functioning ecosystems. Along this line of inquiry, we are investigating...
For this project, my colleagues, Drs. Douglas Daly and Sarah Federman, and I will collect, identify and monitor ramy ecology and phenology across four remote forest sites, and will soon initiate a three-year long study of ruffed lemur feeding ecology at Betampona Special Reserve. With these data we will (1) explore the ecological and evolutionary factors underlying ramy coexistence; (2) investigate the interaction strengths between ruffed lemurs and distinct ramy species; and (3) conduct museum work to identify possible subfossil lemurs implicated in past ramy dispersal. Results will provide important insights on how extinction has impacted Madagascar's moist forests, and contribute essential information for effective conservation strategies moving forward.