In LEEP we conduct our own research and support others at the University of Arizona and elsewhere with their research. Below are some of the projects on which we have worked.
Effects of Environmental Degradation on Threatened Lemur Species
Lemurs are some of the most endangered species in the world due to habitat fragmentation and deforestation. Examining stress and coping responses via cortisol may provide information as to how individuals strategically deal with change. In combination with phenological data from fragmented and continuous forests, behavioral data, and health assessments, we are measuring cortisol and thyroid hormone in Eulemur rubriventer and Propithecus edwardsi in Ranomafana National Park, and Propithecus diadema in Tsinjoarivo. This work is in collaboration with M. Irwin, J. Jernvall, and P. Wright, and has been supported by the National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation, American Association of University Women, PEO Foundation, Primate Conservation, Inc., Conservation International Primate Action Fund, American Society of Primatologists, and the University of Texas-Austin.
Mechanisms of infant care
The red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer) is a model species for investigating the evolution of allomaternal care (care of infants by individuals other than the mother) in primates. In LEEP we are investigating the mechanisms of allomaternal care by examining whether and how hormones are associated with variation in allomaternal care behavior. We are particularly interested in bonding hormones such as oxytocin and vasopressin, as well as steroid hormones that may impact, and be impacted by, allomaternal care. This work is in collaboration with A. Baden, and has been supported by the Leakey Foundation, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute.
Mid-Term Exam Stress
Past LEEP students (Max Silva and Kyle Wiley) measured salivary cortisol levels in college students before and after mid-term examinations. This research aimed to determine how efficiently college students coped with perceived stressors, and the differences that occurred before and after the stressful event. Given that chronically high levels of cortisol can have deleterious effects on the body, determining the stress impact that exams have on college students can add vital information about collegiate health disorders. High levels of depression and anxiety could be linked to chronically induced stress.
Developmental Changes in Male and Female Ring-Tailed Lemur Reproductive Hormones
Males and females undergo changes in early life that lead to sex-differentiated behaviors. Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) have a noted and well-documented behavioral sex divergence at maturity. Stephanie Meredith and Teague O'Mara recently investigated whether changes in estradiol and androgens are associated with these ontogenetic behavioral changes in males and females. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation.
Toxic Stress in American Indians
We helped researchers in the UA College of Public Health at the University of Arizona in a pilot study aimed at uncovering some of the correlates between American Indian communities and chronic disease. This work in collaboration with the Tucson Indian Center tested the feasibility of using salivary cortisol to examine whether high risk communities adopted toxic, non-adaptive coping strategies.