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The Next Direction for Primatology? A Commentary on Setchell (2013)

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Abstract

Primatologists were asked to submit their "ideas for the Big Questions that remain unanswered in Primatology" and, from this, Setchell (2013) grouped the 170 responses into 11 broad themes. This exercise created a valuable tool that can help primatologists identify both the "missing gaps" and current broad overarching themes within our field. In this commentary, we offer our perspective on the methodology and results of this survey. By considering the 11 themes more holistically, primatologists can more easily address a broader range of questions, methods, and outcomes for their research endeavors and conservation efforts. Ultimately, the results of this survey should enable researchers and policymakers to recognize gaps in our knowledge and plan how to proceed with new research initiatives and funding applications. The identified themes should also provide a reference point for new avenues of investiga-tion, and we are hopeful that this list can encourage interdisciplinary research if primatologists consider the overlaps across the themes. However, as Setchell noted, as some key areas of research were omitted from the list, the 11 themes should be used as a tool for guidance in expanding our research horizons and not as a template for the minimum of what is required.
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International Journal of Primatology
The Official Journal of the International
Primatological Society
ISSN 0164-0291
Volume 35
Number 2
Int J Primatol (2014) 35:341-348
DOI 10.1007/s10764-014-9764-6
The Next Direction for Primatology? A
Commentary on Setchell (2013)
Lydia M.Hopper, David B.Morgan &
Stephen R.Ross
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COMMENTARY
The Next Direction for Primatology?
A Commentary on Setchell (2013)
Ly d i a M . H o p p e r &David B. Morgan &
Stephen R. Ross
Received: 10 October 2013 /Accepted: 10 January 2014 / Published online: 18 March 2014
#Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract Primatologists were asked to submit their ideas for the Big Questions that
remain unanswered in Primatologyand, from this, Setchell (2013) grouped the 170
responses into 11 broad themes. This exercise created a valuable tool that can help
primatologists identify both the missing gapsand current broad overarching themes
within our field. In this commentary, we offer our perspective on the methodology and
results of this survey. By considering the 11 themes more holistically, primatologists
can more easily address a broader range of questions, methods, and outcomes for their
research endeavors and conservation efforts. Ultimately, the results of this survey
should enable researchers and policymakers to recognize gaps in our knowledge and
plan how to proceed with new research initiatives and funding applications. The
identified themes should also provide a reference point for new avenues of investiga-
tion, and we are hopeful that this list can encourage interdisciplinary research if
primatologists consider the overlaps across the themes. However, as Setchell noted,
as some key areas of research were omitted from the list, the 11 themes should be used
as a tool for guidance in expanding our research horizons and not as a template for the
minimum of what is required.
Keywords Captive primates .Conservation policy.Pets .Research .Research methods
Introduction
In 2012, Joanna Setchell asked members of the International Primatological Society
(via e-mail) to submit ideas for the Big Questions that remain unanswered in
Primatology.Setchell recently presented the responses to this call in the
International Journal of Primatology (Setchell 2013) and grouped the 170 responses
into 11 broad themes plus a 12th miscellaneouscategory (Table I). The 170
Int J Primatol (2014) 35:341348
DOI 10.1007/s10764-014-9764-6
L. M. Hopper (*):D. B. Morgan:S. R. Ross
Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
60614, USA
e-mail: lhopper@lpzoo.org
Author's personal copy
submitted questions covered issues that concerned both captive and wild primates, as
well as pure and applied research, but more than a quarter fell within the theme How
can we conserve primates in the face of global change?Setchell proposed that this
focus may reflect the pressures faced by wild primates and the concerns that primatol-
ogists have for the long-term survival of their study species. Alternatively, however,
this may simply reflect a greater response rate by those studying, or concerned by,
conservation issues. Either way, given the number of publications on primate conser-
vation (including both special issues, e.g., American Journal of Primatology,volume
73, issue 1, and books, e.g., Sterling et al. 2013), this particular theme represents not
only a new direction for primatology, but also a long-standing focus of the field.
In addition to highlighting the key interests and concerns of primatologists, the
results of the survey provide an excellent springboard for discussions about how
primatologists can prioritize future research efforts. To help identify these key issues,
Setchell (2013) encouraged commentaries from primatologists that could be general
comments, or focus on specific, or missing, themes [in order] to expand this list into
aseriesofreviewsfortheInternational Journal of Primatology, highlighting questions
that primatology should be seeking to answer(p. 660). Given this call, we wish to
commend Setchell for her editorial and offer our perspective, both on the results of the
survey as well as future directions and methods.
Our own research interests cover a number of spheres within primatology, and,
accordingly, a number of the themes identified by Setchell (2013), including How can
we conserve primates in the face of global change?,Brains and cognition,”“Our
interactions with other primates and ethics,”“Other aspects of ecology,and Disease
ecology.Specifically, our zoo-based research program supports both conservation
efforts and the study of wild and captive primates, and our work with captive primates
is driven by both applied and theoretical research interests. It is from this perspective
that we offer our outlook on the themes highlighted by Setchell (2013). The aim of our
commentary is not only to highlight some of the key themes identified by Setchells
Ta b l e I 170 total suggested questions were submitted to Setchells survey (Setchell 2013), which fell into 11
themes and a 12th miscellaneouscategory
Broad theme Number of questions
How can we conserve primates in the face of global change? 46
The evolution of sociality and social behavior 28
Brains and cognition 23
Evolutionary biology 20
Our interactions with other primates and ethics 12
What do primates eat? 11
Miscellaneous 10
Other aspects of ecology 8
Life history 5
Disease ecology 3
Applied (medical) research 2
How do we promote primatology? 2
342 L.M. Hopper et al.
Author's personal copy
(2013) survey, but also to consider the responses in a holistic manner. Through this
commentary, by focusing on two of the themes identified by Setchell (2013)—“How
can we conserve primates in the face of global change?and Our interactions with
other primates and ethics”—we hope to demonstrate how primatologists can use the list
of themes to help prioritize their research efforts while encouraging interdisciplinary
collaboration. Only by taking a broader perspective, and engaging with those both
inside and outside our field, can we begin to address the theme How do we promote
primatology?In addition, we exemplify the importance of considering how research
can influence policy decisions more widely and propose novel techniques that can be
used to address the themes identified by Setchell (2013). Finally, we consider the
validity of the survey and its limitations that primatologists should be mindful of when
using the 11 themes as a tool for planning research.
How Can We Conserve Primates in the Face of Global Change?
Setchell (2013) categorized the 11 themes within two broad themes of policyand
researchand argued that, although policy decisions might involve the input of non-
scientists, all policy decisions should be made off the back of scientific inquiry. We
applaud this concept; science should drive policymaking (Sutherland et al. 2013).
However, rather than simply categorizing each theme as either one of policy or
research, we believe primatologists may also choose to consider the list in a more
interconnected manner. Indeed, Setchell (2013) encouraged primatologists to recognize
that their priority should be to look for the gaps in scientific knowledge and to aim to
address these in order to progress and aid policy efforts, and this can be achieved only
by looking at all the topics encapsulated by the themes. This does not mean that
primatologists should necessarily aim to incorporate more than one theme into their
research program, but simply that Setchells(2013) list enables us to consider and
reflect on how our area of expertise relates to the wider field of primatology, and to
identify both common research interests as well as gaps in our knowledge. Only by
focusing on a single area can researchers gain detailed knowledge of a specific topic or
species, but through interdisciplinary collaborations, individual researchers are also
able to broaden their scope if they choose. The importance of the list of 11 themes
identified by Setchell (2013) is that it may enable primatologists, especially junior
researchers new to the field, to identify more easily research areas outside their own
specialism that may relate to their own interests and foster collaborative efforts.
Conservation efforts require interdisciplinary collaboration, including scientists from
a variety of fields, e.g., ecology, botany, anthropology, and economics, that partner with
private industry, government, and nongovernment organizations to achieve a balance of
economic interests, human well-being, and the sustainable management of ecosystems
in which the nonhuman primates live. In this way, we are able to reach multiple
audiences, via multiple streams, to share our information widely. Thus, Setchells
(2013) list of 11 themes provides a framework that can help us to better strategize
and plan our research endeavors within our own niche, while also highlighting potential
areas for collaboration and interdisciplinary study. This may be particularly pertinent
for the most commonly suggested theme, How can we conserve primates in the face of
global change?as research designed to directly tackle that question (Morgan et al.,
Next Direction for Primatology: Commentary on Setchell (2013) 343
Author's personal copy
2012), may also address other themes simultaneously (e.g., Disease ecology,
Gillespie et al. 2010,orWhat do primates eat?, Johnson et al.,2013). By considering
the list of themes holistically, primatologists may be better able to contemplate a
broader range of questions, methods, and outcomes for their research in ways which
mayleadmoredirectlytopolicymaking(Morganet al. 2013) and the conservation of
primate species (Chapman and Peres 2001).
Our Interactions with Other Primates and Ethics
Setchell (2013) proposed that most of the conservation-related themes could be con-
sidered as ones of policy, but that, ultimately, the unspoken question behind many of
the policy questions is How can scientists help?’” (p. 660). Given this, we believe that
the theme Our interactions with other primates and ethicscould also be considered as
one of policy. This should encourage primatologists to continue to engage with the
policy that governs research methods and ethics, and also to encourage discussion and
collaboration between conservationists and researchers (Caro and Sherman 2013).
Any study with primates involves humananimal interactions and has the potential
for creating negative impacts, and this may be most acute for captive primates
with atypical rearing histories (Clay and de Waal 2013; van Leeuwen et al. 2013).
As primatologists, we need to be mindful of the impact of our research techniques
may have on our subjects, both in captivity and the wild (Chelluri et al. 2013;
Köndgen et al. 2008).
The growing awareness of the animal welfare and public health and safety concerns
associated with sanctuaries in range states calls for greater consideration of the policy
that governs these primatescare and the reasons that underpin why individuals become
orphans in the first place. Most orphaned primates are the product of bushmeat hunting,
while others are the result of the pet trade (Kabasawa 2009; see also Stolen Apesat
http://www.grida.no/publications/rr/apes/). Although significant strides have been
made in the standardization of health care; breeding policies and protocols; and, in
some locations, reintroduction of individuals back to the wild (Beck et al. 2007), to
address these issues properly will require international cooperation, stronger policies
regarding the export and import of wildlife, and protocols for criminal prosecutions.
The trade of pet primates is a concern not just within range countries, but also
throughout the Western world (Ross 2013; Ross and Vreeman 2010), a practice that
has detrimental impacts on both the primates (Freeman and Ross 2013) and their
human caretakers, e.g., from the risks of disease transmission (Jones-Engel et al.
2006). Furthermore, research investigating the public perception of such privately
owned primates has revealed that inaccurate representations of primates in popular
media influences public perceptions of endangered species, such that they see them as
less threatened (Nekaris et al. 2013;Rosset al. 2008,2011). Thus, although the study
of privately owned primates, both in range countries and elsewhere, may be most
closelylinkedtothethemeOur interactions with other primates and ethics,
there are also connections to the themes How can we conserve primates in the
face of global change?and Disease ecology,which further emphasizes the
strength of Setchells(2013) report in helping us to identify common themes
across our research interests.
344 L.M. Hopper et al.
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New Techniques to Address the 11 Themes
Setchell (2013) encouraged primatologists to consider new techniques and tools, e.g.,
remote monitoring and hormone assays, for addressing the 11 themes and we endorse
this. It is only through a multifaceted approach that we can determine a detailed and
nuanced understanding of a speciesbehavior, cognition, or evolution and, consequent-
ly, how best to care for it, whether in the wild (though conservation efforts) or in
captivity (when considering their husbandry and welfare needs). Indeed, a number of
new techniques have enabled primate conservation efforts, e.g., through genomic tools,
which can identify distinct populations that may require special attention (Bowden
et al.,2012), to using a combination of novel surveying tools, modeling techniques,
and improved opportunities for the development of more collaborative approaches to
survey primates (Kühl et al. 2007; Peck et al. 2011).
In addition to looking to new technologies to answer the as-yet unanswered ques-
tions, we also encourage researchers to consider novel settings, such as zoos or
sanctuaries, as fruitful research venues (Lonsdorf et al. 2009;Stoinskiet al. 2011;
van Leeuwen et al. 2012). Studies run in zoos, for example, can involve the collection
of long-term, standardized behavioral data (Ross et al. 2010) in combination with
biological measures, such as fecal and urinary cortisol values (Armstrong and
Santymire 2012). Not only does this facilitate the collection of a rich data set, which
can inform husbandry and management decisions, but conducting research on public
display in a zoo setting also enables education outreach, enhancing public understand-
ing of research (Ross et al. 2012). Through such direct interaction with a wide
audience, such as visitors to a zoo, scientists can communicate both the scientific
method and also the aims and the findings of their research (Mulkerrin and Hill 2013).
This is particularly pertinent when communicating research that pertains to endangered
primates, as scientists have the opportunity to both increase public understanding of a
speciesbehavior, ecology, and cognition, and also to raise awareness about its
status in range countries and discuss conservation issues (Kruse and Card 2004).
Given the high numbers of people that visit zoos each year, engaging with zoo
education programs may create another avenue through which primatologists can
communicate their research methods, findings, and policy goals to a wider audience
(Patrick et al. 2007).
Considering the Validity of the Survey
Perhaps surprisingly, only 32 responses were submitted to Setchells survey. This
represents minimal participation by members of the International Primatological
Society (IPS) and so a key question that must be addressed is why participation was
so low. We do not believe that this represents a lack of interest in the field of
primatology, and indeed the number of registered members of IPS has increased by
more than a third (37%) since 2006 (Steven Schapiro, via e-mail 2013). Further, a
Google Scholar search using the key-term primatologyproduced 9860 results for the
period of 19932003, while almost double the results (16,500) were given for the
period of 20032013, again indicating a growing interest in primatology and primato-
logical research.
Next Direction for Primatology: Commentary on Setchell (2013) 345
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Setchell (2013) provided some potential explanations for the lack of participation
but, for comparison, let us consider another recently conducted top 10inquiry run by
the National Academy of Engineering (NAE; Giles 2011). The National Science
Foundation charged the NAE to determine what the grand challengesfor the field
of engineering were. Unlike Setchells(2013) survey, which was directed at IPS
members (of which there are currently 1421), the NAE survey was addressed to
the public, extending beyond the NAEs 2210 members. The general public was
given one year to answer the question What are the grand challenges for
engineering in the next one hundred years?and more than a thousand people
(from more than 40 countries) submitted a response. These responses were
reviewed by an expert panel of 50 individuals and the process was overseen by
four NAE members. In addition, an 18-member panel, convened by the NAE, also
spent a year discussing these topics. This process resulted in the identification of
14 grand challenges.Despite these differences between the two surveys, it is
interesting to note that both inquiries led to the identification of a similar number
of key issues (11 for primatology, 14 for engineering) and, comparably, a search to
identify the key issues within the field of social sciences resulted in a top 10list
(Giles 2011).
As Setchells survey represented the first step in beginning to identify a top 10for
primatology, the 11 themes presented in Setchell (2013) can be now used to help
primatologists effectively identify the key questions and areas of interest for their field.
For example, and perhaps with the provision of more guidance, e.g., Please discuss
captive and wild populations,the next step may be to resurvey primatologists but
within the framework of the 11 big issues identified by Setchell (2013), or to simply
borrow from the NAE and ask What are the grand challenges for primatology in the
next one hundred years?
Conclusions and Future Directions
We applaud Setchell for her efforts and believe that this was an extremely fruitful
exercise that has created a valuable tool for the identification of broad overarching
themes within our field. Further, the results of the survey can enable researchers and
policymakers to recognize gaps in our knowledge and plan how to proceed with new
research initiative and funding applications. This overview should also prove useful for
early-career primatologists, or students wishing to enter the field, by providing a
reference point for new avenues of investigation. We are also hopeful that, if prima-
tologists consider the overlaps across the 11 themes, rather than simply looking at
them as distinct entities, this list will help to encourage greater interdisciplinary
research. In this way, researchers should be encouraged to collaborate to help
answer these themes and broaden their own individual endeavors. However, we
must use caution and be mindful that this list is not exhaustive, nor does it
represent the definitive list of all topics that should be studied to the exclusion
of other research areas. As Setchell (2013) noted, some key areas of research, e.g.,
sexual selection, were omitted from the list; therefore, these themes should be
used as a tool for guidance in expanding our research horizons and not as a
template for the minimum of what is required.
346 L.M. Hopper et al.
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Acknowledgments We thank Jessica Rothman, James Higham, and Laura Kurtycz for their insightful
feedback on this commentary as well as Joanna Setchell both for initiating these important discussions among
primatologists and also for her feedback on our commentary. We also wish to thank Steven Schapiro for
providing the current, and past, numbers of registered members of the International Primatological Society.
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... Nonetheless, our results lend support to the identification of SDB as an expression of affect. With a recent increase in the use of touchscreen technology and cognitive testing in zoological parks (Ross 2009;Clay et al. 2011;Whitehouse et al. 2014), these settings are poised to contribute to continued, enhanced description of the relationship between SDB and emotion for multiple species tested within the same environment, while creating opportunities for public engagement with research (Hopper et al. 2014;Price et al. 2015). This expanded scope will inform a more comprehensive impression of nonhuman emotion processing and provide increased perspective on the relation between the captive experience, acute and persistent affective state, and psychological well-being. ...
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Self-directed behaviors (SDBs) are a commonly used behavioral indicator of arousal in nonhuman primates. Experimental manipulations, designed to increase arousal and uncertainty, have been used to elicit SDB production in primates. Beyond measuring rates of SDB production, researchers have also recorded their lateralized production by primates, thought to reflect laterality of hemispheric brain control and response to emotion. Although a handful of such studies exist, all have been conducted with chimpanzees. Expanding on this line of inquiry, we tested both chimpanzees (N = 3) and gorillas (N = 3) in a serial learning task presented on a touchscreen interface that incorporated both EASY (two-item list) and HARD (four-item list) versions of the task. Although SDB production by the apes did not differ across the two levels of task complexity, both species produced higher rates of SDB when they made an error, regardless of task difficulty. Furthermore, the apes made more SDB with the left hand-directed to the right side of their body (contralateral SDB) and left side of their body (ipsilateral SDB)-when they made an incorrect response. There was no difference in the rate of SDB produced with the right hand across correct compared to incorrect trials. The apes' responses reflect previous reports that show humans are quicker at selecting negative emotional stimuli when using their left, compared to their right, hand (the reverse is true for positive stimuli). However, previous work has shown that chimpanzees are more likely to produce (contralateral) SDB with their right hand when aroused and so we discuss our results in relation to these findings and consider how they relate to the 'right hemisphere' and 'valence' models of emotional processing in apes.
Chapter
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The Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes is a multidisciplinary research center based at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois (United States) and named in honor of Dr. Lester Fisher, former veterinarian and director at this zoo. Since 2004, the Fisher Center has maintained a broad and varied research program, focusing on studies of ape behavior, biology, and cognition, using a range of non-invasive methods and a comparative approach. In addition to the study of zoo-housed apes, they have worked to study and advocate for privately owned chimpanzees living as pets and performers through their Project ChimpCARE initiative. They also support a growing conservation partnership with the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project aimed at protecting wild populations of apes in the Republic of Congo.
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