American primatologist Dr. Michael Huffman, a mainstay of Japanese primatology for over 30 years, waxes (but never wanes) philosophically on life and work with us on The PrimateCast.
Michael Huffman is Associate Professor in the Section of Social Systems Evolution, Department of Ecology and Social Behavior at Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute. He's also the former PhD supervisor of your host, Andrew MacIntosh, giving the interview a rather personal feel.
In the interview, Dr. Huffman speaks in depth about how Japan and Kyoto University allowed him to chase after and fulfil his dreams as a young primatologist, weaving a captivating tale and allowing his infectious personality to shine. Few can manage the sincerity with which Dr. Huffman approaches life and work, and this becomes abundantly clear in the interview, in which we spend more time discussing Dr. Huffman the human than Dr. Huffman the scientist.
Michael Huffman is best known in primatology and behavioral ecology as the scientist who discovered self-medication in chimpanzees, an important anti-parasite defense strategy, and has advocated for its ubiquity throughout the animal kingdom. He has written extensively on this topic for both scientific and general audiences. Dr. Huffman has also studied behavioral traditions in animals for decades, his main work beginning with the discovery of stone handling in Japanese macaques, a behavior which started with a single young female at Arashiyama in Kyoto and subsequently spread, as fashionable trends tend to do, throughout the group. We discuss these and other projects in the interview to some degree, but don't worry, that just means we get to have him back in the studio in the near future for a follow up on all the exciting science he's involved in. Stay tuned...
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Photo credit: Nagamune / Michael A. Huffman