I have initiated a long-term project monitoring parasite infection dynamics in Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata), with the aim of modeling interactions between primate and parasite population processes and the impacts of parasitism on primate health and behavior. Understanding these patterns and processes under natural conditions can help determine potential impacts of habitat alteration on primate populations, which is a constant concern in conservation of endangered species. One of my main interests is to determine host traits that contribute to heterogeneity in infection phenotypes across individuals. I am currently focusing on the importance of social structure in mediating both exposure and susceptibility to parasitic nematode infection, working with the populations of Japanese macaques on Koshima and Yakushima Islands, under naturalistic and field-experimental conditions. By disrupting the natural course of infection via anthelmintic treatment of target individuals, I hope to uncover mechanisms of reinfection and potential fitness benefits of parasite removal.
In a recent expansion of this project, I am now beginning a project in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Danau Girang Field Centre and Cardiff University, Universiti Malaysia Sabah and other researchers here at KUPRI to investigate ecological networks in parasite infection among Borneo's rich primate biodiversity. Since Japanese macaques are isolated from other nonhuman primates, within-species effects clearly dominate parasite transmission dynamics, at least for parasites with direct modes of transmission. In tropical areas, however, multiple related primate species typically live sympatrically, allowing for potential cross-infection by parasites. This means that not only specific host individuals but also specific host species may play a disproportionate role in the transmission dynamics of certain disease-causing or otherwise parasitic organisms, i.e. between-species effects. If host community assemblages can affect the transmission rates of generalist (shared) parasites, then the potential exists for other species to influence infection dynamics of focal species, such as primates and other wildlife of conservation concern, or humans, leading to indirect effects on their population viabilities. We aim to address such issues in a project aimed at: (1) developing robust parasite-specific molecular diagnostics to assess primate-parasite biodiversity; (2) determining the extent to which parasites are shared across primate hosts and whether parasites can determine host community structure; (3) assessing spillover of gastrointestinal parasites between nonhuman primates and humans, including domestic animals; and, (4) examining the relationship between habitat fragmentation and parasite biodiversity sensu environmental parasitology.
Perhaps because of the difficulties inherent in determining costs associated with parasite infection and other ecological challenges, I have also been investigating the utility of fractal analysis in health monitoring studies of wild animal behaviour. I am currently using various fractal methods, including detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) and various other Hurst exponent estimators, as well as other tools that measure fractal dimension, to examine complexity in behavioural sequences - which are subtly more stereotypical with stress and disease. My previous research suggested a possible link between parasitic infection and complexity loss in Japanese macaques, and I am currently applying these fractal tools to other study systems, including further work with Japanese macaques and other primates in collaboration with the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno, as well as penguins in collaboration with the IPHC-DEPE, CNRS-University of Strasbourg. In the latter case, using the novel merger of temporal fractal analysis applied to data collected via bio-logging (i.e. using animal-attached data recording devices) has shown that penguin dive sequences exhibit fractal properties across a number of scales and over long time periods, and that certain challenges such as increased physiological stress are associated with fractal complexity loss. We aim to use fractal tools to investigate through a comparative approach behavioral complexity in relation to both individual and environmental quality, and particularly with reference to issues surrounding climate change in the Antarctic region.
After receiving the MA degree from the University of Calgary, I moved to Japan and worked as an English teacher before returning to academia in 2007 to conduct doctoral studies at the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute. My dissertation, which was supervised by Dr. Michael Huffman, was entitled "Gastrointestinal helminth parasitism among Japanese macaques: patterns, processes and host responses". After completing my degree, I remained at the PRI as a post-doctoral research associate with CICASP but worked largely with Dr. Yan Ropert-Coudert at the CNRS-Strasbourg University supported by a JSPS researcher exchange grant to study complexity in seabird foraging behavior in relation to habitat characteristics and global change. I was awarded an assistant professorship with CICASP in April 2012, and was promoted to Associate Professor in April 2014 with affiliations to Kyoto University's Wildlife Research Center and its Leading Graduate Program in Primatology and Wildlife Science. In April 2017, I became tenured Associate Professor at PRI, with CICASP and the Department of Ecology and Social Behavior, through Kyot University's Institute for Liberal Arts and Sciences. To date, I have studied primates in one capacity or another in Central America, Africa, and Asia, but my current focus is on Asian primates and their gastrointestinal parasites. My research is and has been supported by grants-in-aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, as well as Kyoto University. Aside from primates, I also study seabird behaviour, and in particular patterns of behavioural complexity among various penguin species in relation to various ecological challenges and global change biology.
*these authors contributed equally to this work
Surdensteeve Peter, Institute of Tropical Biology and Conservation. 1st year Master's student. Project Title: The diversity and distribution of parasitic protozoa in primates of the lower Kinabatangan Flood Plain
Cecile Sarabian, section of Social Systems Evolution. 4th year doctoral student. Project Title: The Origins of Hygiene: Infection-risk Avoidance in Papionini and Hominidae
Liesbeth Frias, section of Cellular and Molecular Biology. 4th year doctoral student. Project Title: Host-Parasite Systems Dynamics in Human-Modified Habitats
Valeria Romano de Paula, Currently a JSPS postdoc at PRI. Formerly a student at the: 1. Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien - IPHC, Département Ecologie, Physiologie et Ethologie - DEPE, University of Strasbourg. 3rd year doctoral student; 2. Kyoto University Wildlife Research Center. Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Short-term Doctoral Fellow. Graduated 2017! Project Title: Primate Social Networks as a Trade-off between Information and Disease Transmission
Jade Burgunder, Masaryk University, Department of Botany and Zoology. 3rd year doctoral student. Project Title: Complexity in Behavioral Organization: a novel approach to assessing clinical outcomes of parasitic diseases
Xavier Meyer, Currently a research associate at PRI. Formerly a student at the Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien - IPHC, Département Ecologie, Physiologie et Ethologie - DEPE, University of Strasbourg. Graduated 2016! Project Title: Does complexity in behavioral organization allow seabirds to adapt to changes in their environment?
Julie Duboscq, Primate Research Institute. Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Short-term (2016~2017) and Standard (2017~2019) Postdoctoral Fellow. Project Title: Connecting the dots: linking host behavior to parasite transmission and infection risk
Barbora Kubenova (photo coming soon), Primate Research Institute. Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Standard Postdoctoral Fellow (2017~2019). Project Title: Infant handling and social integration of infants and juveniles in wild Japanese macaques
Zhihong Xu, previously an undergraduate intern with me at KUPRI (2016~2017) from Sun Yat Sen University, China. Project Title: The role of juveniles in parasite transmission through Japanese macaque social networks
Kenneth Keuk, previously a Master's student from the University of Strasbourg who conducted his Master's research with me at KUPRI (2016). Project Title: Social networks, social style, and the dynamics of parasite infection
Elodie Thomas, previously a Master's student from the University of Strasbourg who conducted her Master's research with me at KUPRI (2013). Project Title: Influence of nematode parasites on stress of Koshima macaques (Macaca fuscata)
Center for International Collaboration and
Advanced Studies in Primatology
Kyoto University Primate Research Institute
41-2 Kanrin, Inuyama, Aichi