Grace DavisPhD Student
I study collective animal behavior, including group decision-making, leadership, movement, and social networks. My dissertation research investigates how interactions between individuals create group-level dynamics. I am intrigued by questions such as: how do individuals in social animal groups decide where to go and what to eat? How do group members coordinate their activities? How does leadership evolve in complex societies? I test these questions in the tropical rainforests of Barro Colorado Island, Panama, where I work as a doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), studying wild groups of white-faced capuchin monkeys and black-handed spider monkeys. I am especially fascinated by how individuals in structured social groups resolve conflicts of interest and decide where to go, when to move, and what to do in their environment. My research involves remote tracking techniques to track and study animal movement, including fitting the primates with GPS and radio telemetry collars and remote drone mapping of the monkeys’ habitat. I combine this high-tech work with on-the-ground behavioral observations of the primates in the wild, theoretical and mathematical modelling of group foraging and decision-making, and laboratory analyses of hormones and physiology to gain a greater understanding of the decisions individuals in groups must make to survive and who ultimate act as leaders.
My research is supported by a variety of funding sources, including The National Science Foundation, The Leakey Foundation, National Geographic, UC Davis, the Explorers Club, The Animal Behavior Society, and The Smithsonian Institution. My work has been featured on national television in both Panama and the United States through the Smithsonian Channel. I am also committed to teaching and training young scholars, and serves as an NSF and Smithsonian mentor for undergraduate students in the US and Latin America.