University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

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Tran receives scholarship and grant to support colobus monkey research


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EEB graduate student Lucy Tran was awarded the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology E.C. Walker Scholarship and a Grants-in-Aid of Research from the American Society of Mammalogists. The UMMZ and ASM funds will support a study that investigates why black-and-white colobus monkeys appear to persist and even thrive in human disturbed forest in parts of Africa. The awards are for $5,000 and $1,500, respectively.

“My overarching goal is to determine whether species-specific traits, such as flexibility in dietary and sociobehavioral strategies, have enabled black-and-white colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza) to persist in anthropogenically-disturbed forest in parts of their range in Africa,” said Tran. “Guerezas are one of the few species in the colobine lineage (subfamily Colobinae) to exhibit this persistence and reputed success in human-disturbed forest. As a result, they are listed as being of least concern on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List.

“However, a time lag in demographic response to disturbance may produce a similar distribution in which guerezas are observed to still occur in disturbed habitat. I explore these two alternative hypotheses for explaining guereza distribution patterns using genetic data that was collected last summer from guerezas living in disturbed and undisturbed forest in Uganda, with complementary population data from collaborators.”

In both scenarios, guerezas would occur in disturbed forest, but the patterns of genetic variation would differ between the two, Tran explained. “For example, genetic variation would be higher in disturbed than undisturbed forest if it's true that guerezas can tolerate or prefer disturbed habitat for whatever idiosyncratic reason. The reverse genetic pattern would be found if the time lag scenario is more accurate.” Tran’s advisor is Professor L. Lacey Knowles.