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. In addition to PRI, I am also affiliated with Kyoto University's Wildlife Research Center and its Leading Graduate Program in Primatology and Wildlife Science. 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, and is supported by grants-in-aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. 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
Cecile Sarabian, section of Ecology and Conservation, 2nd year doctoral student
Liesbeth Frias, section of Cellular and Molecular Biology, 2nd year doctoral student
Julie Duboscq, Wildlife Research Center, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Short-term Postdoctoral Fellow
Center for International Collaboration and
Advanced Studies in Primatology
Kyoto University Primate Research Institute
41-2 Kanrin, Inuyama, Aichi