People of the Amboseli Project

In 1971, Stuart Altmann and Jeanne Altmann began full-time continuous monitoring of the Amboseli baboon population (see History). Stuart was the senior scientist for the first decade. He played a critical role in developing a vision of the Baboon Project as a long-term effort, and in initiating many aspects of the Project. During the 1980's Jeanne's role grew and became more central. At the same time the Project began to grow, and several others, described below, became permanent members of the Project's research team.

Today the Amboseli Baboon Project includes and depends on a number of people, each of whom brings special and important skills to the Project. Some are collaborators with the Baboon Project. Others are students working on graduate research theses with the Project. Others are involved in data entry. Still others are important in keeping the field camp running or maintaining essential services in Nairobi.

Below we've listed just the seven people who currently play critical roles in keeping the actual data collection and entry/management going. Three of us are Americans and four of us are Kenyans. Two of us are faculty members at Universities in the US, and three of us live full time in Amboseli, spending nearly every day in the field with the baboons.

Jeanne Altmann. Jeanne is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. She is interested in how day-to-day behaviors and social interactions affect the way an animal's life plays out-its survival, maturation, and reproduction-under various ecological conditions. She is also interested in the physiological mechanisms that are associated with the relationships among ecology, behavior, and life outcomes (for project members working in the laboratory, see Altmann and Alberts Lab home pages). For instance, the daily social interactions that give rise to differences in dominance rank among female baboons have profound consequences for a female's lifetime and the lives of her offspring and these consequences. How do these relationships come about? Do the relationships change with environmental change? Jeanne is one of the founders of the Baboon Project (see the History of the Project). While many people have contributed in important ways to the Project over the years, Jeanne is the one consistent presence at the Project since its beginning. She has been the primary source of vision, focus, and scientific expertise for much of the Project's history.

Susan Alberts. Susan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Duke University. She is interested in the ways in which animals use behavior to solve the problems that their environment poses for them. For instance, how do baboon male dispersal patterns reflect a balance between the costs and benefits of leaving the social group versus remaining in it? She is also interested in the relationship between genetic relatedness and social relationships. For instance, to what extent does relatedness, either through the father or the mother, predict the establishment of friendships and affililiation? Susan first joined the Project as a new college graduate in 1984. Several years later, she went on to conduct PhD research on the Amboseli baboons, under Jeanne Altmann's guidance. After graduate work that focused on traditional behavioral ecology, Susan pursued post doctoral work that provided expertise in genetic techniques, and now has a genetics lab in which both DNA sequencing and microsatellite typing are carried out (see the Alberts Lab home page).

Raphael Mututua. Raphael is the Field Manager of the Amboseli Baboon Project and has been with the Project since 1981, collecting behavioral and demographic data of all sorts since that time. He has participated in the full range of field studies that we have carried out on the baboons: growth studies, foraging studies, play studies, mating and mate choice studies, and everything in between. His tremendous field experience is a bedrock on which we rely. He is also a skilled and experienced manager, managing personnel, supplies, data collection and collation and all the various crises that come up during the daily running of a field project. Life at the Project is truly unimaginable without Raphael's equanimity, humor and insight.

Serah Sayialel. Serah is one of our two expert full-time field assistants. She has been with the Project since 1989, and is approaching Raphael's level of field experience. Like Raphael, she has experience with a wide range of research projects and data collection methods. During her many thousands of hours in the field Serah has witnessed and carefully recorded some of the more unusual evens that have occurred in the baboon's world, including the cannibalism of an infant by an adult male.

Jackson Kinyua Warutere. Kinyua (sometimes known as Jack) joined us in 1996, and is the most recent addition to our highly trained team. He began his career as a field assistant at another baboon field project run by Philip Muruthi. When Philip's field study ended, Kinyua came to us. His deep interest in the animals and the lives they lead has been very evident from the time he joined us. As the number of hours he spends in the field grows and his experience with data collection increases, he has become a valued and trusted member of the research team.

Philip Muruthi. Philip, like Susan Alberts, joined the Amboseli Baboon Project in 1984, as an undergraduate at the University of Nairobi. He went on, several years later, to complete a PhD project at Princeton, focused partly on the Amboseli baboons and partly on a second, ecologically distinct baboon population at Mpala Research Centre [link] in Laikipia, Kenya. Philip is now a Research Director at the African Wildlife Foundation in Nairobi, but he maintains strong formal ties with the Baboon Project, providing us with advice and logistical support as well as sharing his scientific expertise.

Niki Learn. Niki joined the Altmann lab in April of 2009. She is responsible for uploading and maintaining the Princeton portion of the long-term, multifaceted database for the Amboseli Baboon Research Project.  She primarily handles data pertaining to female baboons, as well as weather data and initial proofing of most data as it arrives from the field team in Kenya.  She holds a BS in Biology from Lafayette College and an MS in Ecology from Rutgers.  Niki's previous work was on wetland mitigation monitoring and wetland assessment methodology at Rutgers where her main responsibilities were data management, analysis, and report writing.  She enjoys monitoring the behavior of her own "monkeys" at home.

Lacey Roerish. Lacey plays the critical role of updating and maintaining the large behavioral, ecological, and demographic database on the Amboseli Baboon Project for Duke. Every week, GPS data, and behavioral data get sent by satellite email to Duke, where Lacey integrates them into the larger database. Lacey also incorporates some of the monthly data that are initially sent to Princeton, but are then re-routed to Duke. Lacey also pulls out information needed for analyses by Susan, Jeanne and our collaborators and students. Lacey has a Bachelor's degree in Animal Behavior from Bucknell University. Lacey's interests focus on conservation and evaluating life history and behavioral traits which may have implications for the conservation of a species. She hopes that through working with the project, she can get a better idea of how best to evaluate such parameters in wild populations of animals.