Amber Walker-Bolton

Amber got her start studying primate behavior in the wild by working for a year on the Lomas Barbudal Monkey Project in 2007-8. In 2009 she received a Sacred Heart Scholarship to attend Roehampton University in London, England and completed her Master’s degree in 2010. Amber received a fellowship to attend the University of Toronto in 2011 and will graduate with her PhD in Biological Anthropology in 2016. For her graduate work, she studies mating behavior, communication and competition in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) at Berenty Reserve, Madagascar. Here Amber describes how her year working with capuchins helped her develop a research program with ring-tailed lemurs: ‘During my year in the field at Lomas Barbudal I was lucky to see so many fascinating behaviors. One type of behavior that stood out was the way males would perform displays to seemingly impress others. Some examples were males branch breaking and dragging large, dead branches with their tails, making impressively noisy displays. When I left the program I went on to volunteer for six months at Berenty Reserve, observing ring-tailed lemurs. One early morning as the sun was rising I saw a male performing a tail anointing and wafting display to a group of females who were huddled together. The male received a slap across the face from the dominant female for performing this display. I immediately made the connection with behavior I had seen previously among the capuchins. Could this tail anointing and wafting to females be a costly display which has an impact on male mating and reproductive success? This single early morning observation has led to years of study on how male tail anointing and wafting to females operates as a sexual signal. Future directions include conducting paternity analysis on the hair samples I have collected during my PhD fieldwork to determine whether a relationship exists between male tail anointing and wafting and siring offspring.