In a world of increasing anthropogenic influence, understanding how rare and specialised species adapt to human-modified landscapes is essential for conservation. Primates face many threats including direct pressure from hunting, human-wildlife conflict and loss of habitat. Increasingly, the new field of conservation physiology is recognising that such threats can also have indirect role through their effect on metabolic markers and processes. Oxidative stress (OS) is one such potent factor. It has been shown to increase in some animals under anthropogenic pressure and can lower fitness by affecting the number and quality of offspring produced. Very few studies of OS have been conducted on primates and none have examined it under conditions of habitat disturbance. Its impact on the health and fitness of such slow-reproducing mammals, while potentially important, is unknown. This study will assess the effect of human disturbance on the OS-physiology of an endangered, endemic primate: the Zanzibar red colobus (Piliocolobus kirkii). By comparing OS levels of individuals from groups that are at and beyond the forest boundary (disturbed habitat) with groups in more remote parts of the forest (undisturbed habitat), we will assess the physiological costs of living in an ecologically novel habitat with high levels of anthropogenic disturbance. This work will provide novel insights to indirect threats to primate populations mediated through physiology. The student will be based at Bangor University and will undertake extensive fieldwork in Zanzibar (primarily at and near Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park). They will study multiple groups of colobus and collect behavioural and ecological data, as well as urine samples (to measure OS). They will gain first-hand experience in conservation practice through our partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society – Tanzania Program. Laboratory training and analyses of oxidative stress markers will be carried out in collaboration with the University of Exeter.
Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Zoology, Animal Behaviour, Biology, Biological/Evolutionary Anthropology or Conservation science.