The Snodderly Lab

Welcome to the Snodderly Lab!

Our current research program focuses on the visual ecology of monkeys with different types of color vision.  I am doing field work in the natural habitats of the monkeys to study their behavior and to measure optical properties of their environment and their food sources that constitute selection pressures that shaped the evolution of their visual systems.

I am collaborating with Dr. Tony Di Fiore in the Department of Anthropology and his colleagues, at a long-term field site at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Ecuador with ten species of primates.  The color vision of the monkeys is being established in his lab by genetic analyses of the cone visual pigments using tissue and fecal samples collected in the field.

Undergraduate students are helping to analyze data on optical measurements of food items. We are building simple neural models to estimate which foods would be easier for different visual genotypes to find and to assess for palatability. Selected students accompany me on field trips and assist in data collection as well.

In addition to the current data we are gathering, the larger project has accumulated a large data base of behavioral observations on multiple species of monkeys at this study site and my students and I are using this valuable resource to compare how species with different color vision genotypes utilize the forest and how their activity patterns vary, especially with regard to different ecological factors. In the course of this work, we have found that some of the monkeys are very sensitive to environmental variables, such as temperature.

Given the importance of understanding the impacts of climate change, I have installed data loggers in the forest to measure temperature, relative humidity, and light in representative sites utilized by the monkeys.  I have also installed the same types of data loggers in Kibale National Park in Uganda, which is one of the most intensively-researched primate field sites in Africa.  It has 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees. I am collaborating with Kim Valenta (Duke University) and Colin Chapman (McGill University) to make intercontinental comparisons.

More details about current opportunities for student participation in our research are listed on the Eureka website.