5th June 2017 – Michelle Rodrigues, University of Illinois

Michelle RodriguesHi Biotweeps!

I am a primatologist/biological anthropologist interested in social relationships and how they help us deal with life’s stressors. My research centers around the tend-and-befriend hypothesis, which proposes that female friendship evolved as a primate-wide strategy to cope with stressors.  Additionally, some of my past and current research addresses the development of social relationship during juvenility and adolescence, and how it helps prepare for adult challenges.

Most of my graduate research was conducted at El Zota Biological Field Station, Costa Rica, with a little help from the spider monkeys at Brookfield Zoo, IL.  I did my Master’s at Iowa State University, where I studied the emergence of sex-segregated social patterns in juvenile spider monkeys. I completed my PhD at Ohio State University, focusing on female social relationships and stress in adult female spider monkeys to test the tend-and-befriend hypothesis.

My fieldwork experience includes research on howler monkeys in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, free-ranging rhesus monkeys at Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico, and gorillas and chimpanzees in Cameroon. I’ve also studied captive chimpanzees at the North Carolina Zoo, bonobos at the Columbus Zoo, and spider monkeys, big cats, and pachyderms at Brookfield Zoo.

Currently, I am studying a new focal species, humans! After stints as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Wake Forest University and online teaching with Eastern Kentucky University, I began a postdoc in the Laboratory of Evolutionary Endocrinology at the University of Illinois. With Kate Clancy, I am working on projects examining female friendship, stress, and depression in teenage girls, and how female friendship and social networks mediate workplaces stressors in female scientists of color. Along with my postdoc, I am also completing a certificate in Science Communication.

I’m also very interested in interspecies friendship, and my best friends are my cat and dog! I also met some of my best human friends through running. Last year I ran a half marathon and 25k, and this year I am attempting to train for the Chicago Marathon (although my injuries may have other plans). You can find me on twitter @MARspidermonkey, and read my blog posts at spidermonkeytales.blogspot.com  and http://lee-anthro.blogspot.com/