24th July 2017 – Cat Hobaiter, University of St Andrews & Kirsty Graham, University of York

Hi Biotweeps!

Catherine Hobatier.pngCat (@nakedprimate)

I’ve been a field primatologist with the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews for the past 12-years. Much of that time has been spent living and working with the chimpanzees at the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda, but I’ve also worked with baboons and gorillas, and at other sites across Africa.

These days I’m a full time lecturer, but I still get to spend around 5-months a year in the field. My main area of research is ape communication – in particular gestures; but I moonlight on other topics including social learning, tool use, and life history. Much of my work takes a comparative perspective on cognition – looking at the behaviour of modern species of apes (including us) for areas of similarity and distinction that might give us clues about its evolutionary origins.

Around 6-years ago I started the habituation of a new chimpanzee community in Budongo – the Waibira group – with over 30 independent males (10-15 being typical) it’s a whole new world of fun/data collection chaos! This summer I’m piloting a gesture project with the mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, which is where I’ll be tweeting from during our Biotweeps week (apologies in advance for some *very* excited tweets/unnecessarily frequent pictures of infant gorilla floof).

Outside of my day job I’m the VP for Communications for the International Primatological Society and if I’m really not working you can usually find me trying to climb up something (mountains, rocks, trees), or with a nice cup of tea and the world service on the radio.

Kirsty Graham.jpgKirsty (@kirstyegraham)

I’m basically a younger, taller version of Cat (we both have bizarre multinational accents and love rock climbing) who does the same research but with bonobos, the chimpanzee’s sexy cousin. I just finished my PhD at the University of St Andrews looking at how bonobos use gestures, what the gestures mean, and how their gestures compare to those used by chimpanzees.

At the beginning of this month, I started a postdoc at the University of York, UK. So while Cat will be tweeting from the field (note to Cat: NEVER apologise about pictures of infant gorilla floof), I will be tweeting from my office plotting my next fieldwork at Tangkoko, Indonesia, in January. From bonobos to Sulawesi crested macaques!

Last week, we launched an online experiment testing human understanding of great ape gestures. Cat and I found that bonobos and chimpanzees share most of their gestures and gesture meanings, and we want to know whether untrained humans give the same responses to the gestures as a bonobo or chimpanzee would.

So that’s us! We’re really looking forward to a Biotweeps week full of primate facts, fieldwork stories, online experiments, and gorilla floof!

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June 15th 2015 – Caitlyn Cardetti, Columbia University Medical School

Caitlyn CardettiI am a research assistant for the Behavioral Medicine division at Columbia University Medical Center. I have been in this role just over a year. I have a B.S. in both human biology and psychology. The day to day as an RA in my lab varies greatly because we are all simultaneously working on various projects. We have two exercise studies that are actively recruiting, one that is finishing up, a fourth that is just getting going, and we are in the process of adding two more studies. The main study I work on is a clinical study looking into the effects of aerobic exercise on cognitive function. I also have a very small role in the Midlife Development in the U.S. (MIDUS) study. I help with scoring the psychophysiological sessions for the refresher. MIDUS is a huge national, longitudinal, interdisciplinary study and I can’t even begin to describe all of its components but it definitely a very innovative study that has led to many, many publications.

I am very passionate about spreading my love for science so I’m excited to get to be a part of Biotweeps. The general public tends to be pretty clueless about what happens behind closed lab doors and I would love for this to change. So I try my best to stay involved with STEM outreach. I was fortunate enough to be accepted for a STEM mentor fellowship this past fall semester with New York Academy of Sciences and it was great. I co-taught an afterschool forensics module for 9-10 year olds and they loved it. Also I more recently got involved with Pint of Science and helped organize their three day science event this past May.

You can find me on twitter as @CaitlynCardetti While I mainly tweet about science, be warned that during hockey season a couple hockey tweets might slip through. If you’re interest in my lab you can follow their twitter @BMEDcumc which is full of information about our current studies and recent findings on how exercise impacts health.