There is a growing need to understand how threatened species are affected by climate variability and climate change. This knowledge can uncover the limits of resiliency to climatic fluctuations and set the stage for informed conservation efforts. My colleagues and I have published important findings about how demography in natural primate populations varies in response to climate variability.
My first project with the PLHD working group examined the effects of temperature, rainfall, and large-scale climate oscillations on vital rates, including annual birth rates and survival rates. We found strong climate signals in the birth rates of three species. These results inform our understanding of ways in which climate change could affect the future fates of wild primates.
I am especially interested in how animal populations are affected by cyclical, large-scale weather patterns, like the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), that can bring rare but recurrent severe drought. Using three decades of census, life-history, and climate data from the Santa Rosa capuchins, I uncovered evidence of population demographic responses to climate in the form of lagged declines in female fertility rates following rainfall deficits associated with ENSO. This finding has important conservation implications because ENSO cycles are predicted to increase in frequency and severity during the next century.