Kenneth L. Chiou
Deptartment of Anthropology
Campus Box 1114
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
Wash U Dept. of Anthropology
I am currently a third-year Ph.D. student at Washington University. As a primate biologist, my research centers on the intersection of behavior, ecology, and genetics. I am interested in the evolution of populations; in particular, I aim to understand how migration and population structure contribute to the past and present distribution of genetic variation. I also study the ways in which ecological conditions influence behavioral strategies and social organization in free-ranging primates. As an anthropologist, I am ultimately interested in using extant primate populations as models of regional human evolution.
For my Ph.D. work, I will participate in a long-term research study investigating the behavior, ecology, and population structure of several baboon species in Zambia. As a geneticist, I plan to supplement my field research with genetic laboratory work in order to provide valuable information relevant for addressing questions of mating patterns, dispersal, and population structure.
Aside from my primary research goals, I also dabble in the use of computational methods for studying primate evolution. I do this with two main foci: first, phylogenetic inference using mined genetic sequence data from online databases, and second, behavioral simulations using agent-based models. The advantages of both approaches are that they involve few costs—freeware versions are available for most if not all software involved—and can be readily applied by a single researcher. In the case of agent-based modeling, computational work can help enlighten theory by manipulating variables that are difficult to test using a field or experimental approach.
More informally, I am interested in the role that researchers can play as educators and social entrepreneurs and the ways in which their fieldwork can interact with local communities to promote positive change. Fieldwork is without a doubt the most exciting aspect of anthropology. In a unique sense, however, it offers a valuable opportunity for researchers to pursue goals not directly related to research, including community development, education, and conservation. For primatologists, conservation is a particularly salient goal as an alarming fraction of nonhuman primates face extinction pressures from deforestation, hunting, and other human activity. While this is not a primary focus of my research, it is an issue that influences me and that I consider in my research planning.
© 2013 Kenneth Chiou. All rights reserved.