Santa Clara University

The Johnson Scholars Program

Allison McNamara '15

Hometown: Laguna Niguel, Calif.
Double Major/Minor: anthropology and environmental studies/classical studies
Mentor: Michelle Bezanson, associate professor, anthropology
Project: A Comparative Analysis of Positional Behavior and Tail Use in Juvenile and Adult Cebus Capucinus

Allison McNamara is committed to the conservation of rainforests and nonhuman primates, as well as to contributing to research about evolution. She aspires to become a field primatologist and to teach biological anthropology at a university while continuing field research. For her summer research project, Allison will travel to La Suerte Biological Research Station in northeastern Costa Rica to compare positional behavior, specifically tail use and the function of other limbs while the tail is being used, of adult and juvenile Capuchin monkeys. She'll focus her research on details of how forelimb/hindlimb and tail use differs in adults and juveniles in varying behavioral and ecological contexts, unknown in the current literature. These details are important as they allow anthropologists to better interpret fossils and understand primate evolution, examine convergent evolution and the types of forest ecologies that may have led to these adaptive features, and understand behavioral mediations between anatomy and the environment. After collecting 200 to 300 hours of behavioral data, Allison plans to publish and present her research at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. She plans to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship to study different capuchin species in Brazil for one year post-graduation and publish a comparative analysis of positional behavior and tail use in every species within the genus.

Allison's 2013 Summer Project Update:

"It was an amazing summer and experience! Definitely the most exciting two months of my life. I had crazy experiences from up-close snake encounters to seeing a baby capuchin just hours after its birth. My reasearch team and I ran stats, analyzed data, and prepared to present our research at the American Association of Physical Anthropology conference in Calgary, Canada, taking place in April."

See the article "Farther afield" in the Spring 2014 issue of Santa Clara Magazine for more on Allison's experience in Costa Rica.