Meredith Semel joined the Moore lab in the fall of 2016 as a PhD student. Meredith is interested in investigating the impact of stressors across a gradient of forest degradation on group cohesion, fission-fusion dynamics, and stress hormone levels in lemurs.
Meredith received her B.S. in Biological Sciences from Queens University of Charlotte in 2014. While at Queens, she sought opportunities to enhance her knowledge of field research and how cultural differences impact worldwide conservation successes. In college, she studied comparative physiology and behavioral differences in two- and three-toed sloths; kinship behavior in Asian elephants; molecularly sexed birds of prey; and completed her thesis on mating systems and sexual dimorphism in pinnipeds.
After graduating, Meredith gained additional knowledge of the amalgamation of wildlife conservation and indigenous people. She worked as a research assistant at Lajuma Research Centre in South Africa’s Soutpansberg Mountains. Meredith spent six months studying the behavioral ecology of predator-prey interactions and human-wildlife conflict with the Primate & Predator Project.
Under Dr. Mitchell Irwin, the leading authority on diademed sifakas (Propithecus diadema), Meredith also worked with local guides in Tsinjoarivo, Madagascar to examine the ecological function of geophagy in common brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) and P. diadema and simultaneously collected data for another project looking at disease transmission between wild and domesticated animals and humans. After three months of Malagasy language immersion, she initiated independent research on food patch characteristics and dynamics of patch use and sharing in two sympatric lemur species: the common brown lemur and diademed sifaka.
During her time at Tsinjoarivo, Meredith witnessed the necessity of compromise between local individuals, visiting and Malagasy scientists, and government officials to ensure the successful conservation of not only Madagascar’s wildlife but also its people. Her experiences inspired her to pursue research that provides insights into the ways lemurs cope with the independent as well as synergistic effects of habitat fragmentation, resource limitation, pollution, and an ever-increasing human population. This will be accomplished by studying their physiological and behavioral responses to these challenges (and ultimately how these responses impact their fitness).
After her year studying primates in Africa, Meredith taught high school chemistry and biology for one year. In addition to behavioral research, Meredith is passionate about education and being able to effectively communicate science to the public.
Meredith hopes that working in a creative and collaborative environment with IGC faculty and other IGC fellows will foster the design of interdisciplinary protocols that incorporate ecological, economic, and political processes to maintain viable ecosystems and manage global threats.