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Riley, Erin Phelps

Grant Type
Post-Ph.D. Research Grant
Insitutional Affiliation
San Diego State U.
Completed Grant
Approve Date
Project Title
Riley, Dr. Erin Phelps, San Diego State U., San Diego, CA - To aid research on 'Becoming Together: Combining Ethology and Ethnography to Explore the Human-macaque Interface during the Process of Habituation'

DR. ERIN P. RILEY, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, was awarded a grant in April 2014 to aid research on 'Becoming Together: Combining Ethnology and Ethnography to Explore the Human-Macaque Interface during the Process of Habituation.' This research used a hybrid methodology, integrating ethnology and ethnography, to examine the habituation of Sulawesi moor macaques (Macaca maura) as both a scientific and intersubjective process. Habituation-defined as when wild animals accept a human observer as a neutral element of their environment-has long been considered a critical first step for primatological fieldwork, but has received little empirical attention. Progress in habituating a group of wild moor macaques was assessed from two perspectives: the observed behavioral changes in moor macaques and human participants that occur during habituation, and researcher and local field assistant perceptions of habituation progress. Preliminary analysis reveals that objective measures of habituation 'success' (e.g., decreased fleeing) do not necessarily match up with subjective impressions. Moreover, local field assistants and researchers differed in how they interacted with the macaques, with the latter being more detached particularly during 'data collection' periods. This project demonstrates how, in the context of field research, human-animal relationships can reflect both engagement and detachment in ways that align with but also transcend existing dualisms (e.g., Western/non-Western, scientist/non-scientist). It also offers new insights on the methodological practice of habituation for future primatological research, particularly in light of increasing anthropogenic impacts on primate habitats.