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Primte Life-History Databank: Setting the Agenda

Primate Life-History Database Workshop Group Photo

September 23-25, 2005
Wenner-Gren Foundation, New York, NY



Leslie Aiello (Wenner-Gren Foundation, USA)
Susan Alberts (Duke U., USA)
Jeanne Altmann (Princeton U., USA)
Jeanne C. Beck (Coriell Cell Repositories, USA)
Diane K. Brockman (U. North Carolina, USA)
Marina Cords (Columbia U., USA)
Wolfgang Dittus (Institute of Fundamental Studies, Sri Lanka)
Linda M. Fedigan (U. Calgary, Canada)
Nico Franz (U. California–Santa Barbara, USA)
Netzin Gerald Steklis (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, USA)
Ken Glander (Duke U., USA)
Michael A. Huffman (Kyoto U., Japan)
William F. Morris (Duke U., USA)
Karl O. Pinc (The Meme Factory, Inc., USA)
Anne Pusey (U. Minnesota–St. Paul, USA)
Ulrich Reichard (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany)
Karen B. Strier (U. Wisconsin, USA)
Hideki Sugiura (Kyoto U., Japan)
Mark L. Weiss (Office of Science and Technology Policy, USA)
Richard Wrangham (Harvard U., USA)
Patricia C. Wright (Stony Brook U., USA)
David Zeitlyn (U. Kent, UK)

Final Report

The Wenner-Gren Foundation hosted and supported a 2-day workshop entitled “Primate Life History Databank: Setting the Agenda”. Participants included fourteen principal investigators of some of the world's longest-running primate field studies and an eclectic group of data specialists, scientists involved in large-scale collaborations, and representatives of funding agencies. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the feasibility of launching a unique collaborative effort among primatologists, with the ultimate goal of developing an interactive, supported resource, the Primate Life History Databank(PLHD). The PLHD would allow qualified researchers to archive data and facilitate collaborative research efforts around them.

The workshop was organized around the premise that long-term, individual-based field studies are the best sources of life history data for addressing evolutionary and ecological questions. Long-term data on individuals are particularly important because these variables are known to fluctuate in response to local ecological, social, and demographic conditions; this variability profoundly affects the conservation status and management of endangered species, and can contribute vital perspectives for assessing the ecological impacts of global climate change. The long-term life history data maintained by principal investigators (PIs) of ongoing field studies represent invaluable and irreplaceable resources for the anthropological and larger scientific community, particularly now that the future of so many primates is grave.

The workshop was designed to maximize taxonomic representation among primate studies and to expose the participants to a wide range of models for large-scale collaborations, data management techniques, and data storage options. Species represented by the participating PIs included two species of lemurs (white sifaka [Brockman] and Milne-Edwards' sifaka [Wright]); three species of New World monkeys (white-faced capuchin [Fedigan], mantled howler [Glander], and northern muriquis [Strier]); four species of Old World monkeys (yellow baboons [Alberts and Altmann], blue monkeys [Cords], toque
monkeys [Dittus], and Yakushima Japanese macaques [Sugiura]); and four populations of apes (gibbons [Reichard], Kibali chimpanzees [Wrangham], Gombe chimpanzees [Pusey], and mountain gorillas [Gerald Steklis]). Michael Huffman was also present to contribute perspectives on provisioned populations of Japanese macaques. Diverse perspectives on databases and models of collaboration were provided by Karl Pinc, Nico Franz, Jeanne Beck, David Zeitlyn, and William Morris. In addition, Leslie Aiello and Mark Weiss contributed their perspectives on the proposed project and helped to stimulate discussions about the comparative breadth of the project and what it means to have a truly accessible databank.