|Dr. Mitchell Irwin
Behavioural Ecology, Health, and Conservation of Wild Primates
As more of the world’s tropical forests become fragmented and degraded, the question of how biological diversity is maintained in degraded and fragmented habitat becomes ever more important. Some animals show remarkable flexibility in adapting to novel, disturbed and discontinuous environments, while others do not. In my research, I look in-depth at the ecological strategy of a primate species, the diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema) as it adapts to life in small, disturbed forest fragments in eastern Madagascar. The lemurs of Madagascar constitute a unique primate radiation that evolved in isolation from primates on other land masses, and many species are severely threatened through forest loss, fragmentation and other human activities. In order to prevent massive extinctions in coming years, it will be necessary to curb forest loss through action on national and international levels. However, given that large proportions of most species’ geographic ranges are already fragmented and disturbed, understanding the ecological effects of fragmentation on forest-dependent animals will help us make better-informed decisions in managing these threatened populations.
I am an Assistant Professor based at the Department of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University Currently, I am following up on several unanswered questions generated during my Ph.D. research at Stony Brook University and my postdoctoral research at McGill University and the University of Queensland. My PhD research documented substantial shifts in diet, ranging and spatial ecology in diademed sifakas inhabiting forest fragments, and my postdoctoral research is currently examining changes in nutritional ecology, physiologic health and the prevalence of disease and parasitism.