Processes and Factors Affecting Humans and Wildlife As Coupled Systems Across a Sociocultural Gradient

Human-wildlife conflict is a global phenomenon, with species that more readily adapt to human-modified environments directly competing with people for food and space. Scientists recognize the need to assess conflict between humans and wildlife as dynamic coupled-systems in order to unravel how such interactions reciprocally impact both natural ecology and human socioeconomic sustainability. This interdisciplinary research project will use network-based quantitative tools to assess interactions and conflict between humans and nonhuman primates (macaques) as well as their feedback effects on human sociopolitical conflict and primate social relationships. The project will provide new perspectives regarding the generalizability of coupled-systems frameworks to a range of human-wildlife conflict interfaces. It will provide new insights regarding the causal mechanisms and processes driving human-primate conflict by systematically detecting direct and indirect patterns that represent the inherent complexity of these coupled systems. It will be one of the first studies to simultaneously assess multiple human-wildlife systems using a strong comparative, coupled natural and human system-based framework employing data-driven, highly quantitative approaches. Although focusing on conflicts between people and macaques in a set of foreign locales, it will provide new perspectives to analyze the sometimes-conflict-based interactions between the humans and other forms of wildlife in a broad range of locales, such as human-bear conflicts in both recreational and developed parts of the U.S. as well as human-coyote and human-raccoon conflicts in American metropolitan settings. The project will provide new perspectives on ways to adapt to and manage human-wildlife interaction. The project will provide international, interdisciplinary education and training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doctoral researchers.

The investigators will assess conflicts between humans and macaques in southern and southeastern Asia as dynamically functioning, self-sustaining coupled systems. They will examine how certain combinations of attributes and features (such as human socioeconomic status, human population densities, macaque home range use, and the boldness of macaque personalities) influences the nature, frequency, and diversity of interactions and conflict between humans and macaques. The investigators will assess how these interactions affect dominance behavior through the imposition of time-constraints on macaques. They will evaluate how these interactions influence human social conflict management as reflected in damage-related transaction costs, and they will examine which aspects of these coupled-systems co-vary within and across human and wildlife systems. The investigators will conduct a three-year study of six human-macaque systems at three locations in the Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka regions of India and the Selangor region of Malaysia. They will conduct intensive field-based data collection, including behavioral event sampling of human-macaque interface interactions, behavioral focal animal sampling to record macaque dominance behavior, and GPS coordinates and questionnaire-administered sampling of human attitudes, beliefs, and experiences to gauge human social conflict. The investigators will use both standard regression models and self-developed network approaches to examine the directional flow of dominance information in macaque social networks. They will employ data cloud geometry to identify higher-order clustering in human geospatial proximity, and they examine patterns in the links between human and macaque systems by using multi-dimensional regression to test specific predictions related to the project's aims.

Lead Investigator: 
Other Investigator(s): 
India and Malayasia