postdoctoral training in the Molecular Genetics Laboratory at the
National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution, I have been using
molecular genetic techniques to complement my field studies as well as
the field studies of other scientists. Much of the early work in this
area benfitted from the Molecular Anthropology Laboratory at New York
Investigations of New World Monkey Social Systems
In the lab, we use molecular techniques to study the dispersal patterns, mating systems, and population structure of various New World primates. Although many of the taxa we work with have subjects of long-term observational studies in the wild, it is difficult to get a complete picture of mating systems and dispersal patterns using observational data only.
New World Monkey Phylogenetics and Phylogeography
Through collaborations with various colleagues (Dr. Todd Disotell, Dr. Jessica Lynch Alfaro, Dr. Liliana Cortes-Ortiz) and former students (Dr. Alba Morales, Dr. Andres Link), I am also beginning to address questions concerning the phylogeny, evolutionary history, and biogeography of several New World primates.
In the course of my genetic work, I have been involved in the development and application of several methodological innovations with broader impact for molecular ecological studies of primates, including a "subtractive hybridization enrichment" protocol that facilitates the isolation of new microsatellite loci from a taxon. More recently, I developed a rapid and simple PCR-based test for determining the sex of a primate DNA sample that should be of use to many primatologists. While several molecular methods had already been developed for sex assignment in humans, very few had proven useful in other primates. By contrast, my sex-typing assay is applicable to taxa from across the primate order and can be effectively used on even the small amounts of DNA recovered from noninvasively collected samples such as hair or feces.