Detail

Evolutionary Primatologist Discusses Diversity in the Scientific Workforce

Byline: by Ashley Wetzel

Posted: January 17, 2012

Evolutionary Primatologist Dr. Mary Blair, of the American Museum of Natural History, visited campus for scientific presentations and meetings on Nov. 14. Dr. Blair researches small primates, including Central American Squirrel Monkeys and Vietnamese Slow Lorises in countries like Costa Rica and Vietnam.

Evolutionary Primatologist Dr. Mary Blair, of the American Museum of Natural History, visited campus for scientific presentations and meetings on Nov. 14. Dr. Blair researches small primates, including Central American Squirrel Monkeys and Vietnamese Slow Lorises in countries like Costa Rica and Vietnam.

While on campus, Dr. Blair met with students in the Biology department and taught a conservation biology class.

Dr. Blair also presented a talk on "Women and Diversity in Science: an Imperative for Biodiversity Conservation" as part of the Wilson College "Science in Society" speaker series. The seminar took place in Laird Hall’s Patterson Lounge at 6:30pm on Nov. 14.

Dr. Blair's credentials


Dr. Mary Blair is a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. At the CBC, she is also the coordinator for the CBC’s Enhancing Diversity in Conservation Science Initiative.

Blair: a PA local


Prior to her work with the CBC, Dr. Blair received her Ph.D. in Evolutionary Primatology from Columbia University. As a PA local, she received her B.A. in Biology and Anthropology at Swarthmore College outside of Philadelphia.

Blair speaks about women in the conservation biology field


Dr. Blair presented a public talk on women in the scientific field. Her talk focused on a lack of diversity in the conservation biology workforce. She also spoke about why certain groups of people are underrepresented in the conservation biology field and what can be done about the problem.

During her time on campus, Dr. Blair also taught a conservation biology class utilizing her current research.

Working with monkeys and primates


Her current research integrates molecular techniques and genetic identification with geographic information systems (GIS) modeling in order to better understand the behavioral, ecological and evolutionary responses of monkeys and primates to environmental change. Her most recent work took place in Costa Rica, where she observed and studied groups of Central American Squirrel Monkeys. Using GIS and Fecal DNA Extraction, Dr. Blair was able to analyze the genetic diversity, movement patterns, and the Squirrel Monkey’s response to areas that are highly modified by humans.

When asked what was next, Dr. Blair said, "Next, I plan to study how species might respond to future climate change by developing improved models that incorporate behavioral data and genetic diversity."

She is in the process of gathering funding for her next study, which will take place in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, Dr. Blair hopes to study a small primate species known as Slow Lorises. Slow Lorises are of particular interest to her because of their inclusion in the exotic pet trade and in the traditional medicine trade, which is the primary cause of their population decline.

Last Updated: January 17, 2012

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