PI: Andrew MacIntosh
I am a behavioral ecologist at Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute working predominantly on the intersection between animal behavior and parasitism. Though with humble beginnings on the prairies of North America, I was always drawn to exotic places with their suites of charismatic species. Fortunately, my work has since taken me to these far-off places, where I've worked at field sites in Central America, West Africa, East and Southeast Asia and even Antarctica. I have studied primates, mainly, but also seabirds (penguins) and a few other animal species over the years, most recently the invasive raccoon dogs of Yakushima. Students in my lab almost always combine field and laboratory work to enrich their experiences, and try to address both theoretical and practical issues. I teach a variety of courses related to behavioral biology and am a strong proponent of critical thinking, analytical reasoning and the communication of science. Oh, and did I mention I host and produce a podcast called The PrimateCast?
I'm always looking for good people in my team, so don't hesitate to contact me or other members of my team if interested.
*Unedited version of the one published in the 2019 edited volume
"Primate Research and Conservation in the Anthropocene" by Behie,
Teichroeb and Malone (Eds.), Cambridge University Press
I entered the University of Manitoba fully planning on becoming a marine biologist.
Why a teenager from the frozen prairies, thousands of kilometers away from any
coastline, landed on that trajectory is anyone’s guess, but there I was at 16 completing
my open water diving certification in the frigid waters of West Hawk Lake in the
Canadian Shield, marveling at the Northern Pike and sunken snowmobiles. Upon
entering university, however, two factors intervened to change my course. First, U of M
professors went on strike in the fall of 1995, interrupting my nascent scientific
education. Some professors, however, continued to teach, and this brings me to the
second reason for my shift in focus; the one course I managed to retain was ‘Human Origins and Antiquity’, a physical anthropology course on human evolution with a module on primate evolution and behavior. That was enough for me to throw in my lot with the anthropologists, and later the primatologists, and trade in my dreams of oceans for those of jungles.
After a brief stint at the University of Winnipeg, where a course in Biological Anthropology committed me to the study of evolution, I moved to the University of Calgary and joined a vibrant department with arguably the best options for studying primatology in Canada. As an undergrad, in addition to learning about primate behavior, ecology and evolution in the classroom and laboratory, I was able to join field courses with Mary Pavelka in Belize studying howling monkeys (Alouatta pigra) and with Agustin Fuentes (then at Central Washington University) in Bali studying temple macaques (Macaca fascicularis). Those experiences stood in stark contrast to one another, with the howlers existing relatively free of direct human interference along the banks of Monkey River, and the macaques having become dependent on humans for food in Padangtegal’s “Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary”. Agustin’s Ethnoprimatology movement hit home for me here, as nowhere else are human-animal interactions more salient that in such heavily-touristed, locally-managed temple monkey forests, where every aspect of the lives of the monkeys is affected by humans.
The human-nonhuman primate interface again became salient to me when I embarked on my Master’s degree research with Pascale Sicotte at the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary in Ghana. Though not the focus of my research, the site is rich in issues relevant to primate conservation. The two local primates (mona monkeys, Cercopithecus campbelli lowei, and ursine colobus, Colobus vellerosus) inhabit a small forest fragment surrounded by the villages and agricultural lands of Boabeng and Fiema. Fortunately, the primates are protected via local traditions that hold the animals sacred, though hunters are commonly seen within the sanctuary, presumably with other targets in mind. Through a local initiative, with the support of the Ghanaian Wildlife Division, the area was formalized in the 1970’s as a nature sanctuary, and has maintained an active ecotourism operation since. At the same time, local development still threatens the forest, and I saw firsthand how local demands can supersede nature preservation when a swath of forest was cut virtually overnight to make room for electricity poles.
But it wasn’t until the beginning of my PhD research, years later, that issues of wildlife health and conservation became foci of my research. As an undergraduate, I formed a keen interest in the behavioral ecology of primates, and particularly in the ecological interactions between primate hosts and parasites. That’s how I ended up in Japan at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute, doing a PhD with Mike Huffman, who pioneered studies of primate responses to parasite infection, most famously through self-medication. Since then, I’ve done a fair amount of work using Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) and their gastrointestinal parasites as a model system to learn about primate-parasite relationships, asking questions such as who is likely to be infected and with what, how do parasites spread between hosts, what impacts might they have on primate host behavior, physiology, health and fitness, and can we detect these effects using available scientific protocols? While my focus has generally been ecological, all of these are now critical questions facing primate conservationists concerned with how parasites and infectious diseases might contribute to further population declines, particularly with the expanding human-nonhuman primate interface.
Over the past 4 years, I have been developing a project investigating primate and parasite communities in a transitioning ecosystem along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The continuous expansion of the oil palm industry adds a distinct and current flavor to this research, but although the situation for most primates across the globe differs in both degree and kind, the results are often the same: human pressures continue to marginalize wildlife everywhere, disrupting natural ecological associations and thereby opening the door for novel or resurgent pathogen exchange. The expanding human-domestic animal-wildlife interface provides myriad opportunities for the agents of disease to shift hosts, while habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation interrupt natural processes involving hosts and parasites in ways we do not yet fully comprehend. It is my sincere hope that my work can contribute in some small way in this regard to inform primate health and conservation.
Epilogue: After obtaining my PhD in primatology, I was fortunate enough to fulfill my teenage dreams of becoming a marine biologist through a collaboration with my good friends Yan Ropert-Coudert and Akiko Kato of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), now based at the Centre d'Etudes Biologique de Chizé. With them, I get to study the influence of environmental heterogeneity and climate change on penguin diving behavior in Antarctica and across the Southern Ocean. A personal highlight was joining a summer campaign of a French scientific expedition to Antarctica to study Adelie penguins, with the support of the CNRS and the Institut Polaire Francais (IPEV). Few places on Earth are as free from human intervention as Antarctica, where the natural landscapes and seascapes could veritably be extraterrestrial if you forgot the sea voyage that took you south (unlikely if you’ve ever sailed on l’Astrolabe), and yet our influences nevertheless prevail, minimally in the scientific bases dotting the coastlines and more significantly in the plastics polluting the oceans, the increasing numbers of tourists looking southward, and the changing climate trends that now threaten the ice, upon which so much of the Antarctic biodiversity depends.
Whether of oceans or of jungles, it is now eminently clear that our dreams of nature must be coupled with conservation awareness and action, or the dreams of future generations will remain as such, forever.
Andrew MacIntosh, Assc. Professor, Department of Ecology and Social Behavior,
Kyoto University Primate Research Institute
(2000) B. Sc. in Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary
(2002) M. A. in Anthropology, Concentration: Primatology, Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary
(2010) D. Sc. in Primatology, Graduate School of Sciences, Division of Biology, Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University
Standard Professional Bio
After receiving the MA degree from the University of Calgary, I moved to Japan and worked as an English teacher before returning to academia in 2007 to conduct doctoral studies at the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute. My dissertation, which was supervised by Dr. Michael Huffman, was entitled "Gastrointestinal helminth parasitism among Japanese macaques: patterns, processes and host responses". After completing my degree, I remained at the PRI as a post-doctoral research associate with CICASP but worked largely with Dr. Yan Ropert-Coudert at the CNRS-Strasbourg University supported by a JSPS researcher exchange grant to study complexity in seabird foraging behavior in relation to habitat characteristics and global change. I was awarded an assistant professorship with CICASP in April 2012, and was promoted to Associate Professor in April 2014 with affiliations to Kyoto University's Wildlife Research Center and its Leading Graduate Program in Primatology and Wildlife Science. In April 2017, I became tenured Associate Professor at PRI, with CICASP and the Department of Ecology and Social Behavior, through Kyoto University's Institute for Liberal Arts and Sciences. To date, I have studied primates in one capacity or another in Central America, Africa, and Asia, but my current focus is on Asian primates and their gastrointestinal parasites. My research is and has been supported by grants-in-aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, as well as Kyoto University. Aside from primates, I also study seabird behaviour, and in particular patterns of behavioural complexity among various penguin species in relation to various ecological challenges and global change biology.