Alexander Pritchard

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Rutgers U.

Grant number

Gr. 9771

Approve Date

October 25, 2018

Project Title

Pritchard, Alexander J., Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid research on 'Variation of Stress Coping: Life in a Socially Complex World,' supervised by Dr. Ryne A. Palombit

Preliminary abstract: Stress resulting from psychosocial stressors, or the anticipation of challenges often arising from unpredictability and lack of control, can have major consequences for how an organism interacts within its social group. Psychosocial stress can be managed through seeking social support via strong relationships, which has been suggested to be mediated by individual differences in responding to challenges. These differences have been proposed to reflect evolutionary tradeoffs that result from natural selection on the outcomes of decision making processes. How these variables interact in a natural social system is poorly understood, as studies often rely on indirect measurements or captive subjects in laboratory settings. This proposed study will address these limitations by studying how individual differences in the stress response influence the management of psychosocial stress, through social support and uncertainty. To do this, I will use physiological measures from a non-human primate model characterized by pronounced, but not overwhelming, social complexity. Importantly, these primates will be studied under naturalistic conditions that preserve the socio-ecological setting in which these systems function. I will study wild olive baboons using field experiments, long-term observational data, and hormonal profiles to quantify individual differences in stress coping and social support between group members. This study is important for understanding individual variation in managing social and ecological stressors, associated with uncertainty and the expression of sociality; and will provide insight into our own biological complexity and social evolution, without the historico-cultural confounds intrinsic to human research.