Erin Vogel has studied foraging behavior in a variety of organisms including insects, birds, and primates. Her research interests cover a broad array of topics that revolve around the central theme of how and why organisms acquire and select the food resources they need for survival. She studies how ecological variation influences the behavior (feeding and social), social organization, and morphology of non-human primates and early hominins. Within this theme, Vogel’s research activities fall into two main categories: 1) understanding the ultimate and proximate mechanisms that affect diet selection and, 2) understanding how food availability affects energy balance and the behavior of wild primates. These areas are driving her field and laboratory research on diverse subjects in anthropology, ecology, and evolutionary biology.
As an undergraduate student at Colby College, Dr. Vogel spent 3 years working as a research assistant for Dr. Herbert Wilson studying foraging behavior in Semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla). She went on to study dominance behavior and aggression in winter flocks of black-capped chickadees in New England for her senior thesis project. It was not until Vogel entered graduate school and started working with Dr. Charles Janson that she decided to study primates and focus her research on food related aggression in white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus). Using a novel “Focal Tree Method”, this was the first study of primate socioecology to examine resource availability on a scale that is both temporally and spatially relevant to the species under investigation. Vogel focused on the ecological basis of aggression by evaluating the net benefit of access to a given resource, and the opportunity costs associated with foregoing alternative resources. Her findings were then compared to studies on other primate species and examined how differences in the potential for aggressive competition over food appear to affect the evolution of social structure in non-human primate species.
Vogel’s current research involves questions that explore both the proximate and ultimate mechanisms of diet selection and energy acquisition in wild orangutans. Vogel established a long-term research project in 2005 at the Tuanan Field Station in Central Kalimantan (TORP) focusing on orangutan dietary ecology and cognitive foraging decisions. This project combines field observations with laboratory techniques to examine the relationships between nutrition, gut physiology, food availability, and diet selection. Specifically, her current research focuses on behavioral, physiological, and morphological adaptations to periods of fruit scarcity in wild orangutans. For example, Vogel is examining how the mechanical and nutritional properties of foods consumed by wild orangutans vary with the availability of preferred fruit. She is combining these data with ranging and tree visitation data to test if orangutans are energy-efficient foragers and to better understand how they cope with periods of fruit scarcity. To examine physiological responses to variation in fruit availability, she is investigating urinary peptides (Ghrelin, Leptin, Peptide YY) that are produced in response to the presence/absence of relevant nutrients in the gut and have been linked to hunger and satiation.
Ph.D. 2004. Stony Brook University. Department of Ecology and Evolution.
Advisor: Charles H. Janson
Committee: John Fleagle, Andreas Koenig, Ivan Chase, and Carel van Schaik.
B.A. 1995. Colby College, Waterville ME. Biology with environmental concentration.
Assistant Professor, The Department of Anthropology and the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies, Rutgers University (2011-present)
Associate Research Professor, The Department of Anthropology and the Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology (CASHP), The George Washington University (2011-present)
Research Scientist, Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology (CASHP), The George Washington University (2009-2011)
Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of California Santa Cruz (2006-2009)
Associate Researcher, Department of Anthropology, University of California Santa Cruz (2006-2009)
Postdoctoral Fellow, The Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich (under the guidance of Dr. Carel P. van Schaik) (2006-2009)
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of California Santa Cruz (under the guidance of Dr. Nathaniel Dominy) (2004-2005)
Grants and Fellowships
2011-2012 – The United States Fish and Wildlife Great Ape Fund (PI)
2010-2011 – The George Washington University Travel Award
2009-2010 – University of California Santa Cruz Professional Development Grant
2008-2009 – National Science Foundation Research Grant (PI) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU); Factors Affecting Geographic Variation in Orangutan Diet
2008-2009 – Denver Zoological Foundation Research Grant (PI); Orangutan
Conservation in Central Kailimantan
2007-2011 – National Science Foundation Research Grant (PI) ; Factors Affecting Geographic Variation in Orangutan Diet
2007-2010 – L.S.B. Leakey Foundation Research Grant (PI) Linking Feeding Ecology and Craniodental Morphology in Wild Orangutans: A Quantitative Approach
2007 – UCSC University Council-American Federation of Teachers
2005-2006 – L.S.B. Leakey Foundation Research Grant (PI); Factors Affecting Geographic Variation in Orangutan Diet: an Ecocultural Investigation
2005 – Denver Zoological Foundation Research Grant (PI); Factors Affecting Geographic Variation in Orangutan Diet
2001 – National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant (CoPI0 Ecological Basis of Agonistic Coalitions in Capuchin Monkeys
2001 – Organization of Tropical Studies Emily P. Foster Fellowship(PI); The Ecological Basis of Aggression in White-faced Capuchin Monkeys
2000 – L.S.B. Leakey Foundation Research Grant (CoPI); The Ecological Basis of Coalition Formation in White-faced Capuchin Monkeys in a Costa Rican Dry Forest
1999 – Organization of Tropical Studies Emily P. Foster Fellowship(PI); The Ecological Basis of Aggression in White-faced Capuchin Monkeys
1999-2000 – Graduate Aid in Areas of National Need Fellowship (GAANN); US Department of Education
1999 – Slobodkin Research Award; Stony Brook University
1998 – Sokal Travel Award; Stony Brook University
1995 – Webster Chester Biology Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Research, Colby College