Melissa Remis

Professor of Anthropology

Head of the Department of Anthropology

College of Liberal Arts

Purdue University



Ph.D., 1994  Yale University

M.Phil., 1990 Yale University

B.A., 1986 University of California, Santa Cruz

I am an anthropologist who studies human-animal relationships, nutrition, health, BaAka foragers, great ape behavioral ecology,  and primate conservation in sub-Saharan Africa.  I am currently interested in environmental anthropology, multi species entanglements and interdependence in Congo Basin forests. I have conducted research on the feeding ecology, locomotion and conservation of gorillas at the Dzanga-Sangha Forest Reserve, Central African Republic (CAR).  I have also designed experimentally based research  on the evolution of feeding strategies among the African apes.

My current collaborative research integrates qualitative and quantitative approaches, field and lab approaches to address both wildlife and human dimensions of ecosystem change, diet and health. My newer work examines human-wildlife relationships, gender and changing subsistence practices and consequences for hunter-gatherers in transition to mixed economies. I have published on the impacts of multiple human disturbances, especially hunting and logging on mammals in the Congo Basin. The research contributes to our understanding of vulnerable ape populations and elephants, as well as the small ungulates and others which constitute the protein base for the region, hunting and logging practices forest fragmentation.

Much of my work has been conducted in long-term collaboration with cultural anthropologist, Dr. Rebecca Hardin of University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and former PhD students Carolyn A. Jost Robinson (Purdue PhD 2012) and Dr. Lesley Daspit (Purdue PhD 2011). We integrate cultural and biological anthropological approaches to environmental anthropology, animal-human interaction and conflict.  We have examined the wildlife trade from the perspective of hunters and sellers of wild game meat in local and urban markets. We collaborate with Central African researchers and have trained US and Central African University students and local research assistants in field methods and analysis.  We analyze long-term wildlife census, ethnographic interview and diet survey and biological data (lab-based analyses of hemoglobin, parasites and inflammation) to understand the impact of conservation efforts on the human and wildlife populations in Dzanga-Sangha Forest and to contribute to improvements in international approaches to conservation management and food security. We have added doctoral student Liz Hall to the team, who adds the study of zoonotic disease risks.  We are expanding this work on human-wildlife relationships to  Korup National Park in Cameroon, and with doctoral student Savannah Schulze to Bwindi National Park in Uganda. My experimental behavioral and nutritional research with Dr. Katie Smith (Purdue PhD 2012) works to improve the dietary health and well being of captive zoo- housed apes in North America. I also collaborate with Dr. Brandi Wren (Purdue PhD 2013) on her research on the evolution of sociality, grooming and parasites among vervet monkeys in South Africa.

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