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Carson M. Murray Faculty Member


RESEARCH. My research broadly focuses on the evolution of social behavior; that is, why be social and how does social behavior relate to fitness? I am interested in this from both a mechanistic and evolutionary perspective. Research in my group primarily focuses on the Pan species (chimpanzees and bonobos), which are characterized by highly fluid grouping patterns, providing excellent fodder for investigating social relationships. Work in my lab is holistic as we integrate hormonal, ecological, and behavioral data sets. As a senior researcher and Principle Investigator of the Gombe Chimpanzee Research Project, we draw from almost 60 years of long-term data. It is a very exciting time since our data now spans multiple generations, which is quite a feat in a long-lived primate. My lab accommodates broad projects on social behavior but my own major foci include female relationships, the relationship between ecology and behavior, and maternal effects on offspring development, all of which reflect my over-arching interest in understanding female reproductive variance. In recent years, my research program has become more comparative, through collaborations with researchers at study sites. This was another productive year for our group both in terms of publications (published and submitted) but also in terms of major milestones for our members. Rachel Nelson successfully defended her dissertation proposal in Augsut; she is the first of her cohort to attain candidacy. Rachel was also awarded an NSF-DDRIG to suport her research, and published her first first authored publication. Sylvain Nyandwi was among the first researchers allowed back into Rwanda field sites, completed a full year of data collection, and procured a second large grant from the Discovery Expedition Grant to support a second year of research. MS Student Katie Auwerswald is near to completing both her thesis and her GIS certificate. First year MS students, Sims Patton and Abby McClain have already developed thesis ideas. Abby McClain received an NSF-GRFP prior to entering our MS program, which she chose to apply to our program after we suspended PhD admissions. She hopes to enter our PhD program in the fall, confident that our program and lab are ideal settings for her research and personal goals. TEACHING. This year continued to be an inspiring year in the classroom at both a graduate and undergraduate level. In Spring 2021, I taught a graduate Primate Behavior class that received 5/5 on the major evaluation categories. This was a new class prep. I also developed a new graduate Ethics and Professional Practice class over Summer 2021, and taught this course in Fall 2021. The class had previously been taugth by Dr. Wood but I was more than happy to lead the effort to redesign and refresh the class, given alumni feedback. This class also received a perfect evaluation on the major metrics. Finally, I continue teaching the Biological Basis of Human Behavior class, updating content and 'playing' with new pedagolgical tools each year. SERVICE. I continue to serve at the departmental level in a number of official roles but am equally proud of the substantive contributions that I made that are not recognized through formal appointments. In particular, I played a key role DEI efforts and have continued to advocate for a diverse and equitable Center. In previous reporting periods, I noted my continued interest in University-level service which would serve the dual purpose of contributing to CCAS and affording me insight into the higher-level organization and perspective of the University. This year I completed my rotation Dean's Committee on Undergraduate Studies, which has been an informative role and allowed me to contribute to our undergraduate programs. I anticipate 'leaning in' to more opportunities in the coming years and would appreciate support from my more senior colleagues to identify opportunities through which I can learn, grow and contribute to the University missions.

Research Areas

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