I am a behavioral biologist whose work focuses on the behavior, ecology and endocrinology of social behavior in wild primates. My research uses a multidisciplinary approach that combines the methods of behavioral ecology and endocrinology to better understand the sources and consequences of variability in primate social behavior across individuals and groups in natural populations. Much of my research focuses on the endocrine correlates and fitness consequences of variation in the mother-offspring relationship. I am also interested in the development of sex differences in behavior and in the adaptive significance of affiliative bonds and dominance status in primates. In my research, I combine non-invasive methods of behavioral data collection with fecal hormone extraction from habituated, known individuals. Much of my past and present research focuses on wild populations of monkeys in East Africa, including in Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. By studying primates in natural settings, I can monitor the interactions between hormones, health and behavior within the selective environment in which these interactions evolved. In addition, non-invasive hormonal sampling allows me to both assess potential determinants of behavior and to evaluate potential physiological consequences of behavior without disruptions to the animals’ daily lives. My research aims to shed light on and provide new insights into the ecological and physiological processes that underlie social behavior in humans and nonhuman primates.
I was born in Saigon, Viet Nam in 1976 and immigrated with my family to the US in 1982. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and in 2000 earned my Bachelor’s degree at Barnard College , majoring in both Anthropology and Biology. In 2006, I earned my Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University where I studied under the supervision of Dr. Jeanne Altmann . For my Ph.D., I lived in a tented camp at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro for a year and a half, studying the causes and consequences of variation in mothering behavior in the wild yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus) at Amboseli, Kenya. The Amboseli population of baboons has been the subject of intensive research by Dr. Jeanne Altmann and her colleagues for over four decades and much is known about their behavior, ecology, physiology, and population genetics. Before joining the faculty at CSUF, I served as the Director of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s Wildlife Endocrinology Laboratory where I oversaw a research program that examined hormone-behavior relationships as a means of enhancing the reproduction and welfare of wildlife living in zoos and in the wild.
Currently, I am investigating the behavior, ecology, and conservation biology of gelada monkeys (Theropithecus gelada) at Guassa, Ethiopia in collaboration with Dr. Peter Fashing . Geladas are unique among primates yet surprisingly little is known about them relative to other terrestrial primates like baboons, vervets, and macaques. In addition, my study site – Guassa – is an unusually ecologically pristine alpine grassland in north-central Ethiopia that has been conserved by one of the few surviving ancient indigenous conservation initiatives on the African continent. My current research on geladas at Guassa focuses on (a) female reproductive ecology, (b) intersexual conflict, (c) disease ecology, and (d) gut microbiome health. For more information about my research on geladas visit the Guassa Gelada Research Project website and see the recent photoessay on geladas and Guassa in the April 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine. I welcome undergraduate and graduate student participation and collaboration on my research in primate behavioral ecology.
I teach a variety of courses in Evolutionary Anthropology, including Introduction to Biological Anthropology (ANTH 101), Primate Behavior (ANTH 301), and Hormones and Behavior (ANTH/BIOL 456). In addition, as a faculty member in the graduate program in Environmental Studies , I teach a graduate core course, Environmental Issues and Approaches (ENST 500).
- Nguyen, N., Lee, L.M., Fashing, P.J., Nurmi, N.O., Stewart, K.M., Turner, T.J., Barry, T.S., Callingham, K.R., Goodale, C.B., Kellogg, B.S., Burke, R.J., Bechtold, E.K., Claase, M.J., Eriksen, G.A., Jones, S.C.Z., Kerby, J.T., Kraus, J.B., Miller, C.M., Trew, T.H., Zhao, Y., Beierschmitt, E.C., Ramsay, M.S., Reynolds, J.D., and Venkataraman, V.V. (2017). Comparative primate obstetrics: Observations of 15 diurnal births in wild gelada monkeys (Theropithecus gelada) and their implications for understanding human and nonhuman primate birth evolution. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 163: 14-29. (NPR)
- Mekonnen, A., Fashing, P.J., Bekele, A., Hernandez-Aguilar, R.A., Rueness, E.K., Nguyen, N., and Stenseth, N.C. (2017). Impacts of habitat loss and fragmentation on the activity budget, ranging ecology and habitat use of Bale monkeys (Chlorocebus djamdjamensis) in the southern Ethiopian Highlands. American Journal of Primatology DOI: 10.1002/ajp.22644.
- Fashing, N.J., Ueckermann, E.A., Fashing, P.J., Nguyen, N., Back, A.M., and Allison, L.A. (2016). Bryobia abyssiniae (Prostigmata: Tetranychidae), a new species from the highlands of Ethiopia. International Journal of Acarology 42: 366-376.
- Fashing, P.J. and Nguyen, N. (2016). Theropithecus gelada. In: N. Rowe (ed.). All the World’s Primates. East Hampton, NY: Pogonias Press, pp. 447-449.
- Shapiro, A.E., Venkataraman, V.V., Nguyen, N., and Fashing, P.J. (2016). Dietary ecology of fossil Theropithecus: Inferences from dental microwear textures of extant geladas from ecologically diverse sites. Journal of Human Evolution 99: 1-9.
- Nguyen, N., Fashing, P.J., Boyd, D.A., Barry, T.S., Burke, R.J., Goodale, C.B., Jones, S.C.Z., Kerby, J.T., Kellogg, B.S., Lee, L.M., Miller, C.M., Nurmi, N.O., Ramsay, M.S., Reynolds, J.D., Stewart, K.M., Turner, T.J., Venkataraman, V.V., Knauf, Y., Roos, C. and Knauf, S. (2015). Fitness impacts of tapeworm parasitism on wild gelada monkeys at Guassa, Ethiopia. American Journal of Primatology 77: 579-594.
- Venkataraman, V.V., Kerby, J.T., Nguyen, N. Ashenafi, Z., and Fashing, P.J. (2015). Solitary Ethiopian wolves increase predation success on rodents when among grazing gelada monkey herds. Journal of Mammalogy 96: 129-137. (New Scientist)
- Fashing, P.J., Nguyen, N., Venkataraman, V.V., and Kerby, J.T. (2014). Gelada feeding ecology in an intact ecosystem at Guassa, Ethiopia: Variability over time and implications for theropith and hominin dietary evolution. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 155(1): 1-16.
- Venkataraman, V.V., Glowacka, H., Fritz, J., Clauss, M., Seyoum, C., Nguyen, N., and Fashing, P.J. (2014). Effects of dietary fracture toughness and dental wear on chewing efficiency in geladas (Theropithecus gelada). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 155(1): 17-32.
- Nguyen, N. 2013. Primate behavioral endocrinology. In: Sterling, E.J., Bynum, N., and Blair M.E, editors. Primate ecology and conservation: A handbook of techniques. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, pp. 224-237.
- Fashing, P.J., Nguyen, N., Luteshi, P., Opondo, W., Cash, J.F., and Cords, M. 2012. Evaluating the suitability of planted forests for African forest monkeys: A case study from Kakamega Forest, Kenya. American Journal of Primatology 74: 77-90. (PDF )
- Nguyen N., Gesquiere L., Alberts S.C., Altmann J. 2012. Sex differences in the mother-neonate relationship in wild baboons: social, experiential and hormonal correlates. Animal Behaviour 83:891-903. (PDF )
- Fashing, P.J. and Nguyen, N. 2011. Behavior towards the dying, diseased, and disabled among animals and its relevance to paleopathology. International Journal of Paleopathology 1: 128-129. (PDF )
- Fashing, P.J., Nguyen, N., Barry, T.S., Goodale, C.B., Burke, R.J., Jones, S.C.Z., Kerby, J.T., Lee, L.M., Nurmi, N.O., Venkataraman, V.V. (2011). Death among geladas (Theropithecus gelada): A broader perspective on mummified infants and primate thanatology. American Journal of Primatology 73: 405-409. (PDF ) (New Scientist ) (Wired Magazine )
- Fashing, P.J., Nguyen, N., and Fashing, N.J. (2010). Behavior of geladas and other endemic wildlife during a desert locust outbreak at Guassa, Ethiopia: Ecological and conservation implications. Primates 51: 193-197. (PDF ) (CBC Quirks & Quarks ) (BBC Earth News )
- Nguyen, N., Van Horn, R.C., Alberts S.C., Altmann J. (2009) “Friendships” between new mothers and adult males: adaptive benefits and determinants in wild baboons (Papio cynocephalus). Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology. 63(9):1331-1344. (PDF ) (BBC Earth News )
- Nguyen, N., Gesquiere, L.R, Wango, E.O., Alberts, S.C., Altmann, J. 2008. Late pregnancy glucocorticoid levels predict responsiveness in wild baboon mothers (Papio cynocephalus) Animal Behaviour 75:1747-1756. (PDF )
- Fashing, P.J.; Mulindahabi, F.; Gakima, J.-B.; Masozera, M.; Mununura, I.; Plumptre, A.J.; Nguyen, N. 2007. Activity and ranging patterns of Angolan colobus (Colobus angolensis ruwenzorii) in Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda: Possible costs of large group size. International Journal of Primatology 28: 529-550. (PDF )
- Beehner, J. Nguyen, N., Alberts, S.C., Altmann, J. 2006. The endocrinology of pregnancy and fetal loss in wild baboons. Hormones and Behavior 49:688-699. (PDF )
- Altmann, J.; Lynch, J.W.; Nguyen, N.; Alberts, S.C.; Gesquiere, L.R. 2004. Life-history correlates of steroid concentrations in wild peripartum baboons. American Journal of Primatology 64: 95 – 106. (PDF )
- Sterling, E.J.; Nguyen, N.; Fashing, PJ. 2000. Spatial patterning in nocturnal prosimians: a review of methods and relevance to studies of sociality. American Journal of Primatology 51:3-19. (PDF )
- Nguyen, N. 2000. A survey of Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus avunculus) in northern Viet Nam. Folia Primatologica 71:157-160. (PDF )
Media Coverage of My Research
Nguyen, N. 2006. Endocrine Correlates and Fitness Consequences of Variation in Mothering Behavior in Wild Baboons (Papio cynocephalus). Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University (PDF )
Department of Anthropology
California State University, Fullerton
800 N. State College Blvd.
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Phone: (657) 278-7144