My name is Karri Folks and I started my educational journey at Iowa State in the fall of 2012 under the direction of my two advisors, Dr. Jill Pruetz and Dr. Bob Klaver. I am a Ph.D. Student housed in the Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM) and Anthropology departments majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and minoring in Anthropology. My dissertation is focusing on the nighttime activity of Japanese Macaques located at the Blank Park Zoo (Des Moines, Iowa). I am performing a behavioral analysis on their nighttime activities using holding area camera footage provided by the zoo. There are three main objectives in my research: (1) Methodologically, to determine whether video can be a valuable method for studying nighttime behaviors in captive primates; (2) To examine how the zoo environment affects macaque sleeping behavior; and (3) To examine the variables that could potentially effect the specific behavior of nighttime sleep such as social status, weather, temperature, moon cycles, visitor interactions, and subject age and sex.
In studying nighttime behaviors of the macaque troop at the zoo, I hope to give insight into the behavior of other captive species as well as their wild counterparts. Although there has been a significant focus on animal enrichment during public zoo hours, one aspect that has been largely overlooked in the literature is that after hours or during inclement weather animals spend much of their time in holding areas. Observation of nighttime behavior can provide clues into the activity of the animals, which can improve husbandry practices. There has also been a lack of research concerning sleep and the effects it has on the overall health of captive species. Studying nighttime behavior will provide insight into the various behaviors that the Japanese macaques exhibit after hours and whether there is any correlation to physical and mental health.
I am pretty sure everyone has seen the commercials for Iowa State University. At the end of every commercial they say, "Choose your adventure at Iowa State." When choosing my adventure I knew that I would enjoy my research and coursework, however I had no idea how much I would truly enjoy the Iowa State experience. Being a part of three different departments (EEB, NREM, Anthropology) has allowed me to gain a wealth of knowledge from different fields but also has allowed me to forge friendships for life. Interacting with my colleagues, professors, fellow students, and the local Ames community has really enriched my experience here at ISU, an experience that I will treasure.