ICON Student Feature: Kristen Morrow

October 2, 2021

Kristen Morrow is a PhD student in Anthropology and Integrative Conservation (ICON). Her dissertation research examines the social and ecological dimensions of community-oriented primate conservation efforts in Indonesia. Kristen previously conducted her master’s research in South Sulawesi, Indonesia on human-macaque interactions in Bantimurung-Bulusaurang National Park. Through her training in the ICON program Kristen has expanded her research focus to examine both the broader structures and more immediate factors that influence primate conservation.  

Kristen’s doctoral research merges political ecology, human dimensions of wildlife, and behavioral ecology to understand the dynamics of community-oriented primate conservation. From a social perspective, Kristen’s work considers how institutional factors—such as research histories, community composition, and land use patterns—influence the design and prioritization of primate conservation programs across Indonesia. During her fieldwork she will work at two different field sites in Central Borneo to understand (1) how these programs are implemented across different contexts, (2) the processes through which people engage with conservation efforts, and (3) the ways in which local ontologies intersect or conflict with conservation program framing.

Photo credit: Kristen Morrow

From an ecological perspective, Kristen’s research works at both broad and fine spatial scales. Broadly, Kristen’s dissertation uses existing datasets to examine the ecological characteristics of field sites where community-oriented primate conservation is being implemented. This component of her research helps to shed light on the habitats and species being prioritized in primate conservation programs in Indonesia and also helps to understand more generally how broader landscape factors should be considered in wildlife conservation efforts. During her fieldwork, Kristen will collect data on primate populations and their behavior to understand how primates respond to differing patterns of forest use and human activities. This latter portion of her research contributes to primate behavioral ecology by examining how and under what conditions primates change their behavior in response to human activities.

In her research Kristen combines methodological approaches from Anthropology, Ecology, and Conservation Biology. Building off her previous training in primate behavioral data collection and ethnographic research, Kristen’s dissertation research incorporates participant observation, semi-structured interviews, spatial analyses of ecological data, and wildlife population sampling via transects and camera trapping. Kristen’s preliminary years of dissertation research have been funded by the UGA Department of Anthropology and The Graduate School. She also received funding to participate in the Consortium for Teaching Indonesian language training program and to attend an NSF-sponsored workshop on improving U.S.-Indonesian Biodiversity Conservation Research Collaboration. Kristen was recently selected as a 2020-2021 P.E.O. Scholar; this national award recognizing women in academia will provide significant financial support for her fieldwork. While developing her dissertation research Kristen has also been honing her science communication skills through coursework, conferences, outreach efforts, and publications. In 2019, Kristen was sponsored by The Graduate School to attend then Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering workshop held by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and received funding support from The Graduate School to engage in small-scale science outreach in Indonesia. This year, Kristen along with other ICON students put together a booth on palm oil and conservation for UGA’s STEMZone, and, with support from the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, Kristen collaborated with ICON Ph.D. candidate Kristen Lear to put on a youth science program at the Athens public library focused on bat and primate biology. Recently, Kristen authored a science communication article on The Conversation, which shared the results of an American Journal of Primatology article on which she was a co-author. Kristen has also recently published results from her master’s research in Scientific Reports and is collaborating with co-authors on publications currently under review in Biodiversity and Conservation and The International Journal of Primatology.

Photo credit: Kristen Lear