Dr. Lara Saipe Durgavich

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Dr. Lara Saipe Durgavich

saipeMatriculated September 2004

Defended Dissertation April 5, 2013

Lara Saipe Durgavich is currently conducting her dissertation research in the BU Physical Anthropology Laboratory, using a combination of behavioral and hormonal data from captive orangutan populations to address several outstanding questions in the fields of great ape reproductive and behavioral endocrinology.  She is particularly interested in how changes in reproductive hormone levels across the life cycles of male and female orangutans influence mating behaviors. For example, why, despite the theoretically low cost of mating, do adult males sometimes reject proceptive behaviors from female adolescents?  Further interests include how orangutan reproductive data examined from a life history perspective may elucidate the evolution of significant human characteristics, such as concealed ovulation and a menopausal life stage.

To complete this research, Lara is carrying out hormonal analyses on a large number of urine samples from adolescent and adult orangutans from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA, and the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, IA.  From the Woodland Park Zoo, Lara is fortunate to have samples from several females that span 15 years, allowing her the unique opportunity to examine longitudinal physiological changes in particular individuals.  Alongside behavioral data from both sites, Lara’s lab work will offer a more complete picture of adolescent orangutan ovarian development and function, the interrelationship between hormone levels and mating behaviors in adult orangutans, and changes in reproductive function in aging orangutans.

Lara’s other interests include stress physiology, great ape cognition, and primate conservation.  In the future she hopes to be able to collaborate with additional captive facilities as well as the researchers at Dr. Knott’s Gunung Palung Orangutan Project.