Alphas and Betas and Low-Ranked, Oh My!

I would like to start this post off by saying that all of the chalk talks given this past week were absolutely amazing! They all dived into complex topics like genetics and neurobiology in a simple way that made understanding them much easier. Seeing the research drawn as a visual tool made the talks more dynamic and really simple to follow. As someone with extremely limited biology experience, I really enjoyed that I could follow along and learn so much.

As someone who loves animals and grew up watching documentaries on their behavior, I found Christine’s talk extremely interesting. I knew that there were dominance hierarchies in baboons, but I had no idea there were distinctions between the types of stress that a baboon experienced depending on where was in the hierarchy. It was really interesting to learn about the distinction between energetic stress (more dominant in Alphas) and psychosocial stress (more dominant in low rankings males). I think the most fascinating thing for me was that stress levels could actually be quantified through measuring glucocorticoids in the feces. (Who knew poop could be so useful?) It is also really fascinating to think that you can tell what a dominant source of stress for a group of baboons is by measuring certain hormone levels and not just observing their interactions in the wild; I had no idea the level of T3 secretion indicated a certain type of stress (energetic) experienced. Additionally, it surprised me that just by moving down one rank– from an Alpha to a Beta– a baboon’s stress levels would decrease significantly! Overall, the talk gave a really interesting insight into the stressors of baboons in hierarchies from a hormonal standpoint. Christine did a great job in explaining her project in a clear, fascinating way. 

All the chalk talks this past week allowed me to dive deeper into fields with which I was unfamiliar. I really enjoyed learning more about each of the projects everyone else was working on and seeing common threads that linked them together. So far, BSURF has taught me so much and the talks really enriched my learning in a fun, simple, and visual way. Thanks everyone!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *