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Michelle Bezanson

Professor, Director of the Residential Learning Communities

Santa Clara University

Old Tools, New Views: Primate Conservation and Outreach


Tech companies frequently taut latest innovations and cutting-edge developments. In the world of scientific innovation, natural history, ethnographic, and descriptive methods are often considered remnants of early scientific paradigms. While methodological innovations are important for enhancing our knowledge, we cannot successfully proceed in the absence of ethnographic and observational data. In this presentation, Dr. Bezanson will discuss her research on non-human primates and how her experiences learning about field site locations, learning from local human communities, study focus biases, and teaching summer field classes have shifted her focus toward primate conservation. Bezanson combines research, art, ethics, and a decolonial lens to discuss the future of Primate Conservation.

Meet the Speaker:

Michelle Bezanson is a field primatologist who began her college career devoted to
becoming a scientific illustrator. Things changed course when she realized she could
have a career studying wild primates in tropical forests. It turns out, the more she
learned, the more she shifted her goals. She is a professor of Anthropology at Santa
Clara University. She has conducted research in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Zambia, and
Honduras. Her field research has focused on infant, juvenile, and adult positional
Behavior (posture and locomotion), tail use, and the behavioral, arboreal, and resource-
based contexts of locomotor patterns in primates. She also publishes on ethics, primate
conservation and the sustainability of anthropological field research and teaching in
fragile ecosystems. Bezanson has also created natural history programs in the US that are not a part of her regular curriculum responsibilities. These programs have included work with students at four different field sites in the University of California Natural Reserve System. She has served as leader in a 2.5 week WAC (Walk Across California), support crew for two WACs, and has led two OLE (Outdoor Leadership Experience) courses at SCU.

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