Unlike traditional academic disciplines, primatology is characterized by the taxon of organisms studied, not by the kinds of questions addressed. Primatologists share an interest in non-human primates, but otherwise are a highly diverse group including scientists, educators, conservationists, medical researchers and veterinarians among others. Some focus exclusively on non-human primates; while others study primates as models for human diseases, or as part of complex ecosystems. While most people who identify themselves as primatologists have post-graduate training, they come from a wide variety of fields.
A recent survey of the membership of the American Society of Primatologists found anthropology, psychology, biology/zoology and veterinary science as the most common disciplines of origin. Other represented fields include anatomy, biochemistry, genetics, medical science, pharmacology, and physiology. Research interests included primate behavior, biomedical and reproduction studies, ecology and conservation and animal husbandry.
Students interested in primatology as a career can choose from a variety of educational paths. In addition to the disciplines mentioned above, they may pursue undergraduate training in ecology/conservation biology, ethology/animal behavior, molecular biology, statistics/computer science, science education, journalism/science writing, bacteriology, virology, neuroscience, paleontology/geology, natural resource management and a variety of other fields. They may seek post-graduate training at Medical or Veterinary schools, or at Universities with programs in any of the academic disciplines listed above.
Despite the wide variety of educational tracks followed by primatologists, there are some common areas. A student interested in primatology will want to have a strong background in the biological sciences, with a focus on evolutionary biology. Their education should promote computer literacy and familiarity with statistics, as well as the development of good communication skills. Because primatology is an international field, knowledge of foreign languages will be useful. Beyond the basics, students may seek training in any area that will allow them to pursue their specific interests.
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