Lisa Gould's Web Page


Dr. Lisa Gould, Professor and Graduate Student Advisor/Graduate Program Director, Anthropology Department, University of Victoria

BA, MA (University of Alberta 1986, 1989) Ph.D. (Washington University in St. Louis 1994), Killam Postdoctoral Fellow (University of Alberta 1994-96)

Major Subfield: Biological Anthropology/ Primatology

Geographic Interest: Madagascar 

Topical Interests: Primate behavior and ecology, primate feeding and nutrition, demography and life history of primates, behavioral endocrinology, anti-predator strategies in primates, distribution of primates in anthropogenically disturbed versus less or undisturbed habitats, health of primates living in fragmented habitats. Species studied: Lemur catta (ring-tailed lemurs) in southern, southwest, and south-central Madagascar since 1987.


Dept. of Anthropology,

University of Victoria,

Box 3050, Victoria,

BC V8W-3P5

Tel: 250-721-7058

Fax: 250-721-6215

E-mail: lgould at uvic dot ca (or see UVic Anthropology Webpage:


Ring-tailed lemur group huddle, Tsaranoro Valley, south-central Madagascar

Research Interests: My research focuses on examining the costs and benefits of group living in primates, and ecological adaptations of species to diverse habitats. Since 1987, I have conducted research on wild ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), an ecologically flexible, female-dominant species, which lives in mixed-sex groups and inhabits gallery, xerophytic, scrub, spiny desert, and rocky outcrop forests in southern, south-central and southwestern Madagascar.

Female dominance is rare in mammals, and for many years, my research focused on understanding how adult male ring-tailed lemurs adapt and respond, both physiologically (hormonally) and socially, to female dominance and its accompanying conditions, ie. female priority of access to all resources, social dominance by females, and also to the strict reproductive seasonality that is characteristic of most lemur species. I was also involved for a number of years in a longitudinal demography project on a population in the southwest of the island. More recently, I've examined feeding and nutritional ecology of Lemur catta groups in spiny forest in the far south of Madagascar, and in 2009 I began a new project on two small populations of Lemur catta in rocky outcrop forests in south-central Madagascar, the most north-eastern point of their distribution, a habitat that is markedly different from other habitats in the south and southwest.

Specific research projects that I have conducted over the years include: infant ontogeny and alloparenting (M.A. research), patterns of affiliative behavior in adult males (Ph.D. research); sex differences in vigilance behavior (Post-doctoral research); and, as a faculty member at University of Victoria, an examination of physiological stress and testosterone levels during mating and post-mating periods in groups of wild Lemur catta at the Beza-Mahafaly Reserve, Madagascar (see publications list). I have also, along with colleagues Dr. Michelle Sauther of University of Colorado, and Dr. Robert Sussman of Washington University, examined life history and demographic patterns of the Beza Mahafaly ring-tailed lemur population in southwestern Madagascar over a 15-year period. During this period a serious drought occurred, and we were able to document the effects of, and subsequent population recovery from this natural disaster (see publications list).

In 2006-07 I conducted a feeding and nutritional ecology project in rare spiny forest habitat at Berenty Reserve. For this study, I examined sex differences in feeding behavior and food intake, as well as nutrient and secondary compound intake in two ring-tailed lemur groups inhabiting spiny forest habitat during the periods or early gestation and early to mid lactation. In the summer of 2009, some of my graduate students and I began a new project comparing the ecology and distribution of two separate Lemur catta populations living in small rocky outcrop forest fragments in south-central Madagascar, at Anja Reserve and Tsaranoro Valley. These two sites, 55 km. apart, are similar in size and vegetation structure, but differ greatly in terms of density of L. catta (2010 census revealed that ~220 lemurs live at Anja in ~27 ha. and approximately 60 live in the Tsaranoro Valley forest which measures ~30 ha.). Research that we have conducted since 2009 includes censusing, documenting plant foods consumed by the ring-tails at both sites, comparisons of activity budgets, and both Denise Gabriel (my Ph.D. student) and I have collected fecal samples for endoparasite comparisons. Denise is also examining stress hormone concentrations at each site through fecal sample analysis. Tara Clarke (Ph.D. student) plans to examine how forest fragmentation at these two sites affects male dispersal, population genetics and long term health/viability in terms of inbreeding, since disperal opportunities for males are either very limited (Tsaranoro) or not possible due to lack of nearby forest fragments containing other L. catta populations at Anja.

Ring-tailed lemur group on cliff in Tsaranoro Valley, south-central Madagascar

Ring-tailed lemurs feeding at the Anja Reserve, south-central Madagascar. Note that their habitat is characterized by rocky outcrops, not continuous forest.

Research grants over the past decade: Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada- 5-year Discovery grants (2005-2010 and 2001-2005), National Geographic Research Grant (2001-2002), Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Grant- (2001-2002), University of Victoria Faculty Research Grant.

Courses taught at University of Victoria: Introduction to Biological Anthropology, Primate Behavioral Ecology, Selected topics in Primate Ecology, a graduate seminar in Biological Anthropology-most recently this seminar has focused on the evolution of the human diet, and a seminar on Professional Skills for Ph.D. students in the Anthropology Department at UVic.

Resting in Allauadia procera tree- one of the main food plants of L. catta in spiny forest at Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Graduate Students-- past and present

Sarah Turner (Interdisciplinary M.Sc. 2003) Thesis title: Maternal investment and disability in Japanese macaques - currently finishing Ph.D. at U. of Calgary

Renee Bauer (Interdisciplinary M.Sc. 2005). Thesis title: Correlates of dominance rank in female ring-tailed lemurs

Andrea Gemmill (Anthropology MA 2007) Thesis title: Adult female feeding competition within two group of free-ranging ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) in different habitats at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Southwestern Madagascar. Veterinary medicine student at University of Guelph.

Nick Ellwanger (Anthropology MA 2007) Thesis title: Behavioral strategies of the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) in the spiny forest habitat of Berenty Reserve, Southern Madagascar-Ph.D. student at U. Texas San Antonio.

Jennifer Prew (Anthropology MA 2008) Thesis title: Variation in anti-predator behavior and predator sensitive foraging in Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi verreauxi) in 3 different habitats at Berenty Reserve, Madagascar.

Marni LaFleur ((Interdisciplinary M.Sc. 2008). Thesis titile: Nutrition in Lemur catta in late gestation period in gallery forest habitat-Ph.D. candidate at University of Colorado, Boulder

Alex Cameron- (Anthropology MA 2010) MA thesis title: Edge effects and distribution of Lemur catta at Anja Reserve and Tsaranoro Valley forest fragments, south-central Madagascar. Behavioral Surveys and Edge Sensitivity of Two Populations of Ringtailed Lemurs (Lemur catta)in two rocky outcrop habitats at Anja Reserve and the Tsaranoro Vallery, South-Central Madagascar.

Denise Gabriel (Interdisciplinary Ph.D. candidate) began fall 2008- Ph.D. project: stress and parasite loads in populations of Lemur catta living in two diverse forest fragments at Anja Reserve and the Tsaranoro Valley, south-central Madagascar. Currently conducting dissertation research in Madagascar (2010-11)

Jody Weir (Interdisciplinary Ph.D.) began fall 2009 - Ph.D. project: Feeding ontogeny, maternal strategies and infant survival in three sympatric lemur species in rainforest habitat at Maromizaha Reserve, eastern Madagascar. Will conduct research in 2011-12

Tara Clarke (Anthropology Ph.D.) began fall 2010. Dissertation interest: population genetics of Lemur catta inhabiting isolated forest fragments in south-central Madagascar.

Graduate Studies Opportunities - Students interested in undertaking graduate studies under my supervision, with a research focus in primatology, have the following options:

1) MA in Anthropology-see our webpage:

2) Ph.D. in Anthropology- see our webpage:


2) Interdisciplinary MSc. or Ph.D. see:



Lemur catta sunning at Anja Reserve. Note proximity to rice cultivation at this site

Lemurs: Ecology and Adaptation (2006) Lisa Gould and Michelle L. Sauther,eds. (NY: Springer) For more information on our book go to:

Feeding on Melia azadirach fruit, a key food resource at Anja Reserve