Tim Webster (Class of 2008)

photo of Tim Webster

  • double major in Anthropology and Zoology
  • from Cleveland, OH
  • began a Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Yale University, fall 2009

Our original conversation with Tim was conducted in April 2009.

Update: January 2011

Tim Webster in field with Triceratops fossil

"I'm starting my fourth semester as a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University. So far, graduate school has involved a lot of hard work, but it's been worth it, as I've had a number of exciting research opportunities. This past summer I spent two months collecting chimpanzee feeding data at field site called Ngogo in Kibale National Park, Uganda. This site received a great deal of media attention recently when it was published that the males engaged in lethal raiding of a neighboring community and managed to expand their territory into the other community's range.

"Also, I spent part of the field season in western North Dakota and eastern Montana digging for fossils around the K-T boundary—the time during which dinosaurs became extinct. We found a number of fossils of mammals and reptiles, including dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. (I'm pictured here with a horn of the latter.) The mammal fossils are particularly exciting because it will allow researchers to understand what evolutionary changes mammals experienced when the dinosaurs became extinct.

"Throughout the past year and a half, I've worked extensively in the Yale Molecular Anthropology Laboratory. To date, I've been involved in a number of projects including chimpanzee behavioral genetics and the ultraviolet reflectance of mammal fur."

Original Conversation: April 2009

Tim Webster, Dr. Linda Marchant, and friend

"Hi, I'm Tim Webster. I became interested in animal behavior and ecology at an early age; my father is the Director of Wildlife Resources at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. I grew up volunteering for him, working mostly with local birds of prey and mammals. Then, in college, during breaks from classes, I worked as an animal care intern for the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. During my first season, I worked in the cat and primate building, and it was here that I realized my interest in primates.

"I chose Miami because it had a strong zoology program, and I wanted to be a zookeeper. However, after that summer at the zoo, I returned to Miami and discovered that I could combine zoology with anthropology and my interest in primates.

"At Miami, you can do real research. I worked with my professors on any research project I could get my hands on. I studied female transfer behavior, association patterns and sleep tree choice of white-bellied spider monkeys (Ateles belzebuth belzebuth). I studied overall patterns in chimpanzee faunivory (consumption of animal prey), the climate of Assirik, Senegal (a west African chimpanzee site), sympatric mammals at Assirik, Senegal, and laterality in wild vs. captive chimpanzees. I also spent a summer studying ratios of different types of bones in ape and human heel bones with the director of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

"I spent two terms (one Miami semester) as a Junior Visiting Fellow in the Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge. At the end of the second term I went to Uganda where I studied chimpanzee insectivory and well-digging in the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. I ended up staying in Uganda for six months! I even served as camp manager during my stay. Going for supplies involved a 3-hour drive through savannah, jungle and mountainous terrains. Driving in Africa presents many challenges including flooding, rockslides and even elephants.

"I just accepted an offer from Yale University and will begin a Ph.D. program in Anthropology this fall. For my thesis, I hope to study chimpanzee feeding and nutritional ecology in Kibale National Park, Uganda.

"My advice to students? Ask as many questions as you can and find professors that you want to work with. My professors pushed me when I needed to be pushed and they stepped back when I needed to be independent. Either way, their doors were always open."

[April 2009]