GradImpact: Understanding the Effects of Natural Resource Extraction on the Habitats of an Endangered Species

    A recent study published in Current Biology and covered in the New York Times and on CNN, estimated that from 1999 to 2015 more than 100,000 Bornean orangutans were lost due to natural resource extraction. Didik Prasetyo, a co-author of the study and doctoral student in the Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolution at Rutgers University, is eager to learn more about the decline and find ways to conserve their habitats and populations.


    Prasetyo’s general research interests focus on orangutan conservation and began when he mapped the genome of orangutans in a region of Borneo, Indonesia. He’s also studied their nesting behavior to better understand how they are structured to provide protection during the rainy season. His doctoral research, specifically, investigates the development of flanges in male orangutans. The flanges are enlarged, padded cheeks that frame the face and develop as orangutans mature and are associated with dominance. Some male flange development is slower than others, and Prasetyo wants to better understand why by studying the orangutans’ diet and hormone levels.


    “Orangutans can adapt to different situations,” Prasetyo said. “When the forest changes from primary (old growth) to secondary (regenerated), they can adapt. Why not protect them in that forest and they can survive? We just need to make sure there’s no hunting.” To learn more about Didik’s work visit the Rutgers University website.


    Visit the GradImpact Feature Gallery to learn more about the amazing, innovative research being done by graduate students and alumni across the world.



    Photo Credit: Erin R. Vogel/Rutgers University–New Brunswick



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