EDS Seminar Series

Fragmentation, livelihoods, and contact between people and nonhuman primates

Tyler McIntosh of Earth Lab describes a previous study he worked on that provides empirical evidence that forest landscape fragmentation certain smallholders’ behaviors in forest patches jointly increase the likelihood of human-NHP (non-human primate) contact events. As this study gained traction at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyler also shares his insights from working with reporters on science communication.

Title: Habitat fragmentation, livelihood behaviors, and contact between people and nonhuman primates in Africa

Date: 5/10/22

Location: Zoom

Speaker: Tyler McIntosh



Context: Deforestation and landscape fragmentation have been identified as processes enabling direct transmission of zoonotic infections. Certain human behaviors provide opportunities for direct contact between humans and wild nonhuman primates (NHPs), but are often missing from studies linking landscape level factors and observed infectious diseases.

Objectives: Our objective is to better understand landscape and livelihood factors influencing human-NHP contact in rural communities whose landscapes undergo deforestation. We investigate core loss and edge density within a buffered area around survey respondent households to identify which landscape changes and behaviors increase the risk of human-NHP contact.

Methods: Behavioral survey data were collected from small-scale agriculturists living near forest fragments around Kibale National Park in western Uganda. We combined spatially explicit behavioral data with high-resolution satellite imagery. Using land cover classification and change detection, we investigated the relationships between forest loss and fragmentation, behavioral data, and human-NHP contact using logistic regression.

Results: Between 2011 and 2015, there were differences in the landscape metrics around the households of individuals who had experienced human-NHP contact compared to those who had not had contact. Increased edge density around households, collection of small trees for construction, and foraging and hunting for food in forested habitat significantly increase the likelihood of human-NHP contact.

Conclusion: This study provides empirical evidence that forest landscape fragmentation and certain smallholders’ behaviors in forest patches jointly increase the likelihood of human-NHP contact events.


Bio: Tyler McIntosh is an interdisciplinary researcher and project manager at Earth Lab, where he supports and manages a diverse set of projects related to macrosystems ecology and disturbance ecology, including analyses of forest structure and carbon storage in Western U.S. forests. He manages field campaigns and collaborates on data analyses and research involving varied datasets. Tyler is passionate about spatial questions relating to human-environmental systems, as well as environmental education and communication. He holds degrees from Stanford University in Interdisciplinary Environmental Science (BS) and Land Systems Science (MS). During his time at Stanford, Tyler’s research focused on ranching dynamics in the Paraguayan Chaco and the impact of landscape and livelihoods on zoonotic disease transmission in Uganda.