Podcast: Humans as part of nature

Biological Sciences Research: Dr Tracie McKinney

Human–nature relationship offers clues to adaptability

Hello and welcome to Sixty Seconds Spotlight. I’m Dr Tracie McKinney, a biological anthropologist at the University of South Wales. My research focuses on primates like monkeys, apes, and lemurs, and how these animals interact with humans and human-altered landscapes.

It’s really common for people to view “humans” and “nature” as two completely separate things.  We often use the phrase “human disturbance”, for example, and traditionally field scientists avoided studying animals that were considered “disturbed”, in favour of animals living in pristine forest.

There are two problems with this view. First, it’s almost impossible to find landscapes and wildlife that have not been influenced in some way by human actions. Whether that’s through deforestation, loss of top predators in the ecosystem, or even global influences like climate change, we humans have a tendency to leave our mark.

Second, humans are a part of nature. We are not some supernatural creature exempt from the rules of ecology; we are part of these animals’ communities. Therefore, animals will respond to humans in the same way they would to any other member of the community – as predators, as competitors, or as potential sources of food.

So, let’s not throw people out of the equation. We are part of nature, just like everything else.  

As a primatologist, I am fascinated by the many primate species which have shared space with human populations for centuries. These relationships are important, and can tell us so much about the adaptability and ecological roles of both humans and other primates.

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About Dr Tracie McKinney

Dr Tracie McKinney

Dr Tracie McKinney is a biological anthropologist at the University of South Wales with expertise in nonhuman primate responses to anthropogenic disturbance.

She is particularly interested in how wild primates deal with human disturbance, including habitat alteration, ecotourism, provisioning, and crop-raiding. 

Dr McKinney's field research focuses on mantled howlers (Alouatta palliata) and white-faced capuchins (Cebus imitator) in Costa Rica.  She teaches on the Biological Sciences courses at USW.

You can see Dr Tracie McKinney's research outputs here. To discuss collaborative or industrial research, please contact USW Exchange.

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