"Social and exploratory drivers of parasite risk and culture"
Social learning and innovation are the behavioral underpinnings of culture in humans and other animals, but these processes can be difficult to quantify. Instead, exploratory tendencies of individuals and patterns of social contact within groups can serve as useful, measurable proxies for innovation and social learning, respectively. In my dissertation, I used complementary methods to investigate the costs of parasite infection that accompany social and exploratory behavior in a variety of taxa. I'll present current evidence for links between exploratory tendency, social contact, and parasite risk, as well as case studies for each of these links.