About Kim Dingess:

Kim is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University. Prior to Indiana, she completed an MA in Anthropology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, while her Undergraduate degree was gained at Marshall University in West Virginia. She has extensive teaching and research experience, including in the New World tropics (see below).
Teaching Experience
Kim has already been involved in teaching 11 field courses in Costa Rica. Most of these have been in Primate Behavior and Ecology but, in addition, her diverse interests have led her to co-teach both Rain Forest Ecology and Ornithology. She has also acted as Academic Co-ordinator at a Costa Rican field station, and will be serving in such a position at El Zota in the coming summer.
Back in the United States, Kim has been an Associate Instructor at Indiana University for three years, teaching Bioanthropology Methods, Human Origins, Evolution and Diversity of Primates and assisting in teaching Chimpanzee Behavior, Non-academically, she has held a position as Volunteer Educator at Indianapolis Zoo.
Research Interests
Kim’s main research interest has been in attempting to reconstruct early hominid behaviour from living primate models. In Tennessee, her thesis looked at how tooth marks made on fresh bones by various large carnivores and chimps might help determine the origin of similar marks made on bones associated with hominid fossils. Also at Tennessee, Kim worked as part of a team looking at the effects of diet on various aspects of the life history of the common marmoset. Kim has a strong belief in the importance of well-managed zoos in conservation efforts; and worked for four years in Knoxville Zoo as a volunteer animal keeper, where she helped out mostly with the chimps, gorillas, baboons and macaques. She also carried out an independent study on gorilla enrichment.
More recently Kim has spent the last three years as an associate researcher, working with a group from the University of St. Andrews in the UK. Here she has been looking at the evolution of song behavior in neotropical wrens. In these species, as with some primates such as gibbons, certain ecological constraints have led to extremely close pair bonding and the relative equality of sex roles. As a consequence, territorial defence is equally shared by the male and female, such that they sing together in a tightly co-ordinated duet. This ornithological project required several months’ data collection each year, in Mexico, Costa Rica and Ecuador. In addition, she has been using molecular techniques for sexing individuals and for developing a molecular phylogeny.
In 2003, Kim made sound recordings and observations on dusky titi monkeys in the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador, as a pilot study for a possible future research project. Like the wrens described above, this monkey also forms long term pair bonds, and similarly the pair defend their exclusive territories with loud duet songs.
Field Course Teaching Philosophy
Kim has always had a very strong work ethic, and likes to see evidence of this in her students. Having an opportunity to study primates in a tropical rain forest is a great privilege, and Kim will encourage her students to make the most of their time at El Zota. The students most prepared to take seriously, and in good heart, the challenges faced during the course will be those that have the best experience and will return home with the greatest rewards.
Aside from being prepared to work hard, Kim also likes to engender cross- cultural sensitivity in her students. After all, they will be working in a developing country where many of the local people still struggle to earn enough money to feed their families. Respecting local customs is a must for all students.
Inevitably students attending the course will be working in a close-knit group, and it will be important to show flexibility and consideration of others in this sort of dynamic.
Conservation is an important back-drop to the whole rain forest experience and, along with other staff, Kim will strongly emphasize the need for students to remain as environmentally-friendly as possible during their stay at the station.
Finally, Kim always endeavours to make her course as diverse as possible, using a range of different teaching methods. She encourages a working environment in which students feel free to engage in discussions, both in lectures and in the field, and will do her utmost to ensure that everyone will finally leave for home with a greater understanding and appreciation of the rain forest ecosystem and especially of its primate inhabitants.
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