Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Christy M. McCain

Second Advisor

Herbert Covert

Third Advisor

Stacey Smith

Fourth Advisor

Samuel Flaxman

Fifth Advisor

Sharon Collinge


The Anthropocene mass extinction, or sixth mass extinction, represents a threat to global biodiversity. The only precedents for extinction at this pace are events similar to the K-Pg extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs and over 75% of the other species on Earth at the time. To be effective, conservation science needs to rapidly change focus to a larger scale. In this dissertation, I explore several conservation avenues through the lenses of ecology and economics using global primate species to examine my hypotheses. In Chapter II, I assess shared traits among primates that may indicate increased extinction risk using a hierarchical Bayesian framework. I find the traits most associated with primate species’ risk are evolutionary relationship (i.e., closely related species are similarly endangered) and habitat specialization. In Chapter III, I combine species’ geographic ranges with historic human population maps dating back 200 years to assess whether primate species exhibit a lag in extinction after anthropogenic encroachment. I see strong evidence of extinction debt among primates; current species decline best correlates with human population density roughly 100 years in the past. In Chapter IV, I examine the role of national-scale socioeconomic factors in species risk. To do so, I test socioeconomic data for nations of the world as predictors of species risk within each nation. Analysis of socioeconomic factors show a tradeoff between the well-being of the people of a nation and primate risk. The higher the human standard of living, the greater the primate extinction risk. However, this analysis also illuminates the strength of international cooperation – species found in more countries are at less risk. In Chapter V, I explore conservation triage, a method of prioritizing which species to conserve, given limited resources. To do this, I modeled primate species extinctions across 150 years into the future under varying prioritization schemes and calculated extinction and phylogenetic diversity loss. I find triage focused on evolutionarily distinct species that are also at-risk may save more species and diversity than a method focused solely on the rarest species. The research in this dissertation supports addressing global primate extinction on a large scale – prioritizing the use of limited resources to address multiple species simultaneously.