Primate Environmental Endocrinology Lab (PEEL) Members


Emily Chester

Graduate Students

Michelle Benavidez (

Michelle Benavidez was raised in South Texas and attended high school at Skidmore-b.JPGTynan ISD. In Spring 2014 she graduated as a McNair Scholar from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX where she received a BS in Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Biology and a minor in Sociology. For her undergraduate research she worked with Dr. Peter Beck to investigate the effects of border fence construction on ocelot conservation efforts in Texas. She began her MS in Wildlife Ecology at Texas State University in Fall 2014 working with Dr. Iván Castro-Arellano to investigate the role of small mammals in disease transmission on the island of Puerto Rico. Fall 2016, she began the Bioanthropology PhD program at Indiana University in Bloomington with Dr. Michael Wasserman’s Primate Environmental Endocrinology Lab in the Anthropology Department. At IU she is researching Howler monkeys on Barro Colorado Island, Panama where she plans to investigate microbiomes in terms of differences in diet, behavior, and environment.


Tessa Steiniche (

I received my B.S. in Biology from Truman State University (2012), and am currently a head.shot.jpgBioanthropology graduate student at Indiana University Bloomington. My major interests are primate ecology, conservation, and environmental protection. My primary research objective is to understand how environmental changes affect nutritional aspects, especially phytosteroid content, of plant foods in primate diets. I am further interested in the interplay between diet, hormones, and behavior, and how these factors influence primate fitness.



Research Assistants and Lab Technicians

Alicia Rich (

Alicia Rich is temporarily managing general operations for the PEEL lab setup at Indiana University, but will 20292573_10102839203710032_8116297103689092111_n (2)begin managing the PEEL Kibale project in Uganda as of November 2017. Alicia completed a BA in Biology and Anthropology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania through the Robert E. Cook Honors College and an M.A. in Anthropology at Indiana University Bloomington. She also successfully defended her doctoral dissertation through IU Anthropology in August of 2017. Alicia is a previous member of IU’s Anthropological Genetics Laboratory and a former fellow at IU’s Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior. For her dissertation research, she studied the population genetics of chimpanzees living in the open-mosaic habitat of Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve in western Uganda. Alicia is currently focused on integrating genetic, spatial, and ecological perspectives to study the effects of habitat fragmentation and human proximity on the health and viability of tropical primates, with special attention paid to Uganda’s potential “chimpanzee highways” that could maintain connectivity beyond the boundaries of protected areas. In her spare time, Alicia is also a competitive trail/ultrarunner with an affinity for the 50-mile distance.

Bradford Westrich

C. Eric Johnson


Undergraduate Students

Alec Iruri-Tucker

Kathryn Tafoya

Iris Thompson