Ashley Edes is a George E. Burch postdoctoral fellow for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Edes studies welfare and health in great apes in zoos, including chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas. In particular, Edes' focus is on developing endocrinology methods for assessing current physiological dysregulation, which is known to lead to poor health outcomes, such as chronic disease and shortened lifespan. Through her research, Edes is striving to create a holistic, whole-organism theoretical framework and methodology for addressing questions related to stress, health, welfare and conservation.
For her Ph.D. research, Edes investigated the use of allostatic load indices as a method for studying physiological dysregulation in zoo-housed western lowland gorillas. Edes’ work represents the first time an allostatic load index was applied to a nonhuman species. She identified several factors that predict greater physiological impairment in gorillas, such as age, experiencing potentially stressful events and early life adversity. In turn, Edes also found that higher allostatic load was associated with higher levels of biomarkers which may indicate morbidity, such as triglycerides, the presence of at least one chronic degenerative condition, and mortality risk. Edes’ work now continues in chimpanzees and bonobos in zoos across the United States. In addition to physiology, she is investigating how behavior and social relationships can exacerbate or attenuate physiological dysregulation and later life health outcomes in all three African ape species.
Edes AN, Wolfe BA, Crews DE. 2018. Evaluating allostatic load: A new approach to measuring long-term stress in wildlife. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 49(2):272-282. doi: 10.1638/2016-0070.1
Edes AN, Crews DE. 2017. Allostatic load and biological anthropology. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 162:44-70. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.23146