Katilyn Gerstner is a biologist and social scientist fascinated by health, nutrition, and why humans are the way they are. She studies wild chimpanzee gut microbiomes and is most passionate about protecting primates.
Katie earned a bachelor's degree in biology and public outreach at Illinois State University and a master's in anthropology from Wayne State University. She is a Ph.D. candidate in applied anthropology and a Doctoral Teacher’s Assistant at Texas State University, where she was initiated into Phi Kappa Phi in 2022. Katie is a John
Michael Kilby Fellow in the Department of Anthropology and a former Doctoral Merit Fellow for The Graduate College.
In her role at Texas State University, Katie investigates ecological and anthropogenic factors that impact wild chimpanzee health and welfare in Senegal, West Africa and examines similarities of microbes being transferred between people and apes.
Katie has been a member of the American Society for Primatologists since 2017. She currently serves as the Media and Engagement Committee Chair, which allows her to share her enthusiasm for primatological research with the public, promote appropriate care for captive primates, and increase diversity in the field by sharing the voices of underrepresented researchers and those living in primate habitat host countries. She also serves on the ASP’s Conservation Committee, where she assists with hosting webinars, fundraising, and grant reviewing.
Let’s get to know Katie!
Why did you accept the invitation to join Phi Kappa Phi?
I accepted the invitation to join because Phi Kappa Phi funds research support, and they are a community full of hard-working people who are tenacious, supportive and enthusiastic about professional development.
Where does your passion for primates come from?
My earliest memories with primates were during the field trips I would take to Lincoln Park Zoo in elementary school. I loved watching the gibbons swing across the outdoor enclosure.
What is your favorite movie?
Twister. It is a family favorite movie and may be why I wanted to become a scientist.
What do you enjoy most about traveling for work and research?
Seeing animals in their natural habitats is special, as is meeting the people working in animal conservation. I also like visiting new cities and experiencing new cultures.
What motivates you to work hard?
My family and the gratitude I have for having the opportunity to study wild chimpanzees for a living. It’s a lot of fun and has led to many opportunities and friendships.
What is your favorite thing about your hometown?
Summertime in Chicago is a vibe! The weather, food, going downtown, and family holidays this time of year make it my favorite time to visit home.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My acceptance into a Ph.D. program. I am a first-generation college student.
What impact do you hope to have on the world with your work?
I hope my research applies to future conservation protocols for wild chimpanzees in Senegal. My results will also contribute to public health approaches dedicated to the coexistence between humans and wild animals that live amongst each other.
What is your favorite meal to cook?
I love sweet, spicy and saucy foods. My favorite meal to cook is chipotle honey chicken with mango avocado salsa – from Chrissy Tegan’s “Cravings” cookbook.
Do you have any pets?
I have a six-year-old brown labradoodle named Annie. She has a beard and expressive eyebrows, and she loves Greenies.
To learn more about Katie and connect, visit her profile within our online member community here.
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