Cortni Borgerson, associate professor of Anthropology, is a primatologist, anthropologist, and conservation biologist. Her work explores why people choose to hunt endangered species and looks at how this hunting affects human health and lemur and other wildlife conservation. Dr. Borgerson is currently managing numerous interventions to improve food security and reduce unsustainable hunting of lemurs in Madagascar. In addition to her field research and active development interventions, she is a National Geographic Explorer and a Commission member for the Madagascar Section of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group.
Tell us about your current research.
I’m a biological anthropologist who studies the amazing connections between primates and people. Specifically, I work to disentangle the complex forces that affect the decision to hunt endangered lemurs (and other wildlife) and then translate our interdisciplinary findings into applied integrated public health and lemur conservation action in Madagascar.
Talk about the importance of your work from your perspective as a social scientist – Why does it matter for society? What makes it valuable to our students?
Effective wildlife conservation depends on understanding the choice people make. That means if you care about wildlife, you get to work with people too! Win-win! Madagascar is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, but it’s also one of the least food secure. I study the connections between lemurs (the world’s most threatened group of mammals) and food insecurity (the primary driver of hunting in Madagascar). Forests provide valuable foods and nutrients, yet many forests are protected and many hunted mammals are threatened with extinction. We work with local communities to understand this connection and use traditional knowledge to improve both child nutrition and lemur conservation.
What makes your approach to teaching and research unique or innovative?
Once you know something, what can you do about it? More than learning how to do science, I make sure we DO science in each of my classes. All of my courses are extremely hands-on and focus on solving real human problems. We engage with unsolved challenges, work with real community partners to solve problems, and get our hands dirty (sometimes literally) to make a difference.
Do you have a favorite course to teach?
Every course I teach is my favorite. I love teaching, whether that’s a introductory Gen Ed course like ANTH 101 Introduction of Physical Anthropology where we get to ‘play’ with bones every day or an upper level course like ANTH 402/502 Primate Behavior and Ecology or 403/503 Methods in Primatology where we spend every class at the Turtle Back Zoo doing first hand research. It’s all FUN.
What’s your favorite thing about Montclair State?
The community. Every single person here cares about making the lives of their students, colleagues, and communities better. It’s an incredible place to make a difference.
What are your hopes/goals for your students as they become the next generation of professional and engaged citizens of the world?
I believe that even if my students don’t follow a path to a career in biological anthropology, they will feel confident tackling tough problems in their future chosen passions with creativity, critical insight, and an understanding of, and respect for, multiple stakeholders in the real world. I want each and every student here to not only know what they excites them, but also know how they can use those interests to achieve their goals and do amazing things. Then I hope they can start doing those amazing things, right here, right now at Montclair State.
Read more about Cortni Borgerson’s research:
Eating Insects to Fight the Climate Crisis
Borgerson Featured on “People Fixing the World” Podcast
This Class is a Zoo!
Professor Receives Research and Exploration Grant
Bugs! They’re What’s For Dinner