• Maryjka Blaszczyk

    M.B.Ch.B.*, Ph.D.

    *South African ‘M.D.’

    "Ma-ray-ka BLASH-chick"



     I study consistent individual differences in behavior or ‘personality’ in primates within an evolutionary and life-history framework.


    I am especially interested in the ecological correlates and fitness consequences of variation in behavioral traits such as boldness and sociability within primate populations. I investigate these issues through systematic empirical study in wild vervet monkeys at Soetdoring Nature Reserve in South Africa. Some of my primary research questions are:

    • Do personality traits such as boldness influence individuals’ behavior in situations with risk-reward trade-offs, such as foraging under predation risk?
    • Are individual differences in social foraging strategies and within-group spatial position associated with differences in personality traits such as boldness and sociability?
    • How are each of these variables related to agesex and reproductive state, and how can this variation be interpreted within a life history framework? 

    Together with collaborators, I am expanding this project to include investigation of the proximate factors influencing the personality variation in wild vervet monkeys. I am currently working on a variety of questions regarding the integrative biology of phenotypic (including behavioral) variation within and between populations of wild vervet monkeys at several sites in South Africa with Christopher Schmitt of Boston University.


    My planned future research includes investigation of the genetic, epigenetic and endocrinological correlates of personality and other phenotypes in vervet monkeys, as well as a longitudinal assessment of the developmental and fitness consequences of personality differences over the lifespan.




    I am an integrative biological anthropologist with broad training across the biomedical and evolutionary sciences.


    I earned a MBChB degree (South Africa’s version of the U.S.'s MD) from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. While in medical school, I became interested in human and primate evolution, and additionally studied towards a BSc (Med) with a major in Anatomy. This work led to me to publish on gait parameters in Homo floresiensis together with Kit Vaughan. I relocated to the U.S. to begin postgraduate training in Biological Anthropology at New York University in 2007, and completed a MA in primate evolutionary genetics at NYU's Molecular Anthropology Laboratory. For my PhD, I switched focus to the evolutionary ecology of individual differences in personality within primate populations.


    I was born in Poland, raised primarily in South Africa, and am also a naturalized U.S. citizen. I am currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Primate Molecular and Ecology Lab in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, working on a comparative study of sociospatial behavior and social network structure in ateline primates with Anthony Di Fiore .

  • Supporters

    Research team

    Vervet Personality Project alumni:

    • Christine Haunhorst  - now a Ph.D. student in Dept. of Behavioral Ecology, University of Göttingen, Germany
    • Natasha Mazumdar - now a Ph.D. student in Dept. of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U.S.A.
    • Sarah Beebe - now a Ph.D. student in Dept. of Psychology, La Trobe University, Australia
    • Jordan Nasenbeny - now a M.S. student in Dept. of Neurobiology, Northwestern University, U.S.A.
    • Phillip Haskew - Primate Keeper, Phoenix Zoo



  • Contact

    e-mail: maryjka@utexas.edu


    Department of Anthropology

    University of Texas at Austin

    2201 Speedway Stop C3200

    Austin, TX 78712

  • Follow me on Twitter at @maryjkablas