Dr. Summer Arrigo-Nelson

Associate Professor

Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Sciences


Dr. Arrigo-Nelson's training focused on the behavior and ecology of non-human primates, including work with rhesus macaques, cotton-top tamarins and eastern lowland gorillas. However, it is with the enigmatic lemurs of Madagascar that she finally found her niche. 


Since joining the PennWest California faculty in 2008, Dr. Arrigo-Nelson has split her time between Southwestern Pennsylvania and Southeastern Madagascar. She teaches a variety of biology courses, including ethology and mammalogy, courses in biological anthropology and leads PennWest California's Madagascar Field School program.


Research Interests

Dr. Arrigo-Nelson studies the impacts of habitat disturbance on lemurs and other small mammal groups in Madagascar's rainforests.  There are two main foci to her current research program:


First, is the impact of selective logging on the behavior and ecology of the Milne-Edwards' sifaka.  This project involves assessing habitat quality in different regions of Ranomafana National Park and monitoring the sifakas for any changes in their diet, ranging or social behavior.  She is also interested in the role that age and sex play in their behavior and how predators and parasite infections alter sifaka behavior.


Second, is the impact of invasive plant and animal species on native rodent health and abundance.  To measure their impact, Dr. Arrigo-Nelson has worked with colleagues to assess habitat type and the presence and distribution of plant species at her study site.  With this background, she is now able to monitor the abundance and distribution of both native and invasive rodent species, to identify any patterns or changes over time.  Her ultimate goal is to use these data to help with native rodent conservation within the National Park and -as rodents can be vectors for a variety of diseases- contribute to local efforts to improve the health of the local human population.


She welcomes students as collaborators in both of these projects, whether it be as a project volunteer (in PA or Madagascar) or for independent study credit, to complete an honors thesis, etc. 

  • B.A.: Anthropology, University of Rhode Island
  • B.S.: Zoology, University of Rhode Island
  • M.A.: Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University
  • Ph.D.: Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University

Email: arrigonelson@pennwest.edu

Phone: 724-938-5732

Office: Frich Hall Room 210