Sagan Friant

Sagan Friant

Sagan Friant


Kohler Fellow

Years Active



  • B.A., Anthropology, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • B.A., Biological Aspects of Conservation, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • M.S., Primate Conservation, Oxford Brookes University, UK
  • Ph.D., Environment & Resources, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison (in process)


Through Sagan’s background in primatology and conservation, she has developed a unique understanding of how threats to primate conservation also negatively impact human health. She takes a unique approach to understanding the ecology, evolution and epidemiology of emerging environmental health threats through her studies of both human and non-human primates. Sagan has been working in Nigeria since 2007, and has just completed one year as a Fulbright Scholar in Nigeria at the Center for Education Research and Conservation of Primates and Nature and the University of Calabar, Nigeria. Through her work in Nigeria she has trained numerous local research assistants and area patrol, as well as Nigerian master’s students and UW undergrads in methods in primate behavior and health. She has taught Introductory Biology for 5 years at UW while leading field courses and lecturing at the University of Calabar, and the Centre for Control and Prevention of Zoonotics at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She is passionate about primate conservation, safeguarding human health and improving education in shared and rapidly changing environments.

Research Description

Sagan’s research explores the ways in which global environmental change affects both human and wildlife health. She uses the colonization of primates in Nigeria with gastro-intestinal pathogens as an empirical model for understanding how individuals differentially experience infection and health in new environments. She then combines the characterization of infectious agents in Nigeria’s primates with interviews from people who hunt or consume these animals to identify both proximate and ultimate factors that put individuals at particular risk of infection from emerging zoonotic pathogens. Together, she aims to provide new insights into: 1) how pathogens may affect susceptible life stages (e.g. early childhood, older adults) and vulnerable populations (e.g. populations experiencing high levels of stress or with pre-existing diseases), and 2) the transmissibility of zoonotic infections and potential for their emergence in human populations. Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa and an emerging infectious disease hotspot, provides an extreme example of environmental degradation that raises public health concerns. She hopes the results from this study will increase our understanding of the health related consequences for both humans and wildlife living in a shared changing global environment.


  • Center for Education Research and Conservation of Primates and Nature (CERCOPAN), Nigeria
  • University of Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria
  • Cross River National Park, Nigeria
  • UW Fulbright Association
  • Wisconsin Institute for Discovery



2012 Fulbright Scholar Institute of International Education Scholarship
2010 Graduate Women in Science Ruth Dickie Scholarship
2010 John Ball Zoological Society Wildlife Conservation Grant Award
2010 Honored Instructor Award (University Housing, UW Madison)
2010 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Dissertation Grant
2008 NSF (GRFP) Honorable Mention
2007 International Primate Society Captive Care Grant
2007 Primate Society of Great Britain, Captive Care Working Party
2005 Hilldale Undergraduate Research Award
2002-2004 UW Alumni Club of San Diego Scholarship
2002 California Retired Teachers Association Scholarship
2002 Soroptimist International of San Diego Scholarship
2002 Pacific Women’s Sport Foundation Scholarship

Selected Publications

Friant, S.C, Snowdon, C.T, Campbell, M. C. Captive-Born Cotton-Top Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) Respond Similarly to Vocalizations of Predators and Sympatric Non-Predators. American Journal of Primatology. 2008