BIOGRAPHY:  I earned a B.A. in Biology at Dartmouth College, where I completed an honors thesis on the evolution of circadian rhythm genes in Arabidopsis thaliana plants under Rob McClung and also studied abroad in field ecology in Costa Rica and Jamaica. I learned focal animal observations during this time by volunteering at the Regenstein Center for African Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, during my summers.

After graduating I spent a year in Mexico comparing seed dispersal between two species of howler monkey. I worked under Alejandro Estrada of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and was funded by the Fulbright Garcia-Robles and National Geographic Young Explorers programs.

I earned my Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology under Paul Garber at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. My dissertation work investigated host-microbe interactions in wild howler monkeys and was funded by the University of Illinois, National Geographic, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

I completed a postdoc at the University of Colorado Boulder under Steve Leigh and Rob Knight. My focus was the gut microbiota of non-human primates, and my main project investigated the gut microbiota of a variety of leaf-eating primate taxa to determine how the gut microbiota may have facilitated the evolutionary transition to consuming hard-to-digest resources.

I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern. My current research examines similarities and differences between the human and non-human primate microbiota to understand how humans might be unique. I am also studying host-gut microbe dynamics in human populations that face either seasonal or chronic nutritional challenges to understand the role gut microbes are playing in either improving or worsening host health in these environments.


Full CV



2013, Ph.D. (Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology), University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign

2007, Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude (Biology), Dartmouth College


Grant Support to Date

National Science Foundation

National Geographic Society

Fulbright-Garcia Robles Program

Nacey Maggioncalda Foundation

University of Illinois


Honors & Awards

Azrieli Global Scholar (Humans and the Microbiome), Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (2016-2018)

Invited Speaker, Early Career Scientists Symposium, University of Michigan (2015)

TEDx Jackson Hole Presenter (2014)

Best Student Talk, International Primatological Society, Cancun, Mexico (2012)

Best Student Talk, American Society of Primatologists, Austin, TX (2011)

NSF Graduate Research Fellow, NSF (2010-2013)

Best Talk by Pre-Prelim Ph.D. Student, GEEB, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (2010)

Member, Phi Kappa Phi (2010-2013)

Illinois Distinguished Fellow, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (2008-2013)

Fulbright Garcia-Robles Fellow, Institute for International Education/Comexus (2007-2008)

Young Explorers Grant, National Geographic Conservation Trust  (2007-2008)

Honorary Reynold’s Fellow, Dartmouth College (2007-2008)

Ray W. Smith Award, Dartmouth College (2007)

Christopher G. Reed Biologist Award, Dartmouth College (2007)

Florence Fletcher Charles Botany Prize, Dartmouth College (2007)

Member, Phi Beta Kappa (2007)

Associate Member, Sigma Xi (2007)

2nd Place, Christopher Reed Science Competition, Dartmouth College (2007)

Richter Memorial Grant, Dartmouth College (2006-2007)

Honors Second Group, Dartmouth College (2004-2007)

Presidential Scholar, Dartmouth College (2005-2006)

Crute Fellow, Dartmouth College (2004)

Member, National Society of Collegiate Scholars (2004)



Estrada, A., P.A. Garber, A.B. Rylands, C. Roos, E. Fernandez-Duqe, A. Di Fiore, K.A. Isola Nekaris, V. Nijman, E.W. Heymann, J.E. Lambert, F. Rovero, C. Barelli, J.M. Setchell, T.R. Gillespie, R.A. Mittermeier, L.V. Arregoitia, M. de Guinea, S. Gouveia, R. Dobrovolski, S. Shanee, N. Shanee, S.A. Boyle, A. Fuentes, K.C. MacKinnon, K.R. Amato, A.L.S. Meyer, S. Wich, R.W. Sussman, R. Pan, I. Kone, B. Li. (in press). Impending extinction crisis of the world’s primates: why primates matter. Science Advances.

Amato, K.R., S. Van Belle, A. Di Fiore, A. Estrada, R.M. Stumpf, B. White, K.E. Nelson, R. Knight, S.R. Leigh (in press). Kinship and social contact determine gut microbiota similarity among black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) within social groups. Microbial Ecology.

Amato, K.R. (in press) Diets and Nutrition. In International Encyclopedia of Primatology. A. Fuentes, ed. Wiley-Blackwell.

Amato, K.R. (in press). An Introduction to Microbiome Analysis for Human Biology Applications. American Journal of Human Biology. Doi: 10.1002/ajhb.22931

Amato, K.R., A. Ulanov, K.S. Ju, P.A. Garber. (in press) Metabolomic data suggest regulation of black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) diet composition at the molecular level. American Journal of Primatology

Hale, V.L., C.L. Tan, K. Niu, Y. Yan, D. Cui, H. Zhao, R. Knight, and K.R. Amato. (2016) Effects of field conditions on fecal microbiota. Journal of Microbiological Methods.

Amato, K.R., J.L. Metcalf, S.J. Song, V.L. Hale, J. Clayton, G. Ackermann, G. Humphrey, K. Niu, D. Cui, H.Zhao, M.D. Schrenzel, C. Tan, R. Knight, J. Braun. (2016). Using the gut microbiota as a novel tool for examining colobine primate GI health. Global Ecology and Conservation. 7: 225-237.

Stumpf, R.M., A. Gomez, K.R. Amato, C.J. Yeoman, J.D. Polk, B.A. Wilson, K.E. Nelson, B.A. White, S.R. Leigh. (2016) Microbiomes, metagenomics, and primate conservation: New strategies, tools, and applications. Biological Conservation. 199:56-66.

Bennett G., M. Malone, M.L. Sauther, F.P. Cuozzo, B. White, K.E. Nelson, R.M. Stumpf, R. Knight, S.R. Leigh, K.R. Amato. (2016) Host age, social group and habitat type influence the gut microbiota of wild, ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). American Journal of Primatology. 78(8): 883-892. Doi: 10.1002/ajp.22555

Gomez, A., Petrzelkova, K.J., Burns, M.B., Yeoman, C.J., Amato, K.R., Vlckova, K., Modry, D., Todd, A., Jost Robinson, C.A., Remins, M.J., Torralba, M.G., Morton, E., Umana, J.D., Carbonero, F., Gaskins, H.R., Nelson, K.E., Wilson, B.A., Stumpf, R.M., White, B.A., Leigh, S.R., Blekhman, R. (2016) Gut microbiome of coexisting BaAka pygmies and Bantu reflects gradients of traditional subsistence patterns. Cell. doi:

Amato, K.R. (2016) Incorporating the gut microbiota into models of human and non-human primate ecology and evolution. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22908

Amato, K.R., R. Martinez-Mota, N. Righini, M. Raguet-Schofield, F.P. Corcione, E. Marini, G. Humphrey, G. Gogul, J. Gaffney7, E. Lovelace, L. Williams, A. Luong, M.G. Dominguez-Bello, R.M. Stumpf, B. White, K. Nelson, R. Knight, S.R. Leigh. (2016). Phylogenetic and ecological factors impact the gut microbiota of two Neotropical primate species. Oecologia. 180(3): 717-733. doi: 10.​1007/​s00442-015-3507-z

Amato, K.R., C. J. Yeoman, C. Schmitt, G. Cerda, J.D. Cramer, M.E. Berg Miller, A. Gomez, T. Turner, B.A. Wilson, R. M. Stumpf, K.E. Nelson, B.A. White, R. Knight, S.R. Leigh. (2015). Variable responses of human and non-human primate gut microbiota to a Western diet. Microbiome. 3(53).

Hale, V., C.L. Tan, R. Knight, K.R. Amato. (2015). Effect of preservation method on spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) fecal microbiota over 8 weeks. Journal of Microbiological Methods. 113: 16-26. doi:10.1016/j.mimet.2015.03.021

Amato, K.R. and N. Righini. (2015). The Howler Monkey as a Model for Exploring Host-Gut Microbiota Interactions in Primates. In: M. Kowalewski, P.A. Garber, L. Cortés-Ortiz, B. Urbani, and D. Youlatos, eds. Howler Monkeys: Examining the Evolution, Physiology, Behavior, Ecology and Conservation of the Most Widely Distributed Neotropical Primate. Springer, New York.

Amato, K.R., S.R. Leigh, A.D. Kent, R. Mackie, C.J. Yeoman, R.M. Stumpf, B. A. Wilson, K.E. Nelson, B.A. White, P.A. Garber. (2015). The gut microbiota appears to compensate for seasonal diet variation in the wild black howler monkey. (Alouatta pigra). Microbial Ecology. doi: 10.1007/s00248-014-0554-7

Amato, K.R., S.R. Leigh, A.D. Kent, R. Mackie, C.J. Yeoman, R.M. Stumpf, B.A. Wilson, K.E. Nelson, B.A. White, P.A. Garber. (2014). The role of gut microbes in satisfying the demands of adult and juvenile wild, black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra). American Journal of Physical Anthropology. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22621

Amato, K.R. and P.A. Garber. (2014). Nutrition and foraging strategies of the black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) in Palenque National Park, Mexico. doi: 10.1002/ajp.22268

Amato, K.R. (2013). Co-evolution in context: The importance of studying gut microbiomes in wild animals. Microbiome Science and Medicine. doi: 10.2478/micsm-2013-0002.

Amato, K.R., S. Van Belle, B. Wilkinson. (2013). A comparison of scan and focal sampling for the description of wild primate activity, diet, and intragroup spatial relationships. Folia Primatologica. 84: 87-101.

Amato, K.R., C.J. Yeoman, A. Kent, N. Righini, A. Estrada, R. Stumpf, S. Yildirim, M. Torralba, M. Gillis, B. Wilson, K. Nelson, B. White, S.R. Leigh. (2013). Habitat degradation impacts primate gastrointestinal microbes. The ISME Journal. doi:10.1038/ismej.2013.16.

Amato, K.R., B. Martin, A. Pope, C. Theiling, K. Landwehr, J. Petersen, B. Ickes, J. Houser, Y. Yin, B. Hannon, R. Sparks. (2012). Spatially explicit modeling of productivity in Pool 5 of the Mississippi River. In: J. Westervelt and G. Cohen, editors. Ecologist-Developed Spatially-Explicit Dynamic Landscape Models. Springer, New York: 151-170.

Nakamura, N., Amato, K.R., Estrada, A.E., Garber, P.A., Mackie, R.I., and Gaskins, H.R. (2011). Analysis of the hydrogenotrophic microbiota of wild and captive howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra). American Journal of Primatology. 73: 909-919.

Amato, K.R., Estrada, A.E. (2010). Seed dispersal patterns in two closely related howler monkey species (Alouatta palliata and A. pigra): A preliminary report of differences in fruit consumption, traveling behavior, and associated dung beetle assemblages. Neotropical Primates. 17:2, 59-66.

Amato, K.R., S.L. Emel, C.A. Lindgren, K.M. Sullan, P.R. Wright and J.J. Gilbert. (2008). Covering behavior of two co-occurring sea urchins in Discovery Bay, Jamaica: Differences in amount of covering and selection of covering material. Bulletin of Marine Science. 82:2, 255-261.

Amato, K.R., D.D. Onen, S.L. Emel, and C.H. May. (2006). Comparison of foraging behavior between howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and squirrel monkeys. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. 9:1, 28-31.