My research is primarily focused on ecophysiology, behavioral ecology and endocrinology. Each individual is unique in the way it interacts with and responds to changes in its environment, and I aim to understand if individualized physiological phenotypes occur, how they adapt to natural and anthropogenic changes in their environment and how inter-individual variation in physiological and behavioral traits influences individual health, survival and fitness. I combine an ecophysiology approach with experimental and observational data, and with state-of-the-art technology. My work to date has covered a range of species and environments, including tropical rainforests, semi-deserts and cities. For my PhD, I studied the behavioral and endocrine responses of two primate species to anthropogenic disturbances related to habitat fragmentation in Colombia. During my postdoctoral positions at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), I combined measurements of resting metabolic rate, daily energy expenditure (using the doubly labeled water method), behavioral observations and endocrine measures to tease apart how African striped mice regulate their energy expenditure in response to drastic environmental variation occurring in their semi-desert habitat. Moreover, I examined which environmental factors drive changes in their resting metabolic rate and assessed whether inter-individual variation in body composition influences the probability of survival throughout the long and harsh dry season. At Duke University (USA), I investigated the effects of urbanization and anthropogenic food waste consumption on the physiology and health in a common urban mammal, the eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), and how changes in physical activity level affect energy expenditure and cardiometabolic health in two lemur species (Propithecus coquereli and Lemur catta) at the Duke Lemur Center.

In my upcoming projects, I plan to untangle how constraints imposed by the environment and human-induced rapid environmental changes (such as urbanization) together with among-individual variation in behavior, physiology and health shape life-history characteristics and ultimately fitness and survival. I will examine a suite of phenotypic traits along an urbanization gradient to provide insights into how physiological systems and covariation between phenotypic traits change in response to urbanization. I will conduct common garden and breeding experiments to assess the underlying mechanistic links between phenotypic traits and urbanization, and to disentangle whether behavioral and physiological responses to urbanization are driven by (non-genetic) plasticity or evolutionary change.

  • Research Areas

    • Behavioural and physiological adjustemts to human-induced rapid environmental change
    • Energy expenditure
    • Eco-physiology
    • Endocrinology
  • CV


    Dr. rer. nat., Georg-August Universität of Göttingen, German Primate Center - Leibniz Institute for Primate Research
    Diploma in Biology, Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Germany
    ERASMUS, University of Manchester, U.K.
    Diploma in Biology, Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Germany


    Senior postdoctoral associate, Department of Behavioural Biology, University of Münster, Germany
    Postdoctoral associate, Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, USA
    Claude Leon Postdoctoral fellow, School of Animal, Plant & Environmental Sciences, at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
    Postdoctoral fellow, School of Animal, Plant & Environmental Sciences, at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
  • Articles in Scientific Journals, Newspapers or Magazines

    • Rimbach, R; Pontzer, Herman. . ‘Increased physical activity is not related to markers of cardiometabolic health in two lemur species.’ American Journal of Primatology 86: e23564. doi: 10.1002/ajp.23564.
    • Fusco, Nicole A; Cosentino, Bradley J; Gibbs, James P; Allen, Maximilian L; Blumenfeld, Alexander J; Boettner, George H; Carlen, Elizabeth J; Collins, Merri; Dennison, Catherine; Digiacopo, Devin; Fyffe, Rebecca; Gallo, Travis; Grant, Alannah; Harbold, William; Marino, Shealyn; Mcdonald, John E; Mortelliti, Alessio; Murray, Maureen; Richardson, Jonathan L; Rimbach, Rebecca; Salaman, Paul; Steele, Michael; Vanderluit, Sean N; Vezina, Lucie; Caccone, Adalgisa. . ‘Population genomic structure of a widespread, urban-dwelling mammal: The eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis).’ Molecular Ecology 33: e17230. doi: 10.1111/mec.17230.
    • Schradin C, Makuya L, Pillay N, Rimbach R. . ‘Harshness is not stress.’ Trends in Ecology & Evolution 38: 224–227. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2022.12.005.
    • Makuya, Lindelani; Pillay, Neville; Rimbach, Rebecca; Schradin, Carsten. . ‘Suppression of the physiological stress response is not stress.’ Trends in Ecology & Evolution 38: 907–909. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2023.06.007.
    • Best, Andrew W; McGrosky, Amanda; Swanson, Zane; Rimbach, Rebecca; McConaughy, Katie; McConaughy, Joe; Ocobock, Cara; Pontzer, Herman. . ‘Total energy expenditure and nutritional intake in continuous multiday ultramarathon events.’ International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism TBD. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2023-0063 ©.
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Butler, Gabrielle; Gupte, Pratik R; Jäger, Jörg; Parker, Claire; Pontzer, Herman. . ‘Gray squirrels consume anthropogenic food waste most often during winter.’ Mammalian Biology 103: 69–81. doi: 10.1007/s42991-022-00326-3.
    • Rymer, TL; Rimbach, R; Pillay, N. . ‘Editorial: Proximate and ultimate approaches to behavior in a changing world.’ Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10: 1064923. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2022.1064923.
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Yamada, Y; Sagayama, H; Ainslie, PN; Anderson, LF; Anderson, LJ; Arab, L; Baddou, I; Bedu-Addo, K; Blaak, EE; Blanc, S; Bonomi, AG; Bouten, CVC; Bovet, P; Buchowski, MS; Butte, NF; Camps, Stefan G. J. A.; Close, Graeme L.; Cooper, Jamie A.; Krupa Das, Sai; Dugas, Lara R.; Ekelund, Ulf; Entringer, Sonja; Forrester, Terrence; Fudge, Barry W.; Goris, Annelies H.; Gurven, Michael; Hambly, Catherine; El Hamdouchi, A; Hoos, Marije B.; Hu, Sumei; Joonas, Noorjehan; Joosen, Annemiek M.; Katzmarzyk, Peter; Kempen, Kitty P.; Kimura, Misaka; Kraus, William E.; Kushner, Robert F.; Lambert, Estelle V.; Leonard, William R.; Lessan, Nader; Martin, Corby K.; Medin, Anine C.; Meijer, Erwin P.; Morehen, James C.; Morton, James P.; Neuhouser, Marian L.; Nicklas, Theresa A.; Ojiambo, Robert M.; Pietiläinen, Kirsi H.; Pitsiladis, Yannis P.; Plange-Rhule, Jacob; Plasqui, Guy; Prentice, Ross L.; Rabinovich, Roberto A.; Racette, Susan B.; Raichlen, David A.; Ravussin, Eric; Reynolds, Rebecca M.; Roberts, Susan B.; Schuit, Albertine J.; Sjödin, Anders M.; Stice, Eric; Urlacher, Samuel S; Valenti, Giulio; Van Etten, Ludo M.; Van Mil, Edgar A.; Wells, Jonathan C. K.; Wilson, George; Wood, Brian M.; Yanovski, Jack; Yoshida, Tsukasa; Zhang, Xueying; Murphy-Alford, Alexia J.; Loechl, Cornelia U.; Luke, Amy H.; Rood, Jennifer; Schoeller, Dale A.; Westerterp, Klaas R.; Wong, William W.; Speakman, John R.; Pontzer, Herman; IAEA DLW Database Consortium. . ‘Total energy expenditure is repeatable in adults but not associated with short-term changes in body composition.’ Nature Communications 13: 99. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-27246-z.
    • Dunham, NT; Koester, DC; Dierenfeld, ES; Rimbach, R; Pontzer H. . ‘Balancing the scales: Preliminary investigation of total energy expenditure and daily metabolizable energy intake in Matschie’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus matschiei).’ PloS one 17: e0270570. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0270570.
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Grant, Alannah; Gupte, Pratik R; Newman, Amy; Stothart, Mason R; Pontzer, Herman. . ‘Comfortably numb? Regional differences in the relationship between indices of urbanization and a stress indicator in eastern gray squirrels.’ Urban Naturalist 9: 1–15.
    • Rimbach R, Hartman K, Currin C, Schradin C, Pillay N. . ‘Females of solitary- and group-living sister species of African striped mice show a similar social structure following experimentally imposed group-living.’ Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 76: 29. doi: 10.1007/s00265-022-03144-2.
    • Pontzer H.; Rimbach R.; Ocobock C.; Soppela P.; Turunen M.; Stenbäck V.; Herzig K.H. . ‘Reindeer herders from subarctic Finland exhibit high total energy expenditure and low energy intake during the autumn herd roundup.’ American Journal of Human Biology 34, No. 4: e23676. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.23676.
    • Rimbach, R; Amireh, A; Allen, A; Hare, B; Guarino, E; Kaufman, C; Salomons, H; Pontzer, H. . ‘Total energy expenditure of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) of different ages.’ Journal of Experimental Biology 224: jeb242218. doi: 10.1242/jeb.242218.
    • Rimbach R, Pillay N, Schradin C. . ‘Prolonged growth during the food-restricted dry season in a small African mammal.’ Journal of Mammalogy 102: 296–307. doi: 10.1093/jmammal/gyaa169.
    • Pontzer H, Rimbach R, Paltan J, Ivory EL, Kendall CJ. . ‘Air temperature and diet influence body composition and water turnover in zoo-living African elephants ( Loxodonta africana ).’ Royal Society Open Science 7: 201155. doi: 10.1098/rsos.201155.
    • Rimbach R; Blanc S; Zahariev A; Robin JP; Pillay N; Schradin C. . ‘Fat content of striped mice decreases during the breeding season but not during the food-restricted dry season.Journal of Experimental Biology 222, No. Pt 24: jeb20850–jeb208504. doi: 10.1242/jeb.208504.
    • Rimbach R.; Blanc S.; Zahariev A.; Pillay N.; Schradin C. . ‘Daily energy expenditure of males following alternative reproductive tactics: Solitary roamers spend more energy than group-living males.’ Physiology and Behavior 199: 359–365. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.12.003.
    • Rimbach R; Blanc S; Zahariev A; Gatta M; Pillay N; Schradin C. . ‘Seasonal variation in energy expenditure in a rodent inhabiting a winter-rainfall desert.Journal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical Systemic and Environmental 188, No. 5: 877–888. doi: 10.1007/s00360-018-1168-z.
    • Schradin, Carsten; Vuarin, Pauline; Rimbach, Rebecca. . ‘The neoteny-helper hypothesis: When to expect and when not to expect endocrine mechanisms to regulate allo-parental care?Physiology and Behavior 193: 127–134. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.12.008.
    • Pillay, Neville; Rimbach, Rebecca. . ‘Protein deficiency decreases stereotypic behavior frequency and prevalence and activity in the striped mouse Rhabdomys dilectus chakae.’ Developmental Psychobiology 60: 194–201. doi: 10.1002/dev.21587.
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Jäger, Jörg; Pillay, Neville; Schradin, Carsten. . ‘Food availability is the main driver of seasonal changes in resting metabolic rate in African striped mice (Rhabdomys pumilio).’ Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 91: 826–833. doi: 10.1086/696828.
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Pillay, Neville; Schradin, Carsten. . ‘Both thyroid hormone levels and resting metabolic rate decrease in African striped mice when food availability decreases.’ Journal of Experimental Biology 220: 837–843. doi: 10.1242/jeb.151449.
    • Rimbach, R; Wastavino, M; Yuen, C H; Pillay, N; Schradin, C. . ‘Contrasting activity budgets of alternative reproductive tactics in male striped mice.’ Journal of Zoology 301: 280–289. doi: 10.1111/jzo.12414.
    • Jäger, Jörg; Schradin, C; Pillay, Neville; Rimbach, Rebecca. . ‘Active and explorative individuals are often restless and excluded from studies measuring resting metabolic rate: Do alternative metabolic rate measures offer a solution?Physiology and Behavior 174: 57–66. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.02.037.
    • Pillay, Neville; Rimbach, Rebecca; Rymer, Tasmin. . ‘Pre- and postnatal dietary protein deficiency influences anxiety, memory and social behaviour in the African striped mouse Rhabdomys dilectus chakae.’ Physiology and Behavior 161: 38–46. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.04.015.
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Willigenburg, Remco; Schoepf, Ivana; Yuen, Chi Hang; Pillay, Neville; Schradin, Carsten. . ‘Young but not old adult African striped mice reduce their activity in the dry season when food availability is low.’ Ethology 122: 828–840. doi: 10.1111/eth.12527.
    • Nel, Kerith; Rimbach, Rebecca; Pillay, Neville. . ‘Dietary protein influences the life-history characteristics across generations in the African striped mouse Rhabdomys.’ Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Comparative Experimental Biology 323: 97–108. doi: 10.1002/jez.1903.
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Bisanzio, Donal; Galvis, Nelson; Di Fiore, Anthony; Gillespie, Thomas R. . ‘Brown spider monkeys (Ateles hybridus): a model for differentiating the role of social networks and physical contact on parasite transmission dynamics.’ Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 370: 20140110. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0110.
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Link, Andres; Montes-Rojas, Andres; Di Fiore, Anthony; Heistermann, Michael; Heymann, Eckhard W. . ‘Behavioral and physiological responses to fruit availability of spider monkeys ranging in a small forest fragment.’ American Journal of Primatology 76: 1049–1061. doi:
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Link, Andres; Heistermann, Michael; Gómez-posada, Carolina; Galvis, Nelson; Heymann, Eckhard W. . ‘Effects of logging, hunting, and forest fragment size on physiological stress levels of two sympatric ateline primates in Colombia.’ Conservation Physiology 1: 10.1093/conphys/cot031. doi: 10.1093/conphys/cot031.
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Heymann, Eckhard W; Link, Andres; Heistermann, Michael. . ‘Validation of an enzymeimmunoassay for assessing adrenocortical activity and characterization of factors that affect fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels in two New World primates.’ General and Comparative Endocrinology 191: 13–23. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2013.05.010.
    • Rimbach, Rebecca; Pardo-Martinez, Alejandra; Montes-Rojas, Andres; Di Fiore, Anthony; Link, Andres. . ‘Interspecific infanticide and infant-directed aggression by spider monkeys (Ateles hybridus) in a fragmented forest in Colombia.’ American Journal of Primatology 74: 990–997. doi: 10.1002/ajp.22052.