Monday, December 22, 2008

Greetings from the DLC Research Department

The force with which it's limbs strike the ground are measured as an aye-aye runs across a pressure plate. (Photo by David Haring)

It seems that we in the research department are a bit behind the times in blog world, as I see that the education and conservation departments are already up and running, illuminating their forks of our trifocal mission at the Duke Lemur Center. We will not be left behind, I say! And so, I would like to introduce Research at the Duke Lemur Center. I am often asked why we do research on these animals and what types of research we do. First things first, which means addressing the first question of why we do research on lemurs. How will that help their plight in the wild and their survival in captivity.

The use of captive animals for scientific research ultimately helps conservation efforts of wild populations in a number of ways. It stands to reason that the more we can learn about endangered species, the better our chances of conserving them. By studying the biology of these animals in areas such as behavior, reproduction, morphology, physiology, ontogeny, and genetics in a controlled environment, we can better define species and subspecies status, better quantify their ecological requirements, better understand their interactions with other species, and better determine a conservation plan given the animals and environment we have to work with. In addition, we do a number of research projects that focus on animal husbandry and care so that we can keep our animals happy and healthy here in Durham.

A thermographic image of an aye-aye eating an egg shows temperature variation. Look at his hot ears! (Photo by Andrew Cunningham.)

The Duke Lemur Center houses the largest and most diverse captive prosimian colony in the world, and these animals are used by investigators both at Duke and other national and international academic institutions for both species-specific and comparative research. Only non-invasive research is allowed at our facility, and all projects must be approved by both the DLC Research Committee and the Duke University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), both of which contain veterinary oversight, before any research can begin. By maintaining these animals at the Duke Lemur Center and allowing experts in the US and international scientific communities to carry out studies of the animals in our colony, we take an important step toward the long-term goal of lemur conservation. Stay tuned for descriptions of the projects we are working on here at the DLC!

A researcher observes a ring-tailed lemur. A ring-tailed lemur observes a researcher. (Photo by David Haring)

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