Monday, October 5, 2009

Duke Lemur Center draws researchers from across the nation and around the world

What’s with all the Canadians? Duke Lemur Center seems to have been inundated by researchers from the Great White North this summer. And it can’t just be the weather, as I hear tell it’s quite pleasant there this time of year. Let’s see if I can even name them all: Dr. Kathleen Muldoon, a Canadian researcher based at Dartmouth University, was here studying energy expenditure in our free-ranging ring-tailed lemurs. Dr. Tracy Kivell, a Canadian who has been a postdoctoral researcher here in Duke’s Evolutionary Anthropology department, has been intensively collecting data on aye-aye locomotion all summer before she heads off to a new research position at the Max Plank Institute in Germany. Drs. Sergio and Vivian Pellis came down from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada (though I should mention that they are Canadians from Australia) to study rough and tumble play in our infants. One of our long-term Canadian researchers, Dr. Marylene Boulet, has been a post doc at Duke studying olfactory communication in ring-tailed lemurs, but she returned to Canada late in the summer to take a research position there. Even the Canadian Discovery Channel was here to film some aye-aye locomotion research for a segment on the show “The Daily Planet”.

And Canada isn’t the only far-off land from which our researchers hail. Masters student Lucy Todd from Roehampton University in London (though she is actually Scottish) is also here recording Sifaka vocalizations, and Dr. Lap Ki Chan made the trip from Hong Kong to study how lorises reach from one substrate to another as they travel.

While we are very proud of our international appeal, let’s not forget our visiting researchers from the good old US of A! Dr. Jandy Hanna from West Virginia School of Medicine has spent much of the summer here studying lemur locomotion, Tess McLoud, a student at Dartmouth, came down to observe ring-tailed lemur infant-male interactions, and Peter Flynn, a high school student from New York who is part of the Intel Mentorship Program, spent all of July collecting data on ring-tailed lemur foraging. Gini Dawkins from Hunter College in New York recently paid a visit to document play behavior in sifakas and red-ruffed lemurs, and Dr. Matt O’Neill, from SUNY Stonybrook, made two trips to the DLC this summer, collaborating with both Dr. Hanna and Dr. Muldoon.

Dr. Roshna Wunderlich, a frequent year-round visitor from James Madison University, made several appearances over the summer to continue her study of sifaka locomotion, Dr. Chris Mercer from Northwestern University will make his third annual visit to do alarm call playback experiments later this month, and Dr. David Hollar, from UNC, will be making the long journey from Chapel Hill to observe and document how ring-tailed lemur groups interact and how they use their environments.

Summertime for some means more downtime, and this is particularly true for students and academics, who tend to have reduced class and teaching responsibilities. Many researchers take this opportunity to travel to the field or to other institutions (such as the DLC) to gather data not accessible to them at home. Which is all well and good but leaves me now, at the end of the summer, in desperate need of a vacation. Perhaps I’ll go to Canada.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget the Lemur Center folks who are currently doing work away from Duke. Duke student, and Work Study technician, Erin Good is spending the fall semester on Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea getting her first taste of primate field research.

    She just completed a two week survey in the rain forest and is having the time of her life. She has officially settled on making primate research and conservation a career. Thank you very much to all the Lemur Center staff and Duke professors (especially Dr. Josh Linder) that have inspired and guided her.

    Craig Good (proud father)