Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Research Is Featured On "50 Years of Lemurs at Duke" Exhibit In Duke University Perkins Library #Duke50

The "50 Years of Lemurs at Duke" exhibit at Duke Perkins Library opened on October 27th, 2016 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Duke Lemur Center. This exhibit, curated by Duke Lemur Center staff, features 50 years of Duke Lemur Center research and conservation. The different facets research and conservation are represented in media, research artifacts, and educational models. My ruffed lemur color vision research is featured in one of the exhibit case as well as an interactive video.

Communication & Behavior Exhibit Case
Close up of my color vision study write up
The exhibit case features two of my lemurs using the two modes of SMARTA (my research apparatus). On the left, a lemur is interacting with SMARTA as he is being trained while on the right, a lemur is interacting with the testing phase of SMARTA. My research asks a very simple question: Can ruffed lemurs perceive and differentiate red from green?

Look for the Lemur Center Videos kiosk
I talk about how positive reinforcement and training help my research
Over at the interactive video, my research is featured on the "Research Video" segment. It highlights how training is beneficial for research and one of the example is using positive reinforcement to train my ruffed lemurs. In this video, I talk about how my lemurs are positively reinforced with food reward to approach SMARTA as well as when they participate in their trials. Training is essential to teach and guide the lemurs on what they need to do, especially for cognitive tasks. You can't ask a lemur if they can see red directly, but with some ingenuity, you can use positive reinforcement to ask them this question.

Checking out the "50 Years of Lemurs at Duke" exhibit with my friend and colleague, Dr. Tara Clark

Please come check out this exhibit and let me know what you think. The exhibit is open to the public and is free. "50 Years of Lemurs at Duke" runs from October 20, 2016 to February 19th, 2017.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I've Been Busy: NEEP and Departmental Talk

I gave a poster presentation at Northeastern Evolutionary Primatologists (NEEP) earlier this month, held at Hunter College. It's my first time at NEEP and it's nice to see my regional colleagues. And yes, that's a "floating tablet". Command Strips are great to affix your tablet during poster presentation. They come off easily after you are done!

Northeastern Evolutionary Primatologists (NEEP) is the northeast "chapter" of primatologists that focus on evolution, ecology, and behavior. You can read more about this organization on their website, as well as on their Facebook group.

I also gave a short talk on my ruffed lemur color vision research for my department's Pre-Graduation event. This is the first time I actually presented with my preliminary data. I'm right on track for graduation next Spring. 

[Please don't jinx myself. Please don't jinx myself. Please don't jinx myself.]

The Animal Behavior and Conservation Program at Hunter College is offered as a Master's Program for those that are interested in behavior, evolution, conservation, welfare, and cognition.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bon Voyage, Magellan!

We said goodbye to Magellan this week as he transitioned into the next chapter of his life at Dickerson Park Zoo --- fatherhood (hopefully!). I can't wait to see him in his new environment so hopefully one of these days, I'll plan a trip out to Springfield, MO. Bon voyage, Magellan!


According to the Duke Lemur Center, Magellan's mother and brothers were acting aggressively towards him.

This is actually a natural phenomenon. Lemurs are "kicked out" of their natal group at a certain point of their life, and this is induced by aggressive behavior towards the lemur individual. This is a common mechanism for animals that dispersal. Literally getting the boot from the group. There are no helicopter parents in the lemur world. Ruffed lemurs live in a fission fusion group, so generally both sexes are kicked out of the group.


Magellan was one of my research subject at the Duke Lemur Center. Along with his brothers (AJ and Rees) and mother (Kizzy), they participated in my color vision study last summer and fall.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I Presented A Poster On SMARTA And Ruffed Lemur Color Vision At #DLC50

When you show up and your outfit and hair matches your poster and table. #OnFleek
My poster for Duke Lemur Center 50th Anniversary Scientific Symposium is now available online. Please click here. Thank you Duke Lemur Center for inviting me to present my research, especially Dr. Erin Ehmke.

My credentials ;)
SMARTA: Subject-Mediated Automatic Remote Testing Apparatus for Color Vision Discrimination Tasks in Ruffed Lemurs (Varecia spp.) 


Polymorphic color vision in ruffed lemurs (Varecia spp.) occurs due to an allelic variation of a single x-linked opsin gene that results in individuals being either dichromatic (red-green colorblind) or trichromatic depending on their opsin genotypes. The link between genotype and phenotype is well-established in haplorhines but not well-studied in lemurs. To investigate the color vision genotype-phenotype link in Varecia spp., the subject-mediated automatic remote testing apparatus (SMARTA) was developed. It aims to reduce biases and to accurately test the color discrimination abilities of inferred dichromatic and trichromatic individuals. SMARTA is an innovative novel apparatus for behavioral touchscreen discrimination tasks. It is controlled remotely via a smartphone app, has a motorized conveyer that automatically dispenses food rewards, automatically logs data online, and is relatively inexpensive to build.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Duke Lemur Center Celebrates 50 Years Of Awesomesauce and Totes Amazeballs Research #DLC50

Early last week, Duke Lemur Center celebrated its 50 year anniversary with a Scientific Symposium and Gala. Originally called Duke University Primate Center, it was renamed to Duke Lemur Center to reflect its scientific mission and, well, the fact that most of the residents in this facility are lemurs. Some slow loris and bush baby do call Duke Lemur Center their home.

I was fortunate and humbled to be invited to present my research at the poster session as well as doing demonstrations of my research. It's exciting to see that SMARTA and my ruffed lemur color vision study continue to engage and excite many people. Who says you can't do fun science that's engaging to BOTH the public and the lemurs? Speaking of, Halley was very excited to show off her SMARTA skills!

Loving lemurs with Lemur Love Co-Directors, Dr. Tara Clarke and Dr. Marni LaFleur
I enjoyed the scientific symposium tremendously. What a great gathering of lemur scientists and lemur lovers. Great job Duke Lemur Center staff for organizing and working this event!

I'm also very excited to have won the "Duke Lemur Center Mystery Bag" from the raffle as well as winning two auction bids: A personalized animal portrait from Julie Byrne (talented artist and Duke Lemur Center volunteer) and TWELVE(!!!) bottles of Loire Valley Wines from Rabelais Wines.

Content of the Duke Lemur Center Mystery Bag. There's a ruffed lemur inside!!!