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!!!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Good News: I Got The Grant!

You guys! I got some exciting news to share. I'm elated to share with you, my readers, that I am the recipient of Duke Lemur Center's Director's Fund for Fall 2016!

OMG!!! I feel like an adult right now (don't laugh!). 

I submitted a proposal to fund the remainder of the cost of my research project as well as money to build more of my testing apparatus. As some of you might know, this research project has been going on for unexpectedly long. Though, I am not complaining because I am having fun working with the lemurs and the staff at Duke Lemur Center. Special shout out to my team of research assistants. Without them, this project would not be possible.

If you are interested in my ruffed lemur color vision research project and the novel apparatus (SMARTA) that I built for this research, you can read about it on:

Duke Lemur Center Spring 2016 Newsletter: Do You See What I See?

Lemur Conservation Network: On The Ground with Raymond Vagell

Or my academic posters:

SMARTA: Subject-Mediated Automatic Remote Testing Apparatus For Color Vision Discrimination Tasks (Vagell, Vagell, & Baden, 2015)

Novel Skill Acquisition in Ruffed Lemurs (Varecia spp.): Preliminary Data from SMARTA Color Vision Study at Duke Lemur Center (Vagell et al., 2016)

Now off the celebrate!

Monday, August 29, 2016

#IPSASP16 Poster Session

Novel skill acquisition in ruffed lemurs (Varecia spp.): Preliminary Data from SMARTA Color Vision Study at Duke Lemur Center

Raymond Vagell, Vance J. Vagell, Stephanie J. Tepper, Isabel M. Avery, Rachel L. Jacobs, James Gordon, & Andrea L. Baden.

Psychophysical studies are necessary for many questions related to the evolution of primate sensory systems, particularly in primate color vision, but such studies remain limited, especially in many lemur species. This may be in part because lemurs require extensive training to novel procedures. We trained ruffed lemurs (Varecia spp.) on the Subject-Mediated Automatic Remote Testing Apparatus (SMARTA) for a color vision pilot study at Duke Lemur Center from May to November, 2015. 18 animals were initially used but only 5 were trained. We selected animals based on their initial interest in participating and their continued interest across the first 20 sessions. Training time ranged from 42 to 265 minutes, across 32 to 172 sessions. We found no correlation between total training time and age, r(4) = 0.088, p = 0.888, or between number of training sessions and age, r(4) = 0.048, p = 0.940.Furthermore, we found no significant difference between sexes in mean total training time (t(3) = 0.29, p = 0.605) or total number of training sessions (t(3) = 0.243, p = 0.824). While acknowledging our sample size, we found no evidence that training is influenced by age and sex. Although training requires an initial time investment that varies across individual study subjects, the SMARTA helps to eliminate user bias and error, which outweighs the time investment.

A copy of my IPS/ASP 2016 poster (Vagell et al., 2016) can be downloaded here.

If you are interested in SMARTA, a copy of that poster (Vagell, Vagell, & Baden, 2015) can be downloaded here.

Thursday, August 25, 2016