Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I Was Featured on Lemur Conservation Network (LCN)

Thank you Lemur Conservation Network (LCN) for featuring me in your blog. I talked about my research background and my current research on color vision with the ruffed lemurs at Duke Lemur Center.

Click here to read more.

Friday, September 25, 2015

It's Been A Long, Strange Road.

Today is my last day at Duke Lemur Center. It's been a long, strange road. I had initially thought this would be a 2 month project but ended up taking 5 months (and more). Although I am leaving , this project is still ongoing. My research assistant Isabel Avery, along with Meg Dye (DLC lemur trainer) will be training my lemurs until they are ready to do the color vision tests. Out of 9 individuals that I am working with, only 2 are ready and is currently participating in the tests. The other 7 individuals are still being trained to do these tests. When the other 7 individuals are ready to start their tests, I will fly back to North Carolina to conduct these tests.

This has been a long journey. I remember hating the fact that I have to be in North Carolina for two months but this place grew on me and even though I have been here for five months, I am enjoying every day of it ... except the fact that I miss my husband and my cats. My first few weeks in North Carolina was hard as I had to adjust to living in my hotel room and not spending time with my husband and cats. I wasn't use to being by myself.

But I had fun. I did a lot in the area. I went to the flea markets, the farmers' markets, museums, antique stores, cafes, restaurant, shopping, and oh yes, SHOPPING. I thought being in Durham would be boring but it turns out that it wasn't that bad. I kept getting asked by Uber drivers whether Durham was a big change for me. It wasn't. Actually, I really like Durham.

And then I adopted my dog, Luna. She had been my companion and pretty much became my unofficial emotional support dog. Adjusting to being a dog parent is definitely challenging and comical at times. Dogs are much more demanding and needed much more work and attention compared to cats. I have raised both kitten and puppy now, and I must say ... cats definitely have evolved to be much more self sufficient than dogs. But Luna is a sweetheart. She's the impossible girl.

I am looking forward to return to Duke Lemur Center to finish up my research later this year. But for now, I am grateful for having spending time with my friends here in North Carolina as well as looking forward to spending time with my family back in NYC. Till then ...

Friday, September 11, 2015

Duke Lemur Center Fall Lemurpalooza 2015: Saturday, Sept 26th 2015

Lemurpalooza is back again for yet another exciting palooza for Fall 2015. Hosted by Duke Lemur Center, Fall Lemurpalooza 2015 will have food trucks, live music, and lemurtastic activities for kids and kids at heart. You can also walk around and view the lemurs at your own pace (usually you'll need to be escorted by a tour guide) as well as being able to "adopt" the lemurs. Money from these sponsorship goes to maintaining the lemurs at Duke Lemur Center as well as to fund conservation work.

I will be at the Fall Lemurpalooza, so hope to see some of you there! You will be able to see all the ruffed lemurs that I mentioned in my blog posts during Fall Lemurpalooza, especially Halley & Kizzy. You will also be able to "adopt" some of them as well and I do encourage you to do so, not only for the animals but also for all the necessary conservation work in Madagascar.


Tickets are $50 per car and are fully tax deductible. 

WHEN: 5 – 8 p.m., Saturday, September 26th, 2015. 

WHERE: Duke Lemur Center, 3705 Erwin Rd in Durham, NC.
For directions please visit

HOW: To reserve your spot, please call 919-401-7252 
See more at:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

[UPDATED] The Ring-Tailed Lemurs at Oakland Zoo Need You: Help Fund The Smart Feeders Project

Ring-tailed lemurs using smart feeder. Photo from Oakland Zoo.
Enrichments are important facet of everyday life in captive animals. Enrichment not only help modify detrimental behaviors but can also provide a lot of fun and exploration for these animals. You can provide enrichment to "bored" animals or animals that exhibit stereotypy to occupy their time by exploring or working to get a food reward. Because captive animals have their food provisioned to them, they lost a critical behavioral repertoire --- foraging. Enrichments are also good for humans. Zoo visitors always lament about animals not being visible or animals always sleeping. While it is very natural for animal to seek hiding spots or sleep during the day, enrichment objects will provide these animals with "things to do" during zoo visiting hours and zoo visitors get to see these animals exhibiting natural foraging behaviors.

I recently met Dr. Karin Jaffe at the American Society of Primatologists (ASP) 2015 in Bend, Oregon. We talked about our work in lemurs and enrichment. She had mentioned about an enrichment prototype that her and her husband invented. You see, the ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) at Oakland Zoo lives in a large enclosure. However, these lemurs like to hang out in places that are usually out of sight from visitors. The lemurs need the large space but I bet zoo visitors also want to see these lemurs.

Dr. Jaffe came up with an ingenious idea --- build a smart feeder that dispenses food (in random intervals) in view of zoo visitors. The lemurs would want to hang out near the feeder and wait for food while zoo visitors get to see these lemurs. Brilliant, right?

Which brings me to the reason why I am writing this post. I'm so happy to see her project had taken off but she needs help building a few more of these enrichments for Oakland Zoo. Dr. Jaffe and her team had launched an page for people to help back her smart feeder project: Using smart feeders to increase lemur activity and stimulate human interest. The project is currently at 62% funded and they need about $1000.00 more for the project to get the go ahead (as of Sept 9th, 2015). There's only 7 days left and I REALLY REALLY WANT TO SEE THIS PROJECT TAKE OFF.

This project is now 100% funded. Congrats lemurs!

Ring-tailed lemur using smart feeder. Photo by Dr. Karin Jaffe
Would you please help back this project by donating? Watch the video below and then follow this link to donate.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The End Is In Sight

As I am typing this, I have already booked my flight home to NYC. I had planned on going to Duke Lemur Center to do my project for two month but ended up spending the whole summer here. The end is in sight, sorta. I am leaving at the end of this month to go back to my family who I missed dearly.

However, most of my lemurs are still not trained and cannot start their testing. Instead, Meg Dye, a trainer at Duke Lemur Center, will be training my lemurs until they are ready to start their tests. I will then fly back to Duke Lemur Center to collect data and finish this project. I have grown to love Durham and the Research Triangle in general. My leaving is bittersweet as I have a few friends here that I won't be able to see for a long time. However, I am sure my husband and cats are waiting for me to come home eagerly.

Nothing much to update about the lemurs. Halley is doing great with her tests and I am done collecting data with her. I will let her use SMARTA once or twice after I train Ravo so she gets to "play". Specifically, she gets to use SMARTA as a form of enrichment as I've designed SMARTA to not only be used as a testing apparatus but can also be used as a form of tactile and visual enrichment.

The rest of the lemurs are learning to sit correctly in front of SMARTA (stationing). Once that is done, we will train them to appropriate the correct behavior when using SMARTA. For example, we will train them to sit in front of SMARTA and not do anything until the screen turns on. Once the screen turns on, we will train them to only use one hand when making a choice during the discrimination task. We will also make sure that the lemurs understand that they always have to deliberately touch the red square for a food reward.

I will try to share more photos and videos of the research in the coming week. Meanwhile, I am still adjusting to being a dog daddy and raising a puppy by yourself in a hotel room is an exhausting task. But it is worth it :)