Sunday, June 28, 2015

Love Wins: SCOTUS Marriage decision; My husband came to visit!

My husband came to visit for the weekend and I got to show him Duke Lemur Center, as well as the ruffed lemurs I have been working with over the past month. I am excited he got to see how SMARTA worked and how the lemurs respond to the tasks I gave them. After all, he wrote and built the apparatus.

It was opportune that he was with me on Friday (June 26, 2015 for posterity!) when SCOTUS finally declared same sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. We have been together for 13 years and we've been married for 3 years. This is great news for us, but also overwhelmingly exciting news for those that can finally get married in states where same sex marriage was previously not legal.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This Is Not The Sausage Fest I'm Hoping For ...

Much disappoint
I am approaching week 6 with my lemur training. So far, I have worked with 14 individuals; 8 black-and-white ruffed lemurs and 6 red ruffed lemurs. There are still a few more individuals that I haven't been able to work with but I should have access to them soon.

Of the 14 individuals, 4 of them were excluded from training because they are currently in outdoor enclosures. The glare from sunlight made it hard for both the lemurs and I to look at the screen (picture yourself trying to use a tablet or your phone on a bright summer day). This makes it hard for me to train them to touch the screen. 2 of the red ruffed were hard to work with because they are not really paying attention to training, although, it seems like their performance spike when I train them only once a week instead of daily. Unfortunately, these 2 had just been placed in an outdoor enclosure. I did, however, found a shady spot where I could potentially train them without being hindered by the glare. There's also 2 red ruffed that exhibited some behavioral problems that I had to exclude from the study as well. This brings me to only 6 individuals, and they are all black-and-white ruffed lemurs. Out of the 6 individuals, 2 are females and 4 are males.

If you remember what my study is, you'll know that I really need to work with more females. With the current sample size, I really hope at least one of the female is a trichromat. This is not the sausage fest I'm hoping for ...

Friday, June 19, 2015

SMARTA: Subject-Mediated Automatic Remote Testing Apparatus For Color Vision Discrimination Tasks [Poster PDF] #ASP15OR

SMARTA: Subject-Mediated Automatic Remote Testing Apparatus For Color Vision Discrimination Tasks
Raymond Vagell1, Vance J. Vagell2 and Andrea L. Baden3,4

1Animal Behavior & Conservation Program, Dept. of Psychology, Hunter College of City University of New York, New York , NY, 10065, USA.

2Queens, New York.
3Dept. Anthropology, Hunter College of City University of New York, New York, NY 10065.
4New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, The Graduate Center of City University of New York, New York, NY 10065.

Primate behavioral studies often rely on human observation for data collection. This is especially true in captive and laboratory settings. However, human error and imperfect inter-rater reliability can contribute to erroneous data collection and entry. Furthermore, the physical presence of a researcher can influence research outcomes. The subject-mediated automatic remote testing apparatus (SMARTA) was developed in an effort to avoid human error, inter-rater disagreement, the observer effect, to control for visual stimuli, and to automatically log all observational data to the cloud. SMARTA is an innovative novel apparatus that integrates motorized food delivery (food reinforcement), remote control, and cloud-based data logging. SMARTA is a color-calibrated tablet-based testing platform, controlled remotely via smartphone app, which automatically dispenses food rewards and logs data online. With SMARTA, a researcher can remotely control an experiment without influencing subjects under test using Android apps for smartphone and tablet that interconnect using Bluetooth. Further, it automatically records data and uploads it to a Google spreadsheet for later analysis. Recent color vision studies have used naturalistic settings to assess and determine whether primates are either dichromats or trichromats. SMARTA can be used for touch screen discrimination tasks, especially color vision studies where hues and brightness are carefully controlled. Since it utilizes a consumer Android tablet and smartphone rather than specialized hardware, SMARTA can be built inexpensively.

You can download a copy of my poster from or

ASP 2015: Bend, Oregon

Whoever came up with the ribbon idea. You are the ASP 2015 MVP
I'm having a lot of fun in Bend, Oregon for ASP 2015. I will be presenting my poster tonight and will have a PDF of the poster up online later. My poster is about SMARTA, the apparatus I use to study color vision in ruffed lemurs (Varecia sp.).

Yup. That's me over there
I am also very excited to be the proud owner of a red ruffed lemur painting by Van Hoang Dao, a Vietnamese artist who paints in such exquisite detail. I hope he has a black-and-white ruffed lemur next time!

Red ruffed lemur painting by Van Hoang Dao

Monday, June 15, 2015

But Of Course: My Tablet Broke The Day Before I Fly To ASP!

I noticed a hairline crack on my tablet yesterday but thought nothing of the crack. As the day progresses, I noticed that the crack starts getting larger and larger, and towards the end of my research day today, it already took over one third of the screen and the tablet is not responding to touch anymore. Obviously this is no good because if a touch screen is not responding to touch then what good is it? By the time I got back to my hotel, my whole tablet screen had cracked!


After scouring the whole Research Triangle Park (RTP) area to replace a tablet, I  finally found one at a Verizon store. It was their very last tablet of that model. Of course it is more than $100 more expensive than the one I bought from Best Buy (or online) but I'm running short on time and I really needed it ASAP.

This isn't the first time my apparatus parts malfunctioned, but this one is more pressing and there isn't anything I can do to fix it except to replace it. However, I feel validated with the decision to use only Android products because SMARTA (my apparatus) is meant to be built relatively cheap. The Android tablet I'm using costs about $200 to $300ish whereas an iPad would cost about $600 (the total of how much you would pay to build SMARTA).

As if I'm not having a shitty Monday yet, the AC in my hotel room crapped out and I had to move to a different room. There were only 2 rooms available in the whole hotel and they are both "smoking room". Normally I'd bitch about having to sleep in a "smoking room" but I think being able to be in room with AC when the temperature outside is at around 90 degrees trumps all.

Someone or something is really testing me today ...

I got this fortune inside a fortune cookie from dinner today. I think it's apropos.