Thursday, June 22, 2017

I Graduated!

Woohoo! I have finally defended my Masters thesis and graduated from the Animal Behavior and Conservation (ABC) program at Hunter College. It has been a long and winding road but I am very glad that this chapter of my life is over. Thanks to those that have been instrumental in getting me graduated, especially my advisers.

You can now read my Masters Thesis online from CUNY Academic Works:

Vagell, Raymond, "Does Genotype Correlate With Phenotype? Evaluating Ruffed Lemur (Varecia spp.) Color Vision Using Subject Mediated Automatic Remote Testing Apparatus (SMARTA)" (2017). CUNY Academic Works.

Thesis defense

My advisers: (left) Dr. Andrea Baden and (right) Dr. Jim Gordon


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Using Positive Reinforcement to Assist With Lemur Research: "50 Years of Lemurs at Duke" Exhibit

Were you able to check out the "50 Years of Lemurs at Duke" Exhibit In Duke University Perkins Library at Duke University? As I have mentioned here before, my lemur color vision research was featured in the "current research" exhibit as well as in an interactive video that talks about positive reinforcement. 

Communication & Behavior: Ruffed lemur color vision study

Interactive video: Using Positive Reinforcement to Assist With Lemur Research

If you weren't able to check out the exhibit, don't fret. I'm posting the "positive reinforcement" video here today. It's a short segment on how lemurs are trained using positive reinforcement for lemur research. Watch for my cameo, as well as my very smart black and white ruffed lemur Halley. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New Year, Same Research

Happy Lemur New Year!

Hope everyone had a great holiday and a new year. I spent Christmas and New Year in London and it was wonderful. I really needed the time off in my motherland. I'm excited that I finally had time to check out London Zoo (ZSL). They have amazing ring-tailed lemur and aye-aye exhibits! I also love their loris exhibits.

Me and some ring-tailed lemurs

The Spring 2017 semester research has started and I am back in Durham for the week to meet my new research assistants. This semester, I will have 3 (possibly 4) research assistants to help me with my SMARTA color vision research. I am very excited to return to Duke Lemur Center and to continue my research, which was on hold since Thanksgiving. It was so nice to see the lemurs again. I do miss them.

My research is coming to an end soon. I am hoping to wrap everything up by the end of this Summer. I am going to miss Duke Lemur Center a lot so I am hoping to take in as much as I can this few months.

I low key love this place ;P 

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.