Science is cool

August 18, 2008

This week I had the opportunity to travel down to Front Royal Virginia to the Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center. I spent the day listening to presentations from scientists, zookeepers, postdocs, graduate students and interns about the projects and research that they are doing at the Zoo. It was really cool to hear about the amazing studies that people have come up with and the information that they are finding.


Photo by CAITLIN LUKACS
Orangutan

There were studies from specific behaviors of one particular animal to studies on conservation efforts for an entire region of the world. There were even two presentations that dealt with cognition in animals. One of these presentations explained research that is currently taking place with the orangutans in the Think Tank exhibit. The researcher’s previous study can be seen in video form in Think Tank and so I was already familiar with the project and the objectives. However, the scientist is taking the next step and hoping to further our information about orangutan thinking. Not only are orangutans really cool, but they are pretty smart too. And it seems they will do everything in their power to make sure that they choose the study condition that will garauntee them grapes.


Photo by CAITLIN LUKACS
African lion – Luke

Another study that really piqued my interest was one that incorporates several zoos throughout the country and looks at the reproductive status of African lions. Because the captive African lion population has not recently had the breeding success that it had previously known and because there is not much information available about African lion reproduction, the main objective of this project is to obtain baseline reproductive data to hopefully determine the reasons for the decline in successful breeding. This is interesting in and of itself, but as a cat lover it was particularly fascinating for me.

There was so much information to take in and those were just two of the fifteen presentations – not to mention the poster session during lunch to explain other scientific projects taking place at the Zoo and at CRC!

Of course I also spent time on editorial work this week. There was yet another round of calendar edits to input and then the draft had to be circulated one more time. There was also ‘animal facts’ writing to finish and some research to complete for a feature and sidebar for the upcoming November/December issue of ZooGoer.


Photo by CAITLIN LUKACS
Collared peccary

And I can’t finish without talking about an animal visit. I found an animal that I had never heard of before – the collared peccary. I’d never seen them out in their yard before so I was surprised to come across them when walking behind the Small Mammal House. I guess I just assumed the yard was for another species of monkey or rodent.

Even though they look similar to hogs, peccaries are not pigs. They are classified in a family of their own because of anatomical differences. I happen to think they are extremely cute in a not-really-cute-but-underappreciated-and-that-makes-them-cute kind of way.

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