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b2ap3_thumbnail_5-21-Narasimhan-2_20150522-144111_1.jpgThis internship keeps getting cooler. Today, we had a troop of wild howlers hanging around the sanctuary, and our babies actually got into the trees and interacted with them! We call this troop R2D2, and all of their names have something to do with Star Wars. The dominant male’s name is Yoda, and the other male is Vader. 

It’s interesting because no matter where a howler troop is, you will almost always find the dominant male in the center of the group. Stevie, our blind howler, was playing with Mace, a baby in the troop. It was adorable. Rugby is still a little shy with other howlers, but she is getting there. Watching the wild howlers and capuchins is unlike anything I have ever seen. It’s one thing to see them in photographs and to learn about their behavior in a textbook, but nothing compares to seeing it in person. I really enjoy just sitting peacefully and watching. 

Another cool thing we are doing is documenting howler behavior. The species has been neglected in this area, and so the research we are doing is extremely important. Every day we do several behavioral follows, either focusing on one baby or both. For about forty-five minutes, we document their every behavior, which can be anything from a vocalization to foraging. This is called an ethogram, and it takes a while to get the hang of. We are also identifying all of the individuals in each troop to try to get a population count. As of right now, it is not known how many howlers live in Panama, further adding to the importance of our research.

My favorite part of the internship so far has been interacting with the monkeys. The babies are frustrating at times, and it sometimes feels like babysitting spoiled toddlers. We try to keep them in the trees and off the ground as much as possible, to mimic a normal upbringing and get them used to a typical howler lifestyle (wild howlers spend almost no time on the ground). Sometimes, however, the babies do not want to get into a tree and just want to cuddle. Sometimes they will bite and run away, resulting in a wild monkey chase. However, watching them in the trees and playing with them is so rewarding, and they have the ability to make anyone’s heart melt, no matter how hard they bite.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_5-19-Narasimhan-1.jpgI’ve been at the sanctuary for a few days now, and I am already immersed in the several projects going on here. I am learning so much. While the babies are adorable and fun to play with, I am falling in love with the capuchins. 

Their intelligence is so obvious when you spend even a small amount of time with them. Every time I enter their enclosure, they embrace me quickly and then search my pockets for hidden almonds I may have brought for them. After that, we settle down for a grooming session. I usually groom Angie while Ace sits on my shoulder and grooms me. It is easy to forget, however, that these are wild animals and not pets.

I’ve been trained in how to read their body language and facial expressions. For example, when upset, caps will bare their teeth in a way that almost looks like they are smiling. This is similar to their play face, so when working with them, you have to always be aware of how they are feeling and behaving.

Because they have to live in an enclosure while they are being rehabilitated, it is easy for these intelligent creatures to become bored. We try to provide as much enrichment for them as possible, and part of everyday is dedicated to that. We often rearrange their enclosure, so branches are in different positions than they were before and new ones are added. We also hide their food in interesting places and design fun toys for them. Some favorites of theirs are colored paper or egg cartons with yummy peanut butter.

We also have to watch for stereotypic behaviors they might exhibit. These are behaviors that are common in animals in captivity, and are usually a sign of distress or boredom. Lately Ace has been doing a quick head roll, almost like a twitch. This is a common behavior in capuchins in captivity, but it isn’t clear what it means or how to prevent it.

Another cool thing with capuchins is their territorial behavior. When trying to ward off enemies or demonstrating dominance, caps will break and shake branches. It’s actually quite terrifying to be on the receiving end of one of these encounters. We try to keep the wild caps away from the ones in our care, as they take their food and make Angie nervous, so part of the job is breaking and shaking branches at them in return. I’ve had a couple showdowns with some wild caps, and they are extremely intimidating.

I’m learning so much about animal behavior and husbandry, and loving every second of it!

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_5-8-Narasimhan.jpgMeet Rachel Narasimhan, a senior biology major at Waynesburg University. This summer, she will be interning at the Aloutta Sanctuary in Panama. She plans to share her experiences right here on the Waynesburg blog.

Hi! My name is Rachel Narasimhan, and I am entering my senior year at Waynesburg University. I am a biology major with a psychology minor. I am extremely interested in animal behavior, especially that of primates. I am going to be spending one month here at Aloutta Sanctuary, located on the Chiriqui Penninsula of Panama. It is a rehabilitation center as well as a field research station. Its main focus is mantled howler monkeys. 

It is my second day at the sanctuary, and I am learning and experiencing so much. The sanctuary has been doing amazing work, and has rehabbed and released over a dozen animals back into the wild. 

Right now we are home to two capuchin monkeys, Angie and Ace, two Geoffroy’s Tamarins, Razorblade and Mr. T, and two baby howlers, Rugby and Stevie. I’ve gotten to work hands on with all of them, and they are a handful. The capuchins are so so so smart. Angie, who came to the sanctuary in February, was tied to a pole at a gas station for an estimated ten years. She is very friendly and sweet, but gets anxious quickly when other wild caps come around her enclosure. Ace is young and rambunctious, and is a good playmate for Angie.

The Geoffrey Tamarins do not get along, so they are housed separately. If you feed Mr. T before Razorblade, Razorblade will freak out. Alone, they are wonderful little creatures who will hop all over you when you greet them. The howlers, affectionately known here as the babies, are something else. They require the most attention and they certainly love every second of it. Stevie and her mother were electrocuted by a wire when she was very young, resulting in her mother’s death and the loss of her eyesight. I am amazed at how good of a monkey Stevie still is. She climbs fearlessly in and out of trees and keeps up with Rugby just fine.

The other interns and managers have been really welcoming and helpful with my transition, but it is a lot to handle. The bugs are biting all the time, and the heat is suffocating. My first day here, I had sort of a meltdown. I’m extremely homesick and the difficulty of living in the middle of the jungle got to me. I was on baby duty at the time. Stevie, sensing my fear and sadness, climbed into my lap and cupped my chin in her hands. We locked eyes, and I think she was trying to tell me to stick it out. I’ll never forget the look she gave me and how she made me feel so much better in that moment. I’m still having a hard time adjusting, but the monkeys make it worth it.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Monogram Small.jpgDr. Jenny Jellison, assistant professor of psychology at Waynesburg University, presented a seminar titled “Educating While Entertaining – Remembering Why You Love It and Getting Them To Do the Same” at the 4th Annual International Conference on Teaching Psychology in Vancouver, Canada, during the summer of 2013. Jellison executed her presentation in collaboration with a former student, Dr. Kristel Gallagher, assistant professor of psychology at Keystone College in La Plume, Pa.

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Study Abroad Emily   Oxford (2)

Danielle Tustin, a senior criminal justice administration major from Burgettstown, Pa., spent the fall 2011 semester in Seville, Spain, where she studied Spanish at Accento de Trinity, immersed herself in Spanish culture and discovered she loved Flamenco dancing.

Meanwhile, more than 11,000 miles away, Jacob Waltemeyer, a 2012 psychology alumnus from Riverside, Calif., discovered beauty in the Australian countryside and participated in a cultural studies program while living alongside Australian students.

Both Waynesburg University students embraced the opportunity to venture away from the University's main campus to learn and grow in faith and returned to Waynesburg with newfound revelations and worldly perspectives.

Likewise, Emily Schubert, a senior psychology major from Medina, Ohio, gained a new appreciation for both England and the United States while studying abroad during the fall 2011 semester through the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities' (CCCU) Scholars' Semester in Oxford Program.

The Scholars' Semester in Oxford Program is one of several CCCU Best Semester Programs available to Waynesburg University students. With 11 semester programs and one summer program, Best Semester provides students with ample opportunities to refine their worldview through classes and cultural interaction.

“I gained a new level of confidence from studying abroad,” Schubert said as she reflected on the challenges of adjusting to life on a new continent. “It's amazing how traveling to a foreign country, living there for a few months and successfully completing Oxford courses will do that.”

Schubert and the friends she made in England had regular Bible Study sessions and discussions about faith, which she considered a phenomenal growing and learning experience.

“My semester abroad was definitely a time of learning a lot,” she said.

She eventually came to know the lay of the land quite well, daily traversing the streets of Oxford on the bike she rented.

“By the end of my trip, tourists were coming to me for directions!” Schubert said.

The University's remarkable selection of endorsed programs and partnerships span the globe. The programs offer a wide selection from which students can choose an opportunity that best fits their own academic, professional and personal goals.

Anthony Cooper, a senior, sociology (pre-law) major from Lewisburg, Pa., who spent the spring 2012 semester in England with the Scholars' Semester in Oxford Program, explored Dublin and Rome when he wasn't attending classes, seminars and writing research papers.

“My experience abroad helped me grow in so many different aspects of my life,” said Cooper.

“It taught me much as well as exposed cultures I was unfamiliar with, and eventually instilled in me a deeper desire to learn and travel, and to experience as much of the world as possible.”

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For Hannah Szymanik, a recipient of the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship for the 2011-12 academic year, studying abroad meant the realization of a life-long dream.

“I've always wanted to teach in Africa,” said the junior early childhood/special education major from Mount Holly Springs, Pa. “And over the summer, I did just that. I taught math and English in a classroom of 41 students in Cape Coast, Ghana.”

Each year, up to five Waynesburg University ladies are offered an experience to study abroad through a $5,000 scholarship.

Angele Hagy, another recipient of the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship for the 2011-12 academic year, said the scholarship impacted her life in ways unimaginable, ways she is still discovering even after the experience, she said. The junior early childhood/special education major from Pittsburgh also traveled to Cape Coast, Ghana, in summer 2012.

“Not only did my scholarship and study abroad experience give me the opportunity to learn more about other cultures, but it has broadened my global perspective, making me much more aware of global issues. It has given me the opportunity to reflect on how blessed my life here is in the United States,” said Hagy, who worked with Hoops Care International (HCI) to empower youth in the community through sports.

Students return to Waynesburg with refined worldviews, expanded cultural experiences and, according to Karen Moyer, a senior sociology (pre-law) major from Conneaut Lake, Pa., who studied abroad with Best Semester's Scholars' Semester in Oxford Program in the spring, “the key to understanding.”

“Before I left to study abroad, I fantasized about returning as a more intelligent individual with all the answers,” Moyer said. “Now that my experience is complete, I have realized I gained something more valuable than that – questions. The right questions are the key to understanding.”


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