Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Chengdu Round 2

Name: Kelly Jackson
Year: Senior, Class of 2017
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Internship: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding- Animal Behavior Research

            It’s been a little bit since Taryn and I first arrived in China, but we have done a lot since then! This year we are living on the Southwest Jiatong University Julidi Campus. It is very nice! We each have our own room, and share a “kitchen” space and bathroom. It is somewhat like living in the apartments on campus, except there is no actual kitchen or living room. There is air conditioning, hot water, and of course a western toilet!
            The first weekend we were here we went to the Walmart to get some basic supplies and snacks. We also ventured around the mall a little bit, and walked to see different places we could eat and shop. One of the nights we decided to go see the Captain America movie. The people at the movie place were very nice and one of them spoke English very well! Her name was Laven and she helped us find our seats. She then told me I was very beautiful and that she wanted to be my friend. I gave her my WeChat and now we are friends! Hopefully she is there the next time we decide to go see a movie. J
            Taryn and I also went to the Sichuan Art Museum and the Sichuan Museum of Science and Technology. The nice thing about both of these places is that they were free when we showed our passports. I have been to the art museum before, but this time more of the floors were open for us to see. I absolutely love looking at the Chinese artwork, especially the calligraphy writing they use throughout their pieces. It is very unique the array of colors used in the pictures, and how you can vividly see each brush stroke they use. Granted we could not read any of the artists’ names, it was still very interesting. The science museum was pretty cool tool! It was an interactive museum, where they had lots of stations that you could press buttons to make things light up, or walk through and see various things. There were about four different floors filled with adventures, which definitely pleased my inner scientist. One of my favorite things was the tilted room, where when you walked into the area, the room was slanted! All of the children went nuts and kept falling. I almost tripped and fell too! I also really liked the Zoology section of the museum, naturally. ;)
            Soon the weekend was over, and it was time to start at the panda base again! James came and met us at the gate to bring us in. We then went back to the lab where we set up our ID badges and lunch money. While we were doing this we got the chance to meet three new people, or at least three new people to me. Ju is a graduate student who actually met Dr. Young this past semester! She will be at the panda base just as long as we are conducting her own research on red pandas. J We also met her advisor, Elizabeth, and their friend Caitlyn. Caitlyn has been at the panda base on and off for the past year, doing research on male red panda reproduction. It was cool to meet other Americans our first week there! I also got the chance to say hello again to Songrei, Chen Chou, and Fei Fei!
            After we set everything up it was time to get to work on the project! This time we will be working on collecting data that will help support the theory of kin recognition, and whether or not the pandas are able to identify who their brother or sister is. Therefore, the more frequently they interact together, the more support we have towards this hypothesis. We talked over schematics and decided it is probably going to be the best to ditch scan sampling, and stick with focal sampling with continuous recording. That way we can get an accurate representation of exactly how long each panda is interacting with other pandas or not. However as of now, we are still going to use instantaneous recording when dealing with proximity.
The next step we took was actually identifying the pandas. I thought it was difficult the last time with five pandas, but this time there are nine pandas: 4 sets of twins and 1 singleton! It is great for data collection but very difficult in terms of identification! One of the workers there, Abraham, takes lots of pictures of the cubs and was nice enough to give some to us to look at when we are ID-ing them. They definitely help a lot but the process is still a little rough. Taryn and I believe we have 2/9 pandas successfully matched though which is AMAZING progress compared to what Macie and I had last time! J
A lot of our week was spent watching the panda cubs, which made it a great week. We also got to help out Songrei with red panda fecal samples. She had already had the samples in the freezer and it was our job to go ahead and help prepare the samples for a PCR reaction. We mashed up the fecal samples and placed them into different test tubes, where Songrei went ahead and labeled them for us. It was pretty fun to do and I am glad we got to help our Songrei a little bit. It was also nice to catch up with her and find out how things were going since I last saw her! We also went out to eat with James, Elizabeth, Caitlyn, and Ju. It was great to get to know them better and explore more of the city. We walked around Tianfu Square at night, which is always so beautiful.
By the time we knew it our first week at the panda base was over. L It was the weekend and we had some exciting plans! Eldora, my Chinese teacher and friend from last year, asked us if we wanted to spend the day together that Saturday with her friend Harry. We went ahead and ventured off into the city of Chengdu! We first ate hot pot together, which I was very excited about! J I love hot pot! This one in particular was VERY spicey, more spicy than I remember! I loved eating the lotus root though, it was my favorite part! Then we went to one of the two parks in all of Chengdu that you can go and fly a kite. It was a very famous park, where poet statues were displayed throughout. We found a spot in the park where we could fly our kites. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much success with it. ;P We then went to Wide and Narrow Alley, where we walked around and took lots of pictures! Taryn also got a panda ring from Eldora, and now she can match us. J We came back to campus to eat dinner, which we got a large dish with pork, a smaller dish with chicken and egg, and another dish that had prawn…ON FIRE. I was struggling to eat the pork with chopsticks, so Eldora gave me a handy dandy glove. It was quite funny! :P After dinner we went to learn how to play Chinese mahjong. At first it was a little difficult, but after a few practice rounds, we got the hang of it! I actually won the game…twice! It was so awesome and now Taryn and I can teach it to our friends when we return! I am going to download the app on my phone to play! Lastly, we went back to Eldora’s dorm where she taught us how to write in Chinese calligraphy! I wrote out the word for panda on practice paper. Of course, she was much better at it than I was. Overall, it was a super fun day and I loved getting to meet Harry and see Eldora again. J
The next day Taryn and I went to venture a little around the malls. We went to Chunxi Road where we re-visited the Modern Toilet restaurant! It was a poopy day weather wise, therefore it called for a poopy meal (it was really good actually but the restaurant is toilet themed) ;P. After eating we walked a little bit around the mall, and went to the bookstore. There Taryn got a few books. The book store is huge and there are quite a few American books as well as lots of Chinese books. Next, we hopped back on the metro and went to the Global Center. It is one of the largest malls that I have ever been to, and is pretty equivalent to Mall of America. We walked around and went into a few stores there. We each bought a “I <3 Chengdu shirt” that had a little panda on it. We walked around more, bought more things, and ended the day by eating at Pete’s Tex Mex. Overall, it was a day filled with food and shopping!
Yesterday, Taryn and I were back at the panda base. After work we decided to go hang out with Ju at the Wanda Plaza! We went to a Thai restaurant and had some very delicious food. We also went to a Korean ice cream store! The ice cream is very good there, and it tastes similar to Dip n’ Dots! Afterward, we went to see the Angry Birds movie, which was adorable. We walked with Ju back to her hotel and hopped in a cab back to our room.
I am so grateful I am back in China and getting to see all of my old friends again. The panda base is truly a wonderful place to be and the people there are so amazing to work with (and of course the pandas are adorable). I never thought I would be back again so soon, and getting the chance to is truly amazing and I am very thankful. I cannot wait to see what more adventures are in store for Taryn and I! Until next time. J

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Giraffes & 'Roos

Name: Rachel Williams
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI
Internship: Animal Care Intern (Mammal Department), the Detroit Zoo
Location: Detroit, MI

The final weeks of my internship have been spent in the Giraffes/Outback routine. This includes, obviously, the giraffe exhibit and the outback exhibit, as well as opening the veldt exhibit in the morning. 

The Detroit Zoo has three giraffes, 7 year-old male Jabari, 6 year-old female Kivuli, and their baby boy, 10 month old Mpenzi. All of their names come from the Swahili language; Jabari means "brave one", Kivuli is "shadow", and Mpenzi translates to "love". A big difference in this routine as compared to others is that keepers interact with the public everyday, doing two public giraffe feeds every Tuesday-Sunday, as well as specially booked Breakfast with Giraffes on Saturdays and Mondays. Jabari is pretty consistent on being willing to feed from guests, but Kivuli is much more timid and will only feed from keepers. Mpenzi is somewhere in between. He's definitely still learning and isn't always interested, but when he does come up to the platform he will hand feed from keepers and even a few guests. I've gotten to work with him a lot on this, which has been really fun since he's so cute!

Feeding Mpenzi from the platform

Nineteen red kangaroos and two red-necked wallabies live in the Australian Outback Adventure, an immersion exhibit which guests walk through along a path. We really don't do too much in this exhibit, just clean their indoor stalls every day, put out food, and check all of them to make sure they're still happy and healthy. With 21 animals in one yard it can be hard to find them all! 

Maroo the wallaby

Our duties for opening the veldt building include putting zebras out, putting warthogs out, and feeding the warthog piglet who is being hand raised. Female warthog Lilith gave birth to five piglets back in April, who were all named after Game of Thrones characters (Tyrion, Hodor, Daenerys, Cersei, and Sansa). Tyrion was pulled to be hand raised since he was the smallest, so every morning we bottle feed him formula before giving him his pellets and produce. He was getting bottles four times a day, but its recently been decrease to three. He has grown so much since the first time I saw him earlier this summer!

The biggest thing that I've picked up from working here is that working in a hoof stock unit, especially one that includes huge indoor stalls, is completely different from working with carnivores. With the bears and wolves, we spent a significant amount of our time training and providing enrichment, while with the giraffes and kangaroos, almost all of our day is spent cleaning. Both of these exhibits have indoor stalls that need to be stripped, hosed, and scrubbed daily before setting them back up for the night. It's definitely a lot of work!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

See you China

Name: Kelly Jackson
Class/Year: Class of 2017, Junior
Hometown: Waterford, Wisconsin
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Internship: Animal Behavior Research

            What a crazy last few weeks Macie and I had in Chengdu! First off, I met one of the sweetest girls at the panda base! Her name was Shuang, and she had been working at the panda base for about seven months. Her main job at the base was sanitation/ cleaning the areas and assisting the keepers in helping move the pandas, or restrain them for medical purposes. In the future, she hopes to become a dog groomer, and cut their hair for them! We talked about a lot of other things, like our families, where we are from, and our likes/dislikes. She specifically enjoys the song “Call Me Maybe” and started singing it with me! She also thinks Justin Bieber and the Titanic are “hot.” :P Shuang was very interested in different foods we eat in America and social media we have. It was nice for both of us, to practice our Chinese and English. She was so sweet and spent a lot of her time watching the pandas with me too! I am definitely going to miss her! :(
            James, Song Rei, Macie and I went to Dujiangyan to visit Jake, as well as see the four cubs that we were watching before they were relocated. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Dujiangyan Field Research Center for Giant Pandas, otherwise known as Panda Valley, is a massive, mountainous area where they work on releasing captive pandas into the wild. Compared to the panda base, Panda Valley was so different. There was a lot less people, and fewer pandas available for the public to see. Jake took us on a tour of the facility, showing us how they work with the pandas. It was pretty hot that day, so a lot of the pandas were inside. However, Macie and I did get to see two of the cubs, Xing Yu and Xing Yuen! They were still as cute as they were when they left, and we got to see them playing with each other in their enclosure. :)
            After our tour with Jake, we all decided to go on a walk up towards the mountain. There was a paved path that we walked along for almost a half an hour. The view was absolutely breath taking. As we walked, we saw a lot of interesting things. There was a cave that was at least twenty degrees cooler than the temperature outside, and rivers that winded next to the path. We also saw tons of wildlife! There were several butterflies, a few birds, salamanders, lizards, and even snakes! I also got to hold a little crab too! It was so neat! :D
The last couple of days at the panda base, Macie and I spent a good portion of our time compiling our data together, and double checking to see if everything was entered correctly. We also had time to watch a few more sessions of our little cubs. We took tons of pictures with all of our friends and all of the pandas. On our last day Macie and I gave gifts to all of the people who have helped us so far. We got to watch James train several pandas for one of the intern’s projects. He is going to see if pandas can recognize a smile versus a frown. It will be interesting to see the results of it!
Thursday we headed out for our last adventure in China! James, his girlfriend Delia, Macie, and I all went to Mt. Emei. It is about a two hour bus ride from Chengdu and a very touristy area for foreigners. We stayed at a cute hotel called “The Teddy Bear.” And yes, the rooms were covered in teddy bears. After we checked in, we went hiking around the lower part of the mountain. Mt. Emei is the spot where monkey-style kung fu was invented and practiced so there was a lot of historical information about it. We visited a few temples, one of them being the temple of 500 Arhats. Delia was explaining to us that you pick your favorite Arhat, and then count your age down the line. Whichever arhat you land on is your number then! Mine was number 273! I loved looking at all the different statues there. :)
Once we finished our hike, we decided it was time for the hot springs! We grabbed our suits and headed on down. The water was so warm when we went swimming and very relaxing after hiking! There were so many different pools and areas you could swim in, although the water was not super deep. We swam for a bit until we decided to try what was one of my favorite experiences in China. There was a pool that had millions of fish in it, and the fish eat the dead skin off of your body! The feeling of the fish nibbling on you was so bizarre! At first it tickled A LOT, and eventually you got used to it. I ended up sitting in the water with the fish, and let them eat away! They adored my feet and my legs, and munched on them the whole time. Afterward, my skin was the smoothest it has ever been! Definitely going to do it again when I have the chance. :)
For the next few days Macie and I traveled all around the mountain. We took a bus up to the top one day, but it was very rainy and foggy. Although we couldn’t see much, the journey up to the top was enjoyable. It was scenic and actually cold once we reached the peak! We walked a lot around the mountain too. One day we hiked a solid seven hours! Walking up the stairs at the mountain was by far the hardest workout I have ever done, and if you know my coach us softball players do some pretty intense workouts. ;) Mt. Emei is also famous for the monkeys there. Apparently, they go up to people and try to take their stuff! They love soda and all kinds of fruits. Unfortunately, Macie and I never got to see a monkey while we were there. It was just too wet and rainy I believe. I mean, if I were a monkey I wouldn’t be out in the rain!
Monday Macie and I went to our final Chinese attraction, Leshan’s Giant Buddha! We were looking forward to seeing it since the beginning of our trip, and it was definitely worth the wait! We stood in line for about two hours to see it, and there were several stairs and steps we had to climb to get to the bottom. It was a little scary because they were so steep! The view was breathtaking as you looked out onto the lake. Legend has it if you look out towards the lake and see the lying Buddha in the shapes of the tress, you are blessed for life. I couldn’t see it, but Macie did! :) The buddha was HUGE! It was a struggle to get it all in one picture but we did! We spent a while snapping pics of the historical landmark, and then headed on back to Mt. Emei. From there, we hopped on a bus back to Chengdu.
Our last day in China had arrived sooner than we knew it. We spent a large portion of our day packing, cleaning, and shopping for foods for our families and friends. In addition, we ate at all of our favorite restaurants around our house. For dinner, James and Delia took us out for some traditional Chinese fish! We drank watermelon juice and a delicious cold bean drink Delia got for us. We reminisced about our time at the panda base, talking about which pandas we liked the best, and all of the people who helped us. Macie and I then took a bus back to our house and finished packing. At six in the morning, we met James and he helped us back to the airport. We said our goodbyes, giving James our final departing gift! Twenty four hours later, Macie and I were back in America.
It hasn’t even been that long and I already miss China so much. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for getting such an amazing opportunity to enjoy a whole new world. I learned an immense amount of knowledge from a whole new language and culture, to tons of information about pandas, research in itself, and what I need to do to further my education. Most importantly, I learned the most about myself, and who I am as a person. Out of all of the things I am going to miss about China, it is the people I will miss the most. We had tons of people offer to help us around the area and take us various places. The panda base people, our Chinese teacher, our neighbors, and a few others; I truly appreciated all of the help they gave us, and if it weren’t for them, our China experience would not be the same. I wish I had more time in China. I know I will go back again someday, I will miss it too much to not. But for now, I’ll enjoy my time to spend with family and friends, sharing all of my memories with them. “It’s not a goodbye, it’s a see you later.” :)

Macie and I posing with our favorite red panda, Xiao Qi. :)

 Our intern friends at the panda base (minus Fei-Fei)
No monkeys here! :(
 Macie and I at the Giant Buddha
One of the views on Mt. Emei!
A famous pavilion located on the trails of Mt. Emei
Our view of the mountain from the Temple of Five Hundred Arhats
 Me and three of the pandas we got to watch, Qi Xi, Qi Qiao, and Zhenduo :)

Shuang and I on one of the last days of work!
Macie, James, and I posing in front of the Golden Panda at the panda base
Leshan Giant Buddha, from the top of the stairs
The crazy stairs we had to go down to get to the bottom of the Buddha!