Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ni hao from China!

Name: Macie Smith
Year: Zoo and Conservation Science, class of 2016
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China 
Internship: the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding; animal behavior research 

Ni hao from China! Kelly and I are the two lucky students interning with the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. We have only been in China for about a week but we have already seen and learned a lot! From learning how to order food to trying to use chopsticks to identifying the different panda cubs to figuring out how the heck one uses the toilets here, everything is a new adventure and a great learning experience!

We are staying just outside of the Southwest Jiaotong University from which several English translation students have taken it upon themselves to attempt to teach us Chinese. My Chinese name (ignore the spelling) sounds like “may-shi.” In translation; “may” is a type of flower and “shi” means beauty. I guess this means my Chinese name is “flower beauty.”  I don’t remember how to say Kelly’s Chinese name, but hers translates to “butterfly.” I find it interesting that the same word can have a different meaning based on the inflexion of your voice. This makes the language difficult to learn, so we may not be fluent by the end of our trip but hopefully we will be able to get around on our own a little more easily. So far we have made excellent use of gestures and pictures. 

For the most part, Kelly and I have spent the past few days at the panda base getting to know our research advisor, James, meeting people, building our ethogram, and practicing using this ethogram to observe the behaviors of one year old panda cubs. We have also spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out which panda is which. I’m hopeful that by this time next week, we will be able to identify each cub fairly quickly. 

With this study, we will be using scan sampling to observe the behaviors and proximities of all nine panda cubs at one minute time intervals. So far it has been relatively cool in the mornings, so all nine cubs have been together in their outdoor enclosure for our morning observations. After our two hour lunch break, which I can definitely get used to, it is generally much warmer so the pandas go into two or three separate indoor enclosures. The animal care staff has been kind enough to allocate two positions from which we can observe the pandas in their indoor enclosures without having to worry about the crowd obscuring our view or interrupting us to try and take our pictures, which happens surprisingly frequently.

Monday morning (now this morning) will be our first day collecting data that will potentially be used. I’m excited to see what we will be able to figure out through this study!

 Here's a few of the little one year old cubs Kelly and I are observing this summer! 

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