Monday, June 8, 2015

Our Great Chengdu Adventure!

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

Nî hâo! For those of you who don’t know that means “hello” in Chinese Mandarin. It’s been a crazy first week here in Chengdu, China! After a LONG trip here (roughly twenty hours in flying), we are finally settled into our home for the next two months. We are currently living just outside of Southwest Jiaotong University, in a hotel like complex. Macie and I share a room, where we have hot water, air conditioning, and (thankfully) a western toilet. 
            Since we have been here, a lot of the students have been very nice with showing us around and helping us with the language. Learning Chinese is much more difficult than any other language, because there are four different tones you have to use. If you say a word using the wrong tone, it could mean a completely different word. So far we have learned a lot of phrases, such as how to order food and basic conversational words. We have also started to cover numbers, which will be very helpful for us when we buy things. Macie and I also got Chinese names. Macie’s Chinese name is very similar to her name. It is spoken as “may shi” which means something along the lines of “beautiful flower.” My Chinese name is the word for “butterfly,” which is ‘hú dié.’ We also asked the Chinese students to write out our names, which I’ll try to post later! (this website is actually blocked in China which makes posting pictures a tad bit difficult)
            Not only are the toilets and the language different, but the food is too. In Chengdu, they like things that are VERY spicy! From noodles to meat, they like things that have a kick to it. Next to where we live is a little restaurant Macie and I have been to a couple times. There they have a chicken we really like that is a bit more on the spicy side, but very delicious! We also live about a ten to fifteen minute walk from a mall, which has a Walmart, Starbucks, and KFC in it. Next to the mall is also a very delicious place we have eaten at a few times. There we get steamed and fried dumplings, which have lettuce and pork in them, and are smothered in spicy sauce. We’ve also had a wide variety of drinks, from soy milk to tea. Hot but still very good!
            In addition to the students, our research advisor, James, has also been a huge help at getting us accustomed to the lifestyle here. He has shown us a few places around the city, in addition to the panda base. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been too. The whole base itself is giant, at least three times the size of Otterbein’s campus, if not bigger. The people that we have been introduced to here are very friendly, and speak English well! And obviously, the pandas are absolutely adorable. During our time here, Macie and I will be studying the one year old panda cubs, specifically looking at their behavior. The past few days we have been working with James on developing our ethogram and the layout of the study. We will be conducting an instantaneous scan sampling, which means we will be looking at all nine of the panda cubs within their enclosure and recording their behavior at certain time intervals. As of now, we are going to be watching the pandas both outside and inside, depending on how hot it is. It is very difficult to tell the panda cubs apart, so hopefully next week we will be able to better tell who is who. :)
            Aside from food and some culture aspects, China is basically like America. People have dogs and cats, and love to go shopping. They play sports like tennis and basketball (they adore Lebron James for all you Cleveland fans). And they especially love pandas, which I mean who doesn’t? For now Macie and I will continue to appreciate our fame here, getting pictures taken of us everywhere we go, and enjoy our time here in the wonderful city of Chengdu! :)

Panda mid fall! :o

Selfie with the pandas! :P

Xing Yu posing :)

First day at the panda base! :D

The first panda I've ever seen! :)
Our Chinese names! Macie's is on the top and mine is on the bottom. :)

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!