Monday, July 20, 2015

A Summer In Chicago

Name: Mollie Kemp
Class/Year: Class of 2016, Senior
Hometown: Clear Spring, Maryland
Location: Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
Internship: Animal Welfare Research Extern

Hey everybody! I'm back with another adventure, if you happened to read my blog last year. Anyway, welcome readers old and new :)

So this summer, I have been given the great opportunity to be an extern at the Brookfield Zoo/ Chicago Zoological Society. I was particularly thrilled about this because Brookfield is one of the premier zoos involved in the research field. I feel strongly that research should be a priority of zoos, so I was excited to have the opportunity to be working in zoo research. The Welfare department at Brookfield strives to use scientific approaches and research to find innovative ways to advance the welfare of the zoos animals, a noble goal indeed!

First off, moving to Chicago was an adventure! It's quite the bustling city, and during my time here I've got to do some really cool things: be in a city with a Stanley cup win, go to a Cubs game, go to the awesome museums here, go to the Lincoln Park Zoo, etc! I've really enjoyed getting to know another state and another place. Gotta love adventures! Also, I could be thankful enough for having a great place to stay while I'm here- shout out to the Rohls!

Okay, okay, so I guess I should talk about what you guys want to hear. Animals! The first day of our internship, Amanda Stilwell (recent Otterbein zoo major grad who is also interning with me) and I explored Brookfield. I immediately fell in love with the primate house in which it ACTUALLY RAINS everyday. Secondly, it's massive, so large that I looked around a 1/3 of it and just couldn't even imagine the amount of people it must take to clean the area. Regardless, it's very cool- and includes many species of primates, birds, and other creatures but highlights: a baby gibbon (aka me dying of cuteness overload- if you know me, you know how I much I absolutely love gibbons!), turacos (one of my favorite bird species) a baby orangutan, and an adorable baby Nora, who is a gorilla- and a very genetically important one at that. I often will stroll through this building on my way to my car after work. :)  It's been really fun getting to explore a new zoo- though admittedly, I could still get lost in Brookfield if I tried hard enough- it's laid out like a classic garden and thus very different than I am used to! 

So specifics on what I actually do everyday! Amanda and I were lucky enough to receive possibly the most adorable of all animals to study...the red panda!!! The red pandas at Brookfield are new to the collection, and were part of a new section called Wild Encounters that did not open until July 1st- so Amanda and I got to explore this area before it was open to the public. The red pandas are brother and sister, Wally and Beatrix, and they ADORABLE. I can't ever decide which one is cuter. Wally is much more regal in his appearance, but very handsome. Bee looks like she's a character out of a cartoon, and she's got a tuft of hair on her nose that makes it very easy to tell them apart. They are both just over a year old, and came from another AZA facility in Virginia. Their exhibit includes a massive computerized tree which helps to encourage natural foraging behaviors. See an awesome video about it here: Red Panda Tree!

The animal welfare department is interested in studying this project because despite the popularity of red pandas in zoos- very little is known about their behavior. We are looking to discover more about their behavior and what they typically spend their time doing, and what parts of their exhibit they utilize most often. To do this, Amanda and I use focal sampling with continuous recordings of event behaviors, and instantaneous recordings every minute of location and state. Amanda and I created our ethogram ourselves- and I think we both are proud of it! In the beginning of our internship, while we were testing reliability, (to insure we both score behaviors similarly and thus improves the strength of our research) Amanda and I watched practically every red panda video on youtube to do so. Many hours of adorable panda videos- it's a tough job but I guess someone has to do it... ;)  We spend Monday through Friday from 9-3 at the red panda exhibit, doing our behavior observations, switching off every hour and a half. On our off time, we work on the draft of the paper which will eventually include our data. So far, many of our days are filled with watching one of the cutest creatures ever- who can complain? 

Oh also, Amanda and I are officially legit (scroll down to interns): Research Team

Enjoy some photos from my adventures! 
My first pro sports game! What a cool stadium to experience- they won!

Beatrix eats (adorably, of course.)

Me and the baby Grevy's zebra. She was two days old here. We share a birthday. :)

I have decided the most majestic bird is officially the Harpy Eagle. It was insane. Brookfield has an awesome free bird show that has so many cool birds- and a lot of great conservation messages.

Also part of the bird show. I was lucky enough for Davidson the raven to come land on me twice and take some money back and forth, He was really cool, go corvids!

The river is quite beautiful as it runs through the city!

Buckingham Fountain!

The skyline! 

Lincoln Park Zoo- it was a smaller zoo, but I really enjoyed it- I was particularly impressed with their macaque exhibit, it's really pretty complex and interesting, and includes their own "hot spring" for the winter time.

Brookfield has some free range birds- guineas and peacocks- just look how adorable!

Pandas who nap together stay together.

Look at that face! Adorable!

Wally eats bamboo- he enjoys a challenge of trying to eat the stuff outside his exhibit- despite his multiple inside bamboo sources!

Using their tree!

Free ranging peacock! Took some getting used to their noises though.

View from under the umbrella: rain or shine, research goes on!

Thanks for reading!
Until next time,

We love our Chinese friends :)

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

This past Thursday was a fun day for us here at the panda base! First off, we got to collect our fecal samples that morning. After we gathered up all the poop, we went to the lab to actually see what happens to the red panda poop. There are two students at the panda base who are in charge of the rough extraction of the fecal samples. Their job includes a lot of labeling! They first record where our samples came from and from which panda, if there is glitter in their poop. Afterward, they label each bag with a secure name tag. Once all the bags are labeled, they place the samples in the freezer for a week. When they come out of the freezer, they will then go into a spinner, or a centrifuge, for another couple of days. The students will then take the samples and “destroy” them. They labeled more test tubes and placed each “destroyed” poop into the tubes. Not only were we able to observe them doing so, but we actually got to assist them with it! The students made us wear gowns, gloves, masks, and even hairnets! It was fun to play dress up for a bit. :P
In the afternoon, we finished the final touches on our enrichment. We rinsed off the pipes while James cut up a few apples. We placed the apple slices into the holes on the sides of the PVC pipes and wa-la! Our enrichment was complete! Macie and I ran to the front of the enclosure, where we recorded a video and an observation of the pandas when James put in the enrichment. There were so many people surrounding us, I was definitely sweating up a storm! The cubs seemed to like the enrichment though! They played with it for a bit and even the following day when we were observing them! Overall, I’d say it was pretty successful. :)
On Saturday, we went to Fei-Fei’s hometown to “go play outside.” Her hometown is called Luodai, and it just outside of the city of Chengdu. She told us it used to be a refuge for the Hakkanese people, a long time ago. Her grandfather traveled from the south part of China, near the sea, to Luodai and her family has been there ever since. We went to a shopping center where we got to play more dress up! Macie and I got to choosetraditional Chinese dresses and take pictures in them! I picked a blue dress because it looked the most like Elsa from Frozen (I guess I look like her). The photographer handed us a bunch of props to model with, my favorite being a guitar with no strings that I had to pretend to play. :P
After we ate a delicious lunch, we went to what Fei-Fei called “the mini Great Wall.” We climbed up a massive hill, which was treacherous due to it being ninety five degrees out (phew). At the top, there was a Buddhist Temple with of course a marvelous view. It was so quaint, compared to the busy city life we have grown accustomed too. Outside of the temple, there was a wall, where if you spun around three times and found the wall with your eyes closed, you were blessed for life. Thankfully, Macie and I both successfully found it, although it was a bit of a struggle. (;
The little wall was super cool! The view was again so beautiful. There were a bunch of people trying to sell us gifts throughout our walk along the wall. We took tons of pictures, including jumping ones! We even got Fei-Fei to take a super cute jumping picture of herself. :) We made it about a quarter or so of the way through the trek of the wall, before we heard thunder. It was time to head back! By the time we arrived at the car, it had started to sprinkle. Macie and I were very grateful that Fe-Fe invited us to her hometown. It was cool to see the difference between the city and the farm lands of China. We really appreciated it and had a blast! 
On Sunday, we went to our Chinese lesson. We learned different parts of the body, and now we are able to sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in Chinese! Eldora, our teacher, then treated us to a day of fun-filled adventures with her friends! We first went to a Buddha Temple where we ate delicious and traditional Chinese food. Eldora ordered us “sad jelly noodles” which is a type of rice noodle. It is referred to as sad because it makes people cry from the spice! We also had other delicious treats like “curd” which is a very sweet flan type food. My favorite was the “bang-bang-bang.” It is a sticky rice ball covered in flour, and dipped in a sweet sauce. When they make it, a man throws three balls into the flour, making a “bang” noise. I asked the guy if we could throw the balls into the flour, and he let Macie and I try! Needless to say, it’s harder than it looks. :P
After we ate and ate and ate, we went to the metro and hopped on over to the panda post. It is a store just outside of the subway stop, where a lot of tourists go. There you can choose a postcard and send it to your family! Macie and I decided we would do this for our families. Eldora told us the man said it could take up to a year to get to its final destination though, oops! Lily, Wu, Eldora, Macie, and I also took many pictures together as a memory of our day spent together! We each wrote messages to each other on the pictures, and put cute stamps on them. It is one of my favorite memories and souvenirs I will have here from Chengdu. (:
We said good-bye to Wu, because he was going back to his high school to meet his teacher. The four of us girls headed on over to the Sichuan Art Museum. Eldora told us there were four main pieces when it comes to Chinese Art. I don’t remember all of them, but the brush strokes utilized in the paintings was one we definitely saw within the art pieces at the museum. There were many artworks dealing with war and animals. We also saw a lot of calligraphy and Chinese writing. 
Next, we went to Tianfu Square where we were greeted by millions of little pandas! It was so much fun to pose with all of them! After a huge photo shoot with China’s national treasure, we went to Chunxi Road, a giant shopping center. Eldora told us there are three famous cities in China that are known for shopping: Hong Kong, Shanghai, and of course, Chengdu. She also told us that at the end of this year there will be a new Disney in Shanghai, and it will be the biggest one in the world! Just a heads up for whoever is thinking about coming to Chengdu next year. ;)
Finally, we arrived at the IFS building. There is a giant panda that scales the side of the building here. It was built by an American artist, who also built a giant blue bear in Denver. We went all the way up to the building to take pictures with the smiling panda. It was so beautiful at the top! Not only did we get to see the panda, but there were other several pieces of artwork there too! After another photo shoot, we headed down to the basement, where we explored the library. There were many Chinese books there, including books in English and several other languages. Lily and Eldora were excited to hear us talk about all the English books there. They even had said they saw the Notebook! 
As we headed home, it had started to rain. Thankfully, Lily got us an Uber (yes, they have that here) and we didn’t get too wet! We ended our day eating at a lovely restaurant near our home. Eldora and Lily ordered a large bowl filled with all kinds of vegetables. In the bowl there were also quail eggs, which I was very fond of. With our stomachs full we headed back to our hotel. Eldora wanted to give us one more treat though! She ordered us what she calls “pancakes.” Mine was filled with chocolate and vanilla cream and Macie got a potato and meat one. It was my favorite thing I have eaten in China so far. Overall, we had an awesome day. I loved exploring the city with Eldora and her friends. They are so much fun to be with, and very fluent in their English as well! :)

Macie and I extracting DNA from panda poop! :P

Yay for extraction :)
Posing with James in our new attire ;P

Making enrichment for the pandas! Working hard, or hardly working? ;D

Chen Jiu playing with our enrichment! He loved it. :)

View from the Little Great Wall!

Macie, Fei Fei, and me on the Little Great Wall!

Posing as Elsa (aka my twin) :P

Macie, Fei Fei, and I in her hometown!

Because did you really go to China if you didn't take a jumping pic?

Posing with Fei Fei :)

Delicious assortment of noodles we got with Eldora, Lily, and Wu

Sweet treats and dumplings we ate

Rose jello, another sweet treat, and more dumplings!

Tofu tasty treats!

Posing with the panda statues!

Lily, Eldora, me, Macie, and Wu at the Panda Post!

Me, Macie, Eldora, and Lily posing in front of the panda statue :)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Experiencing the traditions of China

Name: Macie Smith
Class Year: Senior
Hometown: Beavercreek, OH
Internship: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China

Kelly and I have had quite a busy week here in China! Last week we were able to build, clean, and provide enrichment for the one year old giant panda cubs. For this small project, we helped mark and drill holes in several sections of PVC pipe. After we ensured there were no sharp edges, everything was scrubbed, bleached, left out to dry, and rinsed again. Kelly and I placed cut up apple slices into the holes before James places the enrichment in the enclosure while we stood outside to observe and record their behavior. The cubs didn’t seem very interested in the apple slices but they still interacted with the enrichment for about 20 minutes of our 30 minute observation, so I think our first attempt at making enrichment went very well!

Our adventure of feeding apples with different colored glitter to the different red pandas continues on Monday and Wednesday afternoons followed by hunting for their glittery poop the next morning. James brought a microchip reader so we got to hand feed a few extra apple slices so the red pandas would stay near us long enough for the microchip reader to pick up the individual’s code. Kelly and I had a rough job that day, but it had to be done! After this, we met up with the students that are helping the veterinarian that is utilizing the poop samples for her study. We were able to help perform a rough extraction on the poop samples we had collected a few weeks ago, which had already been dried and frozen. It was a stinky job so the students brought out a lot of personal protective items for us to put on; Kelly and I couldn’t pass up the photo opportunity!

Over the weekend we had a more true, not-so-touristy Chinese experience! One of the interns we share a lab with, Fei Fei, invited us to visit her home town. We did not realize how far away this would be from the city of Chengdu but we actually saw farmland on the metro ride over and it was a beautiful change in scenery! Fei Fei took us to a traditional street filled with shops and places to eat. Kelly and I were even able to play dress-up with traditional Chinese clothing, which was a lot of fun!

After a traditional lunch of a sort of “sour fish” hot pot, Fei Fei took us to the Golden Dragon Temple and to what she called the “mini Great Wall!” Apparently, at the Golden Dragon Temple, if you close your eyes, spin five times, and touch the golden letters, you may be blessed for life.

The following day, ElDora, the girl who has been kind enough to try and teach Kelly and I Chinese, took us around Chengdu so we could experience the daily life of a person in Chengdu. After our Chinese lesson, we went with ElDora and her two friends near Wenshu Monastery to try several different traditional Chinese dishes, all of which were actually very delicious! We were even able to help make what translates into “glutinous rice cake” and are like sticky rice balls that are thrown onto a drum and bounce into a powder that I’m pretty sure we were told was sesame and then drizzled with a sauce. Kelly and I were very excited that they let us throw these rice balls on the drum!

  After this we went to the Panda Post where Kelly and I wrote post cards to our families and we all took pictures and wrote small messages to each other on them. We then went to the Sichuan Art Museum and on our way to Chunxi Road (a big shopping area) we passed a section of the sidewalk with a ton of giant panda statues; another photo opp we just couldn’t miss.

We proceeded to the IFS shopping area to see a sculpture of a giant panda (which was made by an American artist) and a giant book store! LeDora took us to have a traditional dinner and a pancake-like snack afterwards. The food here is definitely different than what we have at home but everything we had this weekend was delicious! I’m so happy to have met such kind people to show Kelly and I around the area and help us have a more traditional Chinese experience!