So You Want To Be An Anthropologist pt. 2

Lessons this week were kinda crap. I don’t really want to talk about it. I think I’m in one of those riding funks. It’s making me pout and I hope that it passes fast! So instead you get stuck with a post about a portion of my life outside of riding. Or if you’re not feeling it just enjoy the pictures.

A very brief synopsis (or you could read pt. 1): I went back to school (part-time) in 2008, fell in love with anthropology, went on a dig in Hungary and found lots of fossils dated to about 10 million years ago. That brings us to 2012 and the start of my focus on living primates.

Sunset Amazon Rainforest Peru

Macaws at sunset Amazon Rainforest Peru

Fossil primates are fun an all but I don’t think that I have the brain for it. Take for instance my professors site in Hungary. He’s come up with this whole elaborate idea of how/why there came to be such a rich deposit of fossils in the area.

At the time of our dig he was thinking that it was a swamp type area that had a flooding event. Everything got washed into the dig site just so… You need to understand so many things to be able to come up with a 10 million year old story. It’s doable, I’m just not sure it’s doable for me.

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest

And then there’s the fact that it takes him about 2 seconds to identify the kind of animal the fossil is from. This one at least seems a little easier to me. If you see x number of suid teeth eventually you’re going to recognize it for what it is. But how do you make a career on that. I’m sure it’s out there but it’s probably also a pretty competitive field.

Cloud Forest Orchids

Cloud Forest orchids

In 2013 I went on another field school. This time it was to Peru. The cloud forest and lower Amazon basin to look at diversity.

Cloud Forest Lichen

Cloud Forest lichen

It wasn’t specifically an anthropology course and the independent study I did was on beetles not primates (side note: I also LOVE beetles).

Leaf Beetle Lower Amazon Basin

leaf beetle Lower Amazon Basin

IMG_1358

Cloud Forest Beetle

Cloud Forest beetle

IMG_1266

But my time in the forest (surrounded by monkeys most of the time) coupled with the living primate courses I’ve taken got me hooked on a whole new (to me) area of study.

squirrel monkey

squirrel monkey

Behaviour and conservation.

Cloud Forest stars

Cloud Forest night sky

Looking at the way extant primates live and behave to help explain how our distant ancestors may have lived/behaved. And in turn try to explain different evolutionary traits (ex. Opposable thumbs).

Amazon Basin hummingbird

Amazon Basin hummingbird

I’m personally not interested in applying my study findings to extinct fossils. I’m much more interested in working out how monkeys and apes live today and also the conservation of them and their habitats.

Amazon Basin giant otter

Amazon Basin giant otter

A daunting task believe me. You want nightmares google search “the problem with palm oil and orangutans” and then search “products that contain palm oil”. It’s a very sad losing battle.

Amazon Basin termites

Amazon Basin termites

But that’s where my heart is. I just need to figure out how to make conservation and behavioural studies a career in the least life altering way.

Amazon Basin capybara

Amazon Basin capybara

Which brings me to primates in captivity. I’m not going to even touch primates as pets other than to say IT’S WRONG! SO SO WRONG!

Amazon Basin hoatzin

Amazon Basin hoatzin

My stance on zoos is a little more of a grey area. It would be nice if all those animals could be in their natural habitats. It would be nice if their habitats weren’t being destroyed.

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest

I don’t like it but I think that zoos are a necessary evil for the conservation cause. Unfortunately the majority of people need to see something before they’ll care about it. And if one captive primate (or any animal) causes someone to give a shit enough that it saves a wild population then it’s worth it. Or if a zoo is part of a breading program and is able to release back to the wild, again it’s worth it.

emperor tamarin

emperor tamarin Amazon Basin

emperor tamarin

emperor tamarin Amazon Basin

I’d like to be able to improve the lives of captive animals/primates. By studying the behaviour of captive populations and comparing that to wild populations I hope to be able to recommend improvements to quality of life.

saddleback tamarin

saddleback tamarin Amazon Basin

Inappropriate captive enclosures (as well as other things but let’s keep it simple) cause stress which is displayed as abnormal behaviours (higher levels of aggression, self-mutilation, etc.). If I can help mitigate these abnormalities I’d be happy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all doom and gloom. More and more people are catching on to this way of thinking. Take a look at the Kansas City Zoo’s new orangutan exhibit for example.

squirrel monkey

squirrel monkey Amazon Basin

There’s a long way to go and many more that need help. Hopefully I can add my voice to the cause. But most likely I’ll stay in my comfortable little bubble and watch on the sidelines while others do studies and make changes. I’d love to make it work but but I’m starting to feel like my time has passed. I’m 30+, I have responsibilities, a mortgage, a horse that I won’t give up. We’ll see what the future holds though. Never say never!

squirrel monkey

squirrel monkey Amazon Basin

Ok so that was a little more preachy and a lot longer then I intended. Sorry.IMG_2142

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5 Responses to So You Want To Be An Anthropologist pt. 2

  1. Very interesting post. Conservation is so so important. I’m conflicted on zoos as well but like you said if they help to get people to care about different species then they are worth it. I hope you get to live your dream!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. emma says:

    first of all, your photos are gorgeous! secondly, really great points and insights all around. i tend to be pretty ok with zoos and the AZA in general, but can see where you’re coming from and that a continued focus on creating the best possible mock habitats is critical

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin says:

      Thank you! That was a great trip.
      There seems to be a fine line with zoos updating and making exhibits better for existing animals and bringing in new ones to keep public interest. I can see how it would be hard to balance sometimes. There’s definitely room for improvement.

      Like

  3. Pingback: The Story So Far ~ One Year of Blogging! | The Story So Far

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