Me and my boy Sir Bob up at the cable car group on the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.
The collars are simply looking fabulous deployed - the macaques are rocking some new bling this week to track their group home ranges and dailying ranging patterns. The collars track the monkeys every 30 minutes during the day and ever 2 hours overnight through July when we will trigger their drop off mechanisms.
With the purple and teal (and also below with the yearling is Savannah, a beautiful young adult female. Savannah was the first monkey up at Ape’s Den this morning.
Next is a young one re-enacting King Kong with a toy he’s found or snatched.
Finally we have Tessa from the Ape Management team here in Gibraltar with Darcy, the Prince Phillip’s Arch troop at the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.
What a great day to collar monkeys! Yesterday it poured rain all night long - we were also treated to a late night cat fight, a medley of birds including a cacophony of roosters. While we successfully deployed the first camera collar, we were down a vet due to a missed flight and decided to wait before collaring any further.
Last night, however, we slept like babies and woke up to sunshine and a full trapping team! Today we go out in the hopes of catching a few dozen monkeys and collaring 6 today.
From the top - me with a fluffy pile of monkeys. I’m testing out the remote data download on our collars with my advisor, Agustin Fuentes.
My favorite picture of a lady and her orange.
Greg Marshall and Agustin Fuentes monitoring Sylvia the macaque in Anglian Way post-release. We’re up above at St. Michael’s Cave Cafe.
A beautiful scenic view across the bay into Spain with the monkeys of apes den.
Greg Marshall of Nat Geo filming the first camera collar fitting in the vet clinic at Bruce’s Farm. Look - we made the news! http://www.chronicle.gi/headlines_details.php?id=28657
My GPS collar kit - all the weird odds and ends I need to secure the collar and antennae.
Agustin Fuentes and Eric Shaw of Gibraltar’s Helping Hand Trust being dutifully followed by Cody, our fierce guard dog (kidding!) and resident field pup.
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Provisioning and raiding isn’t unique to Singapore macaque populations. Here are the Barbary macaques (also known as the Barbary Apes - they are, however, monkeys who happen to lack a traditional monkey tail). I’m here doing some GPS collaring work in collaboration with the government and getting some footage with Nat Geo.
Besides working with a truly amazing and ragtag team, I’m getting loads of great human-macaque interface images that really characterize these urban environments. I’m told the monkeys even occasionally hop on top of the cable cars to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar and ride down into downtown - talk about dispersal!
The images above show a youngster enjoying the mini Cadbury Cream Eggs he was given by the white car (illegal provisioning)… pretty much how I eat those too! A few monkeys hitching a free ride on a taxi taking tourists up the rock. Finally, there’s a group of macaques ‘foraging’ on their provisioned peanuts thrown down the side of the rock (legal & part of the management program)
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From People.com: An orangutan at a private zoo in Bangkok, Thailand uses a soda can (filled with water) to rehydrate himself.
*Personally I am very glad to see they are not giving this little guy Coca-Cola, though it is not an uncommon sight to see the macaques of Singapore stealing sodas from the trash or walkers-by!
Kuala Lumpur is another great example of monkeys that interface heavily with humans at the tourist attraction and temples of the Batu Caves
What you up to monkey?
O nothing… just eating my chips
Right in front of my eyes this cheeky monkey just grabbed the bag from someone, sat down and opened it himself.
Thought I’d share a picture from the depths of the lab (plus all the other folks who go work on the genetics and parasite portions of the project!). I’m training the group to do DNA extractions from feces. We get genetic material from the intestinal skin cells that stick to the outside of the monkey poop. Gross, I know, but hey, it works (mostly) and is a completely non-invasive way of sampling DNA so no monkeys have to give up their blood or tissue.
Front and center is Maggie with Julia peeking out from behind her and David in the back left (all three are Notre Dame seniors). Justin is in the back right, he’s the other graduate student in my lab spearheading the parasite survey and population genetics work on Blastocystis, a gut protozoan found commonly in the macaques. In front of Justin is June, the lab’s newest member (a Notre Dame freshman) who will be working on the project over the coming years. I believe Liz is taking the photo (a Notre Dame junior) who will be carrying out some chemical composition analysis of diet that will complement Anne’s work on feeding ecology.
This should give you an idea of the breadth of this project - frankly, it’s huge! But ultimately it should give us a pretty killer dataset to work with.
The bottom left image is what typical day of poop collecting looks like for me - gloves on, permit on my lanyard, and sample bag hanging off my shoulder. The bottom right shows what happens when a large male monkey decides that your sample bag is his - you give it to him and wait until he checks out each test tube and gets bored. Sometimes the police drive by slowly and give you a really confused look. Eventually you recover your bag, shredded ice packs and all, and promptly wipe it down with disinfectant. True story.
(top) Non-specific amplification; (bottom left) Specific amplification; (bottom right) Barbary macaque on Gibraltar - photo credit
So the past several months I’ve been off grid working on my genetics project down in lab. To give you an idea of what that means - the top image is what we call non-specific amplification when working with DNA. To figure out how closely related the macaques are to each other I look at microsatellites which a short repetitive regions of DNA that have high variation. In order to tell if my genetics labwork is effective, I run my samples out on a gel (top & bottom left images). The top picture shows that completely random pieces of DNA are being amplified and that I haven’t isolated a specific microsatellite. The bottom gel picture shows a breakthrough many months in the making! There are individual bands in each lane - showing that I isolated a specific piece of DNA! While that may seem ultra boring - it is essential to uncovering the genetic relationships between these monkeys - so now I have many hours of labwork ahead of me!
On a more exciting & less technical note - I’m shipping out to Gibraltar at the end of March! I look forward to sharing images from that trip of much fuzzier, larger monkeys called Barbary Macaques. I’ll be working with some folks at National Geographic in their Crittercam unit to test out some camera collars on the macaques there in addition to deploying GPS collars for a preliminary, 6-month long ranging study for 3 of the social groups. Much like Singapore, the Gibraltar macaques are not without their own management controversy. I’m incredibly excited for the opportunity to work with these monkeys along with an exceptional team of scientists. Hopefully our work will be contributing to a sustainable future for these monkeys and the residents & tourists of this incredible city!
Photoset with 3 notes
Here I present what I think of as the endangered species of lab equipment - the VERY LAST replacement latch in existence for our VERY old, discontinued Techne Genius thermalcycler. This an important point for anyone starting their graduate career and working to fund their project. This part cost roughly $54 dollars - a new thermalcycler runs for several thousand $$s (thermalcyclers are necessary for running Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR) to amplify DNA - see this magnificent video for a fun and fast rundown of PCR http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5yPkxCLads).
My lab has 3 thermalcyclers, each with a name (for the purposes of signing up for usage rights) - this Techne Genius has been dubbed Achilles after my first collar field test (seen sporting his swag collar above).
Let’s get into some of the “behind the scenes” lab elements of our work. To inform management plans we hope to get an broad sweep of the genetic diversity for the macaques across Singapore. From there on, we want to look more specifically at how genetically diverse different populations and social groups are. That’s probably enough for now - more later.
First and foremost, my apologies for the delays in posts - my computer was filled with the oodles and oodles of pictures I’ve acquired over my three field seasons in Singapore and I’m still in the process of reorganizing my photo library. Additionally, I’ve been pretty under the weather, so that hasn’t expedited the process.
On that vein, let’s talk about working in a tropical site! You get a particular variable (rain!) that can seriously confound your ability to collect samples (both poop and behavioral - monkeys like to hunker down and wait out the rain!). Here are a few images to show you just some of the many torrential downpours encountered on this and other field seasons.
This leads me to another important point, it’s always very crucial to have waterproof bags (kayak bags) and ziplocks to protect your electronics (especially when you are taking data on them!). Ponchos are highly advisable as well. Moreover, if you are tracking, be cognizant of when a storm is rolling in so that you aren’t caught in the forest holding a metal antennae (aka lightning rod!).
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