Now passing the halfway point of my time here at Paignton zoo, I’ve switched to becoming almost completely independent in the work I’m doing. From the start, the general idea was that I would have two weeks of training with the project leader, followed by two/ three weeks of unsupervised work. The overall project itself is now in its third phase. Now that the ‘before’ and ‘during’ data has been collected over the year for the primate’s probiotic treatment it’s time to analyse some of the possible lasting health benefits in the ‘after’ stage. Excitingly, early data analysis is looking good already. For my remaining time here I’ll be continuing to assemble behavioural, faecal and food intake data ready for the end of the project.
With this new independence I’ve had to now create my own timetable, somehow mixing and matching 20 half-hour slots of behavioural observation over each week (I’ve given myself an early finish on Friday, naturally). I also now have to organise myself in the mornings as I weigh out the morning and afternoon food for the day, prepare desiccation pots, collect leftover food from the enclosure and complete faecal scoring. The process can be confusing at times, especially remembering what food is kept where and timing everything correctly in order to catch the food between it being prepared and given out. Encouragingly, I feel like I’m slowly becoming more confident in the work I’m doing here and also learning a lot. My behavioural observation sessions in particular are becoming much easier as I now know what to expect from each of the individual primates, allowing me to record their behaviour consistently and accurately.
I’ve also now been told that my research group has been able to find a post-graduate student to replace me when I leave. This came as really good news as it means that I will no longer need to squish in 3 species worth of work per week in order to finish the project before having to return to London. I’m looking forward to meeting this new student, despite being a little nervous about training them on procedures I’ve only just completely come to grips with myself…
I mentioned in my first blog post how I wanted to practice some photography whilst I’m here. I was also originally planning to record some footage and interviews for a short documentary video but one broken shotgun microphone later the plan had to be scrapped. However, through my supervisor, I have managed to get in contact with the Zoo’s media department and have emailed them a few images for them to hopefully use on their website, so here’s hoping that goes well! As for the near future, I’m hoping to get some even better snaps of the adorable Goeldi monkeys and Emperor Tamarins as I return to working within their enclosures each morning next week.
I’m looking forward to the final stretch of my time here and will be sad to go when the time comes. The entirety of my experience so far has been absolutely wonderful and a great opportunity for me to gain experience whilst enjoying some of the great treasures the south west of England has to offer.