March 9, 2012 Bridget
In addition to the research on predators and on samango monkeys, there is some other really exciting research going on at Lajuma, such as Pete Tomlin’s PhD project entitled The ontogeny of sociality and referential communication in non-human primates. Pete and his crack team of baboon-botherers work long hours following baboons from dawn till dusk (there’s a good film in there somewhere) over mountains, through thorn bushes, and wherever the monkeys may take them, in order to record their social behaviour. Thirty thee percent of that squad is Bridget.
Introducing Bridget: Bridget is very excited to be working with Pete on his research, and has already taken quite a liking to the cheeky monkeys. She is studying for her Masters in Psychology and Animal Behaviour and Conservation at Hunter College in New York City. She chose the program because it is a very unique and specialized program of study that incorporates conservation into animal behaviour studies, and it is affiliated with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.
She gained experience working with non-human primates when she participated in behavioural research on reciprocal altruism with the capuchin monkeys in the Yale University Comparative Cognition Laboratory under Dr Laurie Santos and is interested in the comparative social cognition of humans, non-human primates and canids with a special interest in the African wild dogs.
Her interest in the African wild dogs led her to do research with the African Wild Dog Conservation Organization (now the Zambian Carnivore Programme) in the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia, where she participated in a Predator and Prey Survey, which included counting hundreds upon hundreds of impala and playing the sounds of hyenas and squealing pigs in the middle of the night to attract carnivores so as to count them. As a result, her ears have yet to recover from the horrendous sounds, and she has decided that she could live the rest of her life, happily, without ever seeing an impala again.
She comes to us from Brooklyn, New York and claims to be a city girl, but she is enjoying getting down and dirty in our African forests in Lajuma and has found the baboons to be quite similar to her fellow New Yorkers. In her former life, she studied film at New York University and made documentary films and a children’s film about dogs using dog behaviours to teach children about communication, conflict resolution, sociality and cooperation, and she hopes to continue making children’s films using other species’ social behaviours to teach kids as well.