Editor’s Note: New College News has featured ISPs throughout the month of January. Next month it will publish a photo gallery highlighting additional projects. If you would like to be featured, please submit a photo and brief description of the ISP to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, Feb. 4, 2019.
By Derek Devine
Maya Greenberg spent her independent study project season living in what seemed like a rainforest in Madagascar as she observed the well-being of lemurs.
After connecting with an alum, Greenberg, a third-year student studying psychology and sociology, discovered the Lemur Conservation Foundation located in Myakka City, Florida. As an aspiring primatologist, finding a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and conservation of primates made for a great ISP research opportunity.
“When I started I didn’t know anything about lemurs which made my research even more fascinating,” says Greenberg. “The majority of lemurs call Madagascar home, so to have this opportunity only an hour from campus was amazing.”
Outside of a yearly open house, the Lemur Conservation Foundation is not open to the public, but Greenberg was able to live on site in a researcher’s house so she could have immediate access to the 100-acre lemur reserve. This gave her the opportunity to work hands-on with the full-time staff and be totally immersed within the environment.
“To have direct access to study the lemurs was incredible,” says Greenberg. “Some of the lemurs are free-ranging so when if I was in the open forest they would even come and sit right next to me.”
Greenberg’s job was to develop a welfare assessment program to collect data on the lemur’s psychological and physical well-being. She observed them and researched what kind of behaviors were indicators of positive or negative welfare and compiled all of this data to develop an ethogram for the organization.
What Greenberg loved the most was the primate’s quirky and unique personality. For example, lemurs are known to be avid sunbathers, making Florida a perfect second home to approximately one third of the world’s remaining mongoose lemurs.
Though ISP season is over, Greenberg plans to stay involved and continue to support the Lemur Conservation Foundation in some capacity. She also encourages other students with similar interests to take advantage of this opportunity in the future.
“The organization is always looking for quality help, especially with its connection with New College” says Greenberg. “You really get a hands-on experience and gain a lot of independence working so close to the animals.”
Besides, where else can you find lemurs unless you travel abroad to Madagascar?
“People should be paying attention to lemurs because they are so quirky and cool,” says Greenberg. “They are basically in our backyard and we need to help save them!”
With each new ISP experience, Greenberg continues to make lifelong connections that lead to future ideas and opportunities. She believes it is what makes her undergraduate experience so unique.
“New College gives you the ability to decide what you want to do for an ISP on your own,” says Greenberg. “To have a month dedicated to personalized research is not something you will find many places.”
For more information on the Lemur Conservation Foundation visit: https://www.lemurreserve.org/
— Derek Devine is the social media manager at New College of Florida.