Meet Sara Lucci- our newest DANTAism blogger
My mom started working at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium when I was ten years old. She works in the administration building, so she didn’t have the kind of frequent contact with animals you would expect. But with her encouragement I started volunteering in the summer ZooAide program. In the following years, I would continue to work at the zoo as a volunteer, employee, and intern. My first significant interactions with primates took place during the internship at the zoo’s Congo Expedition region, where I learned about care for colobus, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, and mandrills. In the summer after, I spent six weeks in Rwanda with Partners in Conservation, a group started by Columbus Zoo docents and a gorilla keeper that supports both conservation and humanitarian projects in Central Africa. It was in Rwanda that I first encountered wild chimpanzees and gorillas, and learned about the research being done with them.
The zoo made me fall in love with animals, especially primates, and the research done with them. But I really wanted a chance to work outside of the zoo, and that’s why I went to Costa Rica for DANTA’s Primate Research and Conservation Field Class. While the zoo was full of familiar people and animals, my time at the Osa Conservation’s Piro Research Station was utterly new and spent with basically complete strangers. Even on my trip to Rwanda, we mostly stayed in hotels and I just sat in meetings to take notes. At Osa, we stayed in open-air research cabins and I hiked through the forest for brief glimpses of spider monkeys to scribble data on my notebook.
The field school was a completely exhausting, terrifying, riveting experience. But I think it was important that I have experiences outside of the zoo and learn about research and conservation from different perspectives. The field school instructor, Kim, helped me narrow down my interests to primate infant development and possible environmental effects on it. With her help I created a project that I presented at several conferences and gave me the confidence to apply to graduate programs in primate research.
I recently graduated from Ohio State University with a major in Zoology and minors in Physical Anthropology and Molecular Genetics. In the fall I will start working towards a Master’s degree in Anthropology at Hunter College in the City University of New York. I hope that my research will aide zoos in creating conditions for primates as close to the wild as possible.