Mi nombre es María del Mar Zayas, actualmente estoy culminando mi bachillerato en biología integrativa en la Universidad de Puerto Rico, recinto de Río Piedras y mi próximo objetivo es ir a Escuela de Veterinaria para luego especializarme en animales salvajes. Mi pasión por la vida silvestre nació cuando visité un zoológico por primera vez, pero se desarrolló en el Centro de Investigación de Primates del Caribe, donde trabajo con primates de la especie Macaca mulatta. La oportunidad de trabajar en su clínica veterinaria, el laboratorio de virología, el laboratorio de necropsia, trabajar con su enriquecimiento ambiental, sus huesos, aprender de su morfología y conocer su comportamiento y jerarquía social me ha dejado con ganas de más. Comencé a trabajar en el CPRC en marzo de 2018 como asistente de investigación en el laboratorio de necropsia, la clínica veterinaria y también en el área de enriquecimiento de animales. Trabajé principalmente en el laboratorio asistiendo en necropsias, ayudando con la recolección de tejidos y la preparación de osamentas para el museo. En mi rotación por la clínica veterinaria, algunos de mis deberes consistieron en ayudar a los veterinarios y a los tecnólogos en rutinas, cirugías, rondas y otros procesos con los monos, así como ayudar con la preparación de los tratamientos para los animales. Una de las cosas más interesantes que aprendí es el proceso de maceración de los monos, comenzando con el cadáver completo, hasta terminar con el “set” de huesos ya limpios, tratados y empacadosde individualmente para nuestra colección de osamentas de nuestro museo. También aprendí a administrar fluídos tanto subcutaneo como intravenoso, extraer sangre, limpiar heridas y recolectar tejidos, entre otras actividades. Definitivamente siento que esta experiencia me ha preparado para los rigores de la escuela de veterinaria. Esta es una institución muy formal, y está estrictamente regulada no solo para protegernos de las enfermedades que estos animales pueden transmitir, sino también mas que todo por la seguridad de los mismos animales. Al igual que en la Escuela de Veterinaria, tenemos que seguir muchas regulaciones y protocolos; no solo porque estamos trabajando con la salud, sino también porque estamos trabajando con animales salvajes que pueden ser realmente agresivos. No son mascotas. Esta experiencia no solo me enseñó múltiples habilidades y conocimiento, sino que me preparó para cualquier cosa en el campo. Por lo tanto, sin duda alguna recomiendo esta oportunidad a las personas interesadas en trabajar con animales, profesiones de salud o cualquier persona involucrada en estudios que tengan su base en ciencias biológicas o naturales.
-- Maria del Mar Zayas
My name is Ana Ramos-Bartolomei. My internship opportunity at the Caribbean Primate Research Center was an invaluable experience. I was assigned to different areas of the Center, which helped me acquire a working knowledge of captive rhesus macaque care. I improved my practical veterinary skills by learning to collect blood samples, vaccine and IV fluid administration, and the care of macaque patients. I was also able to help prepare and offer the monkeys' daily treatments. I shadowed at the Necropsy Division, where I observed animal necropsies and learned about macaque anatomy. I participated in the cleaning and organizing of bones into skeleton sets. This experience allowed me to see first-hand the morphological and physiological similarities between rhesus macaques and humans. I was also assigned to the Behavioral Enrichment Department, which helped me acquire the working knowledge about putting forth protocols to promote the health and well-being of animals intended for research. Finally, I visited Cayo Santiago, where I walked amidst the free-ranging colony of wild macaques and saw them in a semi-natural habitat. All in all, I relished my time at CPRC. The experience helped me acquire practical skills in veterinary medicine and contributed to my interest in research in animal science. In addition, it opened my eyes to the breadth of possibilities within the profession and the vast impact the CPRC has on our knowledge of animal, human, and environmental health. I encourage anyone interested in animal science research to make the most of this opportunity.
-- Ana Ramos, Georgetown University
My name is Natalia S. Babilonia. I am an undergraduate student from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. I participated as a volunteer/student in the Caribbean Primate Research Center during my second year of college, in order to gain research experience and insight into the work at the CPRC. I chose CPRC because their research matches with my academic interests in the veterinary field.
I was assigned to volunteer at the Sabana Seca Field Station. It was a new experience for me to work in primate laboratory setting. During my time in this field station, I was able to learn about macaque physiology and anatomy. I also participated in behavioral research and
learned about patterns of macaque behavior. In addition, I also helped in the day-to-day task of preparing food and treats for the monkeys and learned basic laboratory techniques and veterinary care.
I also visited the free-ranging colony of macaques in Cayo Santiago. It was an amazing experience to walk beside so many primates and explore the small island. Researchers on the island were also doing behavioral observation. This visit gave me a fuller understand
ing of the work done in CPRC and about primates in general.
During the summer, I continued working at Sabana Seca as a student assistant. I was assigned in the Necropsy Area, where I assisted in the collection of tissues, necropsy, and bone curation and conservation. I also learned also about the different pathologies, parasites, diseases, and health conditions of the primates.
It was gratifying to get a first-hand look in the care of non-human primates at CPRC. I am very thankful for this experience and wish to use everything I learned in my career path to Veterinary Medicine.
-- Natalia S. Babilonia , University of Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras Campus
My name is Ambar Rodriguez, a senior BS Biology student at the University of Puerto Rico- Mayaguez Campus. My time at the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC) was my first research experience outside of the classroom lab. I had the opportunity of collaborating with Ms. Carla Escabi on her thesis investigation on Gastrointestinal Parasitology.
This experience allowed me to work with minimum supervision in a laboratory work environment, where I developed my laboratory skills and techniques. As an undergraduate, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn how research with nonhuman primates are conducted at CPRC. I helped in the laboratory in all aspects--including assisting in routine vaccinations, health checkups, and other veterinary procedures. The veterinary care and procedure in the Center reinforced my conviction to study medicine. Even if a medical degree pertains to humans, the clinical methods used with NHPs is similar to that in the medical field. For example, clinical trials with NHPs are essential for the development of human medical treatments.
I also visited Cayo Santiago Island before the devastation of hurricane Maria and did fieldwork. It was interesting to observe macaque interaction set in an environment almost similar to that in the wild. I am impressed at the impact of this small island of monkeys on the field of behavioral research within the sciences.
The year I spent as a volunteer student strengthened my student portfolio. The experience allowed me to participate in an exchange program for a semester at Cornell University and a summer research program at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute. I advice any student to volunteer and help with their researches. You will not regret the knowledge and skills that the Center is willing to impart. This will help you understand better how real science works and will be a useful guide to your future academic and career choices.
--Ambar Rodriguez, University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez Campus
Mi experiencia trabajando en Cayo Santiago
Todos los días nos reuníamos en el puerto de Punta Santiago a la 5:00 am . A esa hora salía la lancha para la hermosa islita de Cayo Santiago, o como algunos la conocen ‘La isla de los monos’. Para mi, esta experiencia fue inolvidable. Yo y dos estudiantes más, fuimos ayudantes de la doctora Angelina Ruiz Lambides.
El objetivo de nuestro trabajo se centró en observar a ciertos grupos de macacos. Teníamos que estudiar el comportamiento de ellos durante su etapa de reproducción y cómo sus interacciones podían afectar o beneficiar su status dominante.
A mi me tocó dos grupos, los cuales se movían de lugar constantemente. Las primeras semanas fueron frustrantes. Parecía un juego de "hide-seek". Al principio todos los monos se parecían y era difícil poder distinguirlos.
Sin embargo, con el tiempo y la ayuda de los otros investigadores en el área, se logró. Recuerdo la felicidad que sentí. El miedo de que algún macaco me mordiera se fue, caminar toda la isla varias veces en un mismo día se hacía cada vez más fácil y placentero, y hasta mi grupo de macacos ya se familiarizaba conmigo. Como si yo formara parte de su grupo también. Fue muy gracioso y divertido. Al segundo mes, ya sabíamos distinguir a los macacos desde lejos.
Con esta experiencia no solo gané conocimiento, sino también amistades.
--Licia R. Garcia Vergara, University of Puerto Rico
To sum up my placement year, I thoroughly enjoyed my year working for the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC). I feel extremely privileged to have acquired valuable experience at such a unique and prestigious primate research centre, where many groundbreaking studies have taken place. Not a single day of work was the same, which was very motivating and kept the job exciting.
Furthermore, I was able to experience every aspect of work at the research centre: caretaking by assisting with general maintenance of the island; collecting census data on populations, social groups, mortality and births; and conducting research on the field and assisting in the laboratory. I also had the chance to experience all the different seasons that the island has to offer and interact with the macaques first hand in a semi-natural environment. I assisted in trapping monkeys for tattooing and the gathering of genetic and morphological data. I also observed the macaques during the mating season while collecting dominance and behavioural data.
I was fascinated and intrigued by the changes in macaque behaviour in various phases of their reproductive cycle. Additionally, the experience of being able to learn and recognise individual macaques by their unique features is very satisfying, since every macaque looked identical when I first arrived on the island. By telling the macaques apart, I could really get to know the behaviours of individual monkeys and get acquainted with every macaques’ unique personalities, making my focal follows very engaging.
I believe that I was able to perform all that was asked for on my learning agreement as well as my own personal goals. Taking a placement has enabled me to apply my own knowledge and what I have learned in university on field work and real life scenarios. Equally, I have learned in terms of knowledge in general, especially on behaviour and field techniques, which I have been able to apply and has benefited me over my final year as an undergraduate. I was also very fortunate to have permission in using behavioural and dominance data that I observed and collected for the CPRC to be used for my final year research project.
One of the most important reasons for me in taking a year out of education to do a placement year, apart from the experience, was the chance to meet likeminded people, researchers, and scientists alike in a zoological field of work, therefore allowing me to build friendships and contacts. Having close friends and a wide range of contacts in what may be my chosen career path could be very beneficial to me in the future. This also gave me knowledge and good personal insight into what jobs are available. I have become friends with many researchers and CPRC employees. All the employees at the CPRC were very welcoming when I first arrived in Puerto Rico and started working for the CPRC. They have been very helpful throughout my time in Puerto Rico. I am grateful for all the help I have received working at the CPRC and to be part of the team. The placement has helped me develop my own teamwork and interpersonal skills, which hopefully have made me a more rounded and attractive candidate for a future job. I have also been able to learn a bit of Spanish during my time in Puerto Rico with the help of the employees as well as the friends I have made, which was one of my goals I set for myself prior to the placement.
My current career plan is to pursue a job as a professional field assistant at different field sites around the world. I believe that I have strengthened my CV and improved my job opportunities tremendously after having done a placement at the Caribbean Primate Research Center.
--Glenn Pritchard, Liverpool John Moores University
My name is Adrianna Rivera, a University of Puerto Rico undergraduate student, currently completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Cellular and Molecular Science. On my third year in college, I volunteered at the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC) to participate in researches involving animals.
While at CPRC, I was able to explore my interest in physiology and veterinary medicine. I participated in various activities involving the collection and preparation of tissue samples; learned about the proper management and handling of primates; shadowed anthropologists and veterinarians during daily procedures; visited Cayo Santiago; and provided assistance in food and treatment preparations for housed primates.
All of these experiences were essential in my formation as an undergraduate student. My time at CPRC helped me understand the behavior of other primate species, how their bodies function, and how this knowledge is applicable to the understanding of our own social interactions, physiology, and anatomy. It also helped me engage in practical and interactive activities that resonate with the theory learned in academic classes—a process I deem necessary to develop critical thinking skills and professional and personal growth.
I also learned about parasites that can potentially affect human and nonhuman primates, while working on an ongoing research project at CPRC. With this experience, I hope to pursue a graduate degree and become an expert in immunology.
--Adrianna Rivera, University of Puerto Rico