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Saturday, June 25, 2011


This has been an excellent week in terms of preparation for leaving.

First and most excitingly, I've bought my plane tickets!!! I had been keeping an eye on a set of tickets that looked promising (only one layover each way, correct dates and pretty good times....) and suddenly they dropped in price by about $300! So I snapped them up. It was pretty scary spending that much money at once, and on something that's basically not refundable, but so exciting to be officially going! I'll be leaving on August 30th and returning on May 22nd - nearly 9 months of monkey-time for me! I still need to get tickets for my field assistant Ali, who will be joining me in Ethiopia about a week after I arrive. I have a lot of logistics sort of stuff to take care of in Addis - getting a driver's license, which (from what I understand) requires me to first get a resident's permit, which needs a business visa authenticated by the government, which in turn needs a letter of support signed and stamped by the Wildlife Conservation Authority and the Embassy! So while Ali is spending a few days at Burning Man, I will be running around Addis with Tariku, a friend of the project, getting all my paperwork signed, stamped, authenticated, paid for, issued and re-issued until I emerge with residency and driving information in hand (and a much lighter wallet in my pocket)! This multi-day adventure is called The Ferenji (white foreigner) Olympics, and is a rite-of-passage of sorts for gelada project researchers. Luckily I'll have an habesha (Ethiopian) to help with the linguistic and cultural barriers I will no doubt encounter!

I've also gotten all the prescriptions and vaccines I need taken care of, thanks to a great travel doctor  at McCosh Health Center. Joe even wrote me a preemptive prescription for some anti-amoeba drugs that will come in handy when I get a GI tract infection from the water. I don't think you're really supposed to prescribe them before someone gets the infection, but he nicely got me enough for dealing with several bouts of trouble. And they are the generic version, so only $5! Awesome. It was great to get that price break, considering my meningitis vaccine was $105....

I've also got nearly everything I need for my field season, with the exception of a few hormone supplies on back order and some luxury food ideas that I will add in if I have space in my luggage. I have a fantastic spreadsheet of everything I'm bringing, how much it weighs, and which of my various luggage pieces it's going into - I do love planning! :)

Other than all that, I've been working on the next draft of my grant application to the Leakey Foundation. Leakey is an organization that funds research into human origins - paleoanthropology, genetics, primate behavior, and studies of modern hunter-gatherer groups (according to their website). The gelada project has had a nearly 100% success rate with getting funding from them in the past, so I'm hoping to get a big chunk of my project expenses taken care of that way. Jacinta (my advisor at University of Michigan) and I have been hard at work on the latest draft of my proposal. It's a challenge because there are so many interesting questions to answer, and only 6 pages (and 2 field seasons) in which to address them! It's also been tricky because so little is known about geladas, particularly juveniles. The two sources I have been using to get my information about juvenile social groupings are monographs from the 1970s, focused on gelada biology in general rather than on juveniles in specific. In one of them, the juvenile section is based on 3 days of data collection! THREE DAYS! SO it's been a challenge to figure out what information is really true and what is just a function of a tiny sample size and time duration. But I'm plugging away on it and looking forward to getting a draft off to my Princeton advisors by the end of the weekend....


  1. wha? You've got an assistant? I'm like a hundred years older than you and I've never been anyone's boss.

    P.S. I'm offended you didn't ask me. I loves me some baby monkeys

  2. Good luck with the grant proposal! And double yay for cheap tickets.

  3. You have a ferenji assistant is the real news. And Dunbar's work with bachelors was about 6 days (if I remember correctly). I think that is because they are twice as old as juveniles.