Science Diary: Lemurs of Madagascar – Volunteer Labor

Music
Ambience: Sifakas feeding fruit and brown lemurs jumping in trees

How many pieces of fruit can you eat in a minute? No pressure, there’s just a doze clipboard wielding researchers watching you. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse into the world of science from the inside. Summer Arrigo-Nelson is an Earthwatch research scientist, studying lemurs. Lemurs are endangered tree-dwelling primates that look a little bit like wide-eyed cats mixed with some monkey and a hint of squirrel. Summer explains why knowing the smallest details about what a lemur eats can help us to understand the health of a lemur group.

“The project we’ve picked for this team is getting a better understanding of feeding rates. Because the animals are so high up in the trees, and because it can be so hard to see their mouths at any given second, this is something that we really need a lot of people with a lot of pairs of binoculars standing under the tree. And what we do is we count how many bites an animal takes of a given food. And I know that might sound a little trivial, but it really fits into a bigger picture. If we understand within a given amount of time, say a minute or thirty seconds or something, how many fruits an animal eats, what we can then do is we can take the data that we have on the nutritional content of the food — we can use those data to figure out exactly what the nutrition the animals are actually taking in is. (01:55) And that’s really important for understanding their overall nutritional status.”

By understanding the minute details of lemurs’ eating habits, Summer Arrigo-Nelson hopes that better decisions can be made about where practices such as logging can take place without having a negative impact on Madagascar’s dwindling lemur populations. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Science Diary: Lemurs of Madagascar - Volunteer Labor

Knowing the minutiae of what a lemur eats can give scientists information about the health of the animal and its ecosystem.
Air Date:02/22/2011
Scientist:
Transcript:

Music
Ambience: Sifakas feeding fruit and brown lemurs jumping in trees

How many pieces of fruit can you eat in a minute? No pressure, there's just a doze clipboard wielding researchers watching you. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse into the world of science from the inside. Summer Arrigo-Nelson is an Earthwatch research scientist, studying lemurs. Lemurs are endangered tree-dwelling primates that look a little bit like wide-eyed cats mixed with some monkey and a hint of squirrel. Summer explains why knowing the smallest details about what a lemur eats can help us to understand the health of a lemur group.

"The project we've picked for this team is getting a better understanding of feeding rates. Because the animals are so high up in the trees, and because it can be so hard to see their mouths at any given second, this is something that we really need a lot of people with a lot of pairs of binoculars standing under the tree. And what we do is we count how many bites an animal takes of a given food. And I know that might sound a little trivial, but it really fits into a bigger picture. If we understand within a given amount of time, say a minute or thirty seconds or something, how many fruits an animal eats, what we can then do is we can take the data that we have on the nutritional content of the food -- we can use those data to figure out exactly what the nutrition the animals are actually taking in is. (01:55) And that's really important for understanding their overall nutritional status."

By understanding the minute details of lemurs' eating habits, Summer Arrigo-Nelson hopes that better decisions can be made about where practices such as logging can take place without having a negative impact on Madagascar's dwindling lemur populations. Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.