New Location, New Species

Well, it seems that my project has changed quite a bit since my past post. This is my first serious research project, and while I’ve been assured that such changes are a natural part of the process, I must admit that I still though that more planning on my part from the outset would have let me avoid some the changes. For those who don’t recall my introductory post, I had originally planned to study pygmy marmosets at a local zoo. Not a week after that post, however, I discovered that the local zoo I had planned to do my research at would no longer be displaying the marmosets, and furthermore that no zoo within 300 miles would have pygmy marmosets on display this summer. After an inspired night of panic about these developments, I took some wise advice to wait until after final exams to recalibrate my project in order to have a sane mind while studying and writing papers.

Luckily, I live within driving distance of the excellent Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C., and the Zoo and its staff have been extremely helpful and agreeable to my conducting research in their facilities. Even more, they will allow me to film before official opening hours, which will be good for avoiding the large crowds that gather at the Zoo, even though it will mean having to wake up at three or four in the morning to arrive at the Zoo. It will be worth it though, because as much as I enjoy explaining my work to people, the large crowds that gather in the early afternoon can block or jar the camera.

Instead of filming pygmy marmosets, I will now focus my research on the gestures of pale-headed saki monkeys in the Small Mammal House. There are two male-female pairs, housed in separate exhibits, and although it will be a small sample size if I can find any co-regulated behaviors in either of them there’s an extremely high chance it will be found in other populations as well.  Hopefully, I will begin to actually gather data next week, after some adjustments are made to the sakis’ exhibits.


  1. Congratulations on conquering such a big change! Likewise, this is my first summer doing research, and I’ve already seen my project change directions and wiggle around quite a bit. I’m sure everything will change even more when I actually get to Russia, where I’ll be conducting most of my research!

    Have you found more or less published material about the saki monkeys, compared to the pygmy marmosets? Do you think that the saki monkeys may exhibit any behaviors / coregulation that other species may also display? I can’t wait to hear more about your project, and maybe even see some the video material! (it would be neat, since I won’t be going to the national zoo this summer)

  2. Adam Lerner says:

    Hey Mitch,

    I’m so relieved you found another species to study. It’s especially heartening to hear how hospitable the folks at the zoo seem to be, both to you and their animals. Just curious — has there been any previous research into co-regulated behaviors among pale-headed saki monkeys? I know you said very little research had been done on the social behavior of pgymy marmosets, but how about sakis? Also, what warrants the assertion that if co-regulated behaviors are found in this small sample then there is a very good chance they will be found in other populations? Has previous research found that social behavior among sakis does not vary greatly depending on context?

    Good luck next week!