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Our Graduate Story - Nina Negi

Green School Weekly Newsletter
May 07 2015

Green School Weekly News

Past student Nina Negi has been going on a crazy adventure since she left us at Green School. Half-Japanese and half-German, Nina has lived all over the world and next year she is going to a school in Costa Rica to study a wide range of subjects! Below, Nina shares with us just one of her incredible experiences completing an intense and interactive internship at a Primate Research Center.

10-Days of Monkey-Business: An Internship at the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute in Inuyama, Japan

I was first welcomed by the primates themselves. Loud screeching calls accompanied me up the steps, right into the Primate Research Institute. Up five floors and I had finally arrived at my workplace for the next 10 days.

A few months ago, I had written an email to my future internship-mentor and Associate Professor Andrew MacIntosh, without even knowing if the institute offered internships to high school students. I had found out about the institute when watching documentaries about the world-famous chimpanzee Ai, who lives there. From an early age, Ai had been trained to solve certain tasks on a computer screen. When I visited her, she was sorting the numbers 0-20 chronologically as they appeared on the screen. She would do this by tapping on the numbers on the screen and was able to complete the task faster than humans.
When I researched more about the Primate Research Center, I found out that it is one of the world’s most famous meeting points for primatologists: researchers, professors, and students - from all over Japan as well as the whole world.

The institute had never admitted any high school intern before, but after a lot of emailing and organizing, Andrew had put together an internship program, which allowed me to gain insight into a different department every day. This would vary from veterinary and animal care work, researching, monkey observation and chimpanzee cognitive recognition training.

I started off with reading up on primatology, different ape species and the study of primate behaviour. I learnt that Japanese Macaques can be homosexual, which I thought was quite interesting.

On the second day, I got to meet the chimp Leo. A few years ago, he had been paralysed from the neck down. Due to intensive rehabilitation, Leo has now regained full control over his upper body and is slowly gaining more feeling in his legs through therapy. It amazed me and I felt deep respect for the vets who had brought him back to almost complete normality.

It was also very interesting to see the different methods of preserving deceased monkeys. Recently, a new method of replacing the liquid in the body with plastic, called ‘plastifying,’ has been discovered. Using this method, the real organs and the actual body can be preserved and turned into a model.

After a day of ‘work,' I would go home to my homestay family-- my head bursting with new information, ideas, and inspiration.

My main project of the internship, was to create a podcast for ‘The Primate Cast’, which is the very first podcast devoted to Primatology. As the topic of my podcast I chose ‘Finding Your Passion’. The eight people I interviewed came from very diverse backgrounds. Among them were professors Michael Huffman and Dr. Fred Bercovitch, a student who studied mummies before becoming interested in primates, and one student who focused on the sweetness and sensitivity of monkeys. I wanted to know what they were passionate about and how they had found their passion. Furthermore I asked them what their advice would be for people still on the search for their passion.

I think that this podcast can definitely inspire everyone- whether they have found their passion already or are still trying to find it.

This 10-day internship has allowed me to take a good look at what primatologists and passionate environmentalists really do. I can now see myself going a similar path in the future. I’m extremely grateful and would like to thank all the people who made these 10 days so unforgettable for me!

Check out the Podcast here. Or visit the ‘The Primate Cast' on facebook.

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