My name is Samantha Calkins and I am a first year MA student in the Baden PMEL lab at Hunter College. I am originally from upstate NY (shoutout to all the 1,264 people of Richfield Springs!) and moved to Westchester county to start my Master’s at Hunter College. So, you can imagine it was a huge shift for me going from rural upstate to the big apple. Luckily, I found my people pretty quickly at the PMEL lab.
I completed my bachelor’s at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY where I truly fell in love with ecology and field research. Here, I completed a study abroad program in Kenya where we stayed with local host families, went on safari, and where I was able to complete an independent study doing field research at the Mpala Research Centre. It’s hard not to fall in love with a place like Kenya. The people, the wildlife, the culture… every single experience there changed my perspective on life and opened my eyes to how we treat our world. This sparked my passion for understanding our environment and the people living in it.
After graduation, and while applying to many graduate programs, I was fortunate enough to assist with a number of research projects, including returning to Kenya to assist on a summer olive baboon project in Kenya; working in the Hudson valley of NY doing research on climate and Lyme disease; and then to Maine to manage a project on acorn preferences in squirrels. Finally, I made the decision to join Hunter’s Animal Behavior and Conservation program in New York City where I am able to seize yet another opportunity.
In just 5 days I will be headed to Madagascar to complete my MA thesis project on ring-tailed lemur population genetics. Wow. Five days. Writing it down really puts things into perspective. After months, yes MONTHS of planning, I am all packed, vaccinated, permitted, educated, and excited. I’ve been thinking about the logistics of this project for so long that it’s surreal to actually be heading to the field.
After my arrival in Antananarivo, I’ll head to Centre ValBio (CVB) for a week to prepare for the field and then head to coastal Toliara in search of ring-tailed lemurs. I am excited to be traveling to a new place, but I truly can not wait to observe the diverse wildlife that Madagascar has to offer. As most of us in the PMEL, I’ll be spending the majority of my time camping in the field and occasionally coming into town to fuel up and resupply, so keep an eye out for RTL updates soon!