Owner and creator of Primate Tales
I was born/grew up in: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I now live in: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I completed my training/education at: I got my undergraduate degree at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and my master’s degree at Rutgers University in New Jersey
Describe what you do at work.
I have had various jobs since graduating school that have used my science skills. I have been able to use my animal behaviour knowledge and skills of studying animals to teach dog training and dog agility. I have been involved with multiple educational programs that go into schools to teach students about different types of animals (mammals, reptiles and insects) and have worked hands-on with so many different animals which has been very rewarding. Without my extensive background in animal behaviour and research with primates I don’t think I would have gotten those jobs.
In my current position, starting my own educational outreach company, I have to use those experiences plus my biology and anthropology background. The key activities I have had to do is create programming for students, so using my biology/evolution knowledge from school. I have to figure out the best ways to engage students and make the material interesting, which uses my problem solving skills I learned. On the business side of things I have had to basically start from scratch but my science background has given me the tools to learn to hypothesize and test out different strategies. When things don’t work I go back to the drawing board and start again with the knowledge I have gained. My tasks right now are reaching out to schools and teachers to see if they are interested in having a presentation or field trip at their school and getting the word out there about what my company does.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect people’s lives?
My hope is that my job, in bringing these presentations about primates (monkeys, apes and lemurs), will make students see that studying animals is viable career option, and a way to get involved in science that may seem less intimidating than say physics or chemistry. I was never very good at math but I was able to pursue science regardless of that as I went into an area where though you need to use math (mostly statistics) I found my trouble with math did not hold me back.
What motivates you in your career?
I get motivated by seeing that spark awaken in a student who may not have known that studying primates or animals in general was an option, and that knowledge that this can be something they can do to is amazing. When I have school groups come to the primate sanctuary for field trips seeing the excitement when students give the monkeys an enrichment toy they made for them and how the monkeys try to figure out how to get to the food and actually use something the student made for them is pretty cool as well. I really like this career because in being my own boss I get to be in control and do things how I want them to be. Working for other similar companies showed me things that work and things that don’t and I like putting those into practice. I also love that I can merge my passion and love for primates, with my experience in teaching.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
I sort of had a very odd path to get to where I am now. I actually wanted to be an actress when I was growing up and applied to acting schools for university. Except for one school that my mom made me apply to in case acting did not work out, which was Bucknell, where I ended up going to undergrad. Through auditioning for acting schools I realized I did not love it as much as that I had always excelled at biology. So I ended up going to Bucknell for animal behaviour and loved it. Would never have wanted to study anything else.
I did research projects in school at our primate lab and also did a semester abroad in Tanzania which really helped in me getting into grad school and also started my passion for primates.
I was originally going to get my PhD and be a professor but I realized that was not the area I wanted to be in, I wanted something that allowed me to be more hands on with animals, so I left with my master's and then came back to Toronto, had a few different animal related jobs but nothing was leading to a career so I thought why not start my own business.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I love to cook and bake. I try to get outside as much as possible, going for runs or walks in my neighbourhood. I volunteer at the primate sanctuary where I also hold my field trips, try to get up there every week to see and help take care of our twenty monkeys and lemurs.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Starting your own business is not easy but it can be so rewarding. If you are not finding the kind of jobs or career you want and have a passion and great idea for something that is not being offered or out there why not give it a try. Having a great support system is key, my family and friends have really been great in keeping me encouraged. There are also so many resources out there to help you get started.