Sunday, December 23, 2012

Keeping it real x.0: island time

I really meant to continue writing every day this month, but things just happen... Like I have a million projects on the go, and in addition to a full day's work, on Thursday I decided to go for a run at my favorite place on the planet (Torrey Pines State Park and beach), and on Friday I tried to get a criminal record check (but went to the wrong type of police station), and then yesterday Ron and I were just busy enjoying San Diego (eating fish and chips and taking in the sunshine). Can you blame me?

On a side note, Google Analytics records the key words that people type before they look at this blog or my name. I have some odd, yet interesting search terms. FYI, they include:

  • American loonie
  • I hate Colorado
  • Zebra perch
  • Gender identity spectrum
  • Sexual orientation
  • Lemur stink fight
  • Seven gilled shark
  • Devil horse
  • Canada sign
  • Chameleon head
  • Hockey stick car
  • Cockroach tracks
  • Leishmaniasis
  • Cruising area condoms
  • Danish rhubarb desert
  • Are lemur bites poisonous

Wow. I think I may need to digest those a bit. Sure, lemur bite, cockroach tracks, chameleon head, and devil horse, sound about right. But, cruising area condoms and leishmaniasis? Am I a female sand fly who is serious about safe sex? THAT is a thinker.

Anyhow, back to mental health issues and some of the barriers we may face achieving mental wellness. A common thread we may face is shame. The shame felt in admitting to yourself that something is wrong, be it addiction, or eating disorder, or overwhelming anxiety, or simply the shame felt in admitting you need help.

How might we get past this shame? Reducing social stigma and normalizing shame-inducing feelings, is certainly one way. You have an addiction? Bummer, lots of people do. Get depressed? That sucks, so do I. Have a sick hate for your left foot? Talk to my husband, lol. But seriously, regardless of any one thing we may feel shameful about, we are not the first, and certainly won't be the last. Not to diminish the feelings of shame, which may be substantial, but these are only feeling after all. And feelings, we can change. Both as a collective, but also as individuals.

I've posted this before, but if you've never watched this Ted talk by Brene Brown (or even if you have), its worth the 20 minutes.

Signing off tonight, as an admittedly selfish, absentminded, lemur researcher story teller, with major depressive disorder, and roughly 15 lbs of candy around my middle. AND OWNING IT! And also sending a nod out to all my old peeps, who today, celebrated the life of Liam Davis. Who left this world far too soon.

Much virtual love,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Keeping it real 4.0: stigma of mental illness

While I have been calling attention to the lack of discussion on how mental illness may play a role in violence, drug abuse, and other maladaptive behaviors, its important to note that being mentally ill doesn't mean that you are somehow dangerous, going to abuse medicines, or deliberately harm yourself in other ways. Nor is autism the cause of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. These are each incredibly complex issues, wherein we cannot place blame on simplistic explanations or experiences. Doing so would only act to further marginalize mental illness in society.

Which brings me to the topic so social stigma, and the cultural taboos surrounding mental order, or disorder, if we must. Why is mental illness held to a very different set of rules when compared to "physical" illness? Why doesn't anyone discuss what happened when a young seemingly healthy person commits suicide or overdoses? Is it disrespectful to the deceased (or their family or friends) to examine their mental state? To discuss their demise? Are we "politicizing" tragedy in discussing gun control after a mass-shooting? Are panic attacks more shameful than appendicitis? Is it culturally acceptable to have diabetes, but not depression?

I don't have the answers to these, but I certainly feel more comfortable talking about when I had Dengue Fever or that I get migraine headaches, when compared to discussing soul-sucking depression. And, I doubt that if someone died well before their time (at the age of 34) people would find it inappropriate to discuss, say leukemia, if that was the case. Please note that this last statement is not meant to be accusatory, but rather, exploratory.

With Keeping it Real, I am putting myself out there (and I am not the only one!), in the hope that mental illnesses become normalized within our psyches'. Maybe, if mental illness carried only the connotations of physical illness, more people would seek help, be able to access care, and the warning signs of imminent danger would be a) more apparent and b) actionable.  

I saw a great line today, which sums up how I am feeling at the moment:

 "Without discussion there can be no progress."

Shall we discuss and progress?

Sweet dreams,

PS This is totally creepy. Check it out!

PPS If you don't follow the Bloggess, she also documents her struggles with mental illness. Her post from yesterday was particularly pertinent to this topic.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

28 days of keeping it real 3.0

Once again, thanks to all of you that have shared your struggles with me, either publicly or privately. I so appreciate your willingness to open up and be vulnerable. At the moment, I am feeling quite vulnerable myself. Sharing my struggles with the world, is not something I would have really ever envisioned myself doing. Given that I judge myself for having mental illness, opening up to be potentially judged by all, feels quite prickly. Like a cat-hair sweater. 

But, as you may well know, you cannot change the behavior of others. You can only change your own. And here I am, in all my imperfect glory, over-sharing, with the hope that you will too. With me, with others, and perhaps most importantly, with yourself. For the children who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, and for our friends who have gone far too soon, mental illness must be addressed. And for me, that starts here.  

Today, I have the pleasure of having a guest blogger! Shane, an old friend (whom I recently re-connected with on FB), has also been significantly impacted by mental illness. And here is the first installment of Shane's story....

My name is Shane and I am proud of my old friend Marni to have the courage to not only open the discussion on mental illness but also share the challenges she has faced in her own life with it. So it has prompted me to share my own battle with depression. In 2003, I was in an accident fueled by alcohol and cocaine in which I fell over a railing of a second floor. I landed on a 45 degree angle, on my head, from approx 16 feet with my face and skull taking most of the impact. The fall resulted in a traumatic brain injury with too many broken bones to list. As well I damaged my optic nerves which has left me legally blind. I was in a coma for approx 6 weeks and had to have reconstructive surgery to rebuild my facial and skull. Luckily, the Creator was watching over me and I lived and am able to tell part of my story.
I tell you this because this accident eventually was one of factors which started me on my healing journey and also started my realization of my struggle with mental illness which I tried to bury with substances. I went into a severe depression upon release from the hospital and wished I didn't exist any longer. I refused medication and any mental health counselling, therapy, etc. Instead I turned back to substances and buried my pain. Eventually I agreed to take medication but mainly to control the seizures I was having and to manage the intense pain. I was also prescribed an SSRI. However, those led to Oxicontin and Percocet abuse.
Eventually I was able to get clean but now the pain I was burying was alive and stronger than ever. I continued taking my cocktail of anti-convulsants and anti-depressants, however, I was still in so much pain. Taking an anti-depressant felt like I was too weak to handle the world. I often fiddled with my medications or the doseages, and experienced crashes like you would see at a demolition derby. Seeing specialist after specialist. Psychologist, psychiatrists and trauma therapists, but to me they were all a bunch of idiots.
And now I shall have my tea. After all, I have quite a few more days to keep it real on this journey with Marni.

Thank you, Shane!
Virtual warm fuzzies,

PS Are you still wondering if I actually have a cat hair sweater?!

Monday, December 17, 2012

28 days of keeping it real 2.0

First, thanks to all of you that have commented and/or messaged me- I will try to keep responding promptly with my responses!

I just finished watching the news, which included coverage of the memorial services taking place for the Sandy Hook Elementary victims. Like everyone else, my heart breaks for the families affected. Frighteningly,  however, the news coverage also included a segment showing how busy gun stores have been in and around San Diego (and the US) since Friday's mass-shooting. In fact, some shops are reporting 20-year highs in their sales. I am astounded to hear the gun advocates saying that this would have never happened if teachers were armed.

Again, no one is talking about mental health. Instead of trying to stop a shooter seconds before he kills strangers, what about trying to teach him to express his feelings years earlier in life? And how to experience failure and pain, without violence? What about if Adam Lanza or James Holmes or any of the other mass-shooting perpetrators, had of sought out and gotten  mental health care? And why isn't anyone talking about this???

Well, I certainly have plenty of experience in this arena, and tonight will discuss my love/hate relationship with prescription drugs.

I've taken various cocktails of anti-depressants and SSRIs on and off for the better part of 20-years. Sometimes I hate them. I feel weak and powerless and like a whiner. I feel like I should be able to suck it up. I can never skip a dose, and am quickly reminded with violently illness, if I do forget. Alternatively, I recently mixed up pills and accidentally overdosed. I was fine, but terrified, and had to explain to by doctor why I was seeing dragons.

These are serious mind and body altering drugs. Not solutions to problems or available for a little pick-me-up.

Yet, when my old friend depression rears its horrible familiar head, I am reminded of how my quality of life is significantly improved by those little pills. Overwhelming heaviness, grief, despair, and crippling sadness are not fun, as you may well know. And I will choose pills over the dark clouds every single time. Guaranteed.

But what would I (and millions of others) have done a hundred years ago? Drugs for, and even recognition of depression or other mental illness, are relatively new phenomena. Would I have been able to suck it up and cope if I were born in 1878, rather than 1978?

I don't know the answer to that. However, my great grandmother, who was born in 1898, was also plagued with mental illness. She was checked into an "insane asylum" when she was 39-years-old, and died less than a week later, of unexplained causes.

Perhaps without meds, exercise, and talk therapy (which I will detail at a later date), I would turn to alcohol, or street drugs, or anger, or abuse, or death, or violence, as our society is all to familiar.

But, I don't. And the vast majority of my life is full of joy and love and happiness. And now, transparency.

Much virtual love,


Sunday, December 16, 2012

28 days of keeping it real

A couple of things have happened of late, which got me thinking about, well a lot. I know I am not alone in this, given that one of these catalyzing events involved the deaths of an entire first grade class, among others. I also heard of the death of an old friend. Someone I probably haven't seen in 15 years, and honestly, one I may have never seen again.

I don't know or understand the circumstances of my friend's death, and I don't think any of us will ever know or understand what would drive a young man to open fire in an elementary school. What I do know, is that when no one is willing to talk about why some one died 50-odd years too soon, and someone else kills a room full of children before them self, the list of potential causes narrows significantly.

For my friend, whom again, I can only speculate about and do not know the circumstances, suicide and/or overdose are possible. For the mass-shooter, it was suicide. And what do substance abuse and suicide have in common? Mental illness.

So I found myself wishing that mental illness did not carry the socialized stigma that it does, and asking others to open up such that we can learn, and invoke change. Why not break the silence and get over the socially uncomfortable truths? In theory, this sounds like a good idea, right? Well, not everyone agrees. And, of course, I can understand not wanting to publicly (or rather, facebook-ly) discuss the circumstances of the death of a dear friend.

Yet, here I find myself thinking and saying what we "should" do, without doing that very thing myself. That is, going beyond my own comfort level in order to practice what I preach. Well, here I am. Tonight I am pledging  to "keep it real" and for the next 28 days, am I am going to share tidbits about my own screwy self. Things I'd rather not admit, frankly to you or I. Things I wish I could fix. Things I wish weren't me. The things of mental illness.

And if you, dear reader, feel equally saddened and puzzled by the perceptions and consequences of mental illnesses, I ask that you do the same. Comment, share, post, think, read, understand, and feel. If we all do the same, who knows, maybe we can change a few ideas, actions, tragedies...

Keeping it real:
1. I have major depressive disorder. And I probably always will. Most of the time, I am fine, but then sometimes I am not, and spending months sobbing and sleeping feels like a nightmare in a cozy sweater.


Much virtual love,

Postscript quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  ~ Margaret Mead

Friday, October 12, 2012


The following is a telephone conversation that Ron and I had yesterday.

Ron: Hello.

Marni: Can I bring home a dead bird?

Ron: No. Wait, where are you*?

Marni: That's not fair and I'm at the beach.

Ron: Definitely no.

Marni: Why?

Ron: What are you going to do with it?

Marni: Let it rot on the deck and then clean up the bones.

Ron: Are you being serious?

Marni: Well its not like I want to let it to rot on the deck. I can't help that I don't have a dermestid** colony. Wait, why don't I have a dermestid colony?! Can I bring home a dermestid colony?

-Long pause-

Ron: No. and. No. Come home. Without the rotten deck bird or any bugs.

Coveted dead bird. I don't even know what it is,
but I am sure it has a lovely skeleton.

I definitely feel I am being repressed. The "man" is bringing me down***.

*For a second he thought I meant dinner, like a roasted chicken or something. lol, on him.
** Flesh eating beetles, like the ones I've used in labs.
*** Not seriously, of course.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fecofiles of a fecophile

My research has been fecal free for a number of months now, but last night I had the opportunity to learn about whale poop and then this morning I got a message asking if I could look over 80-some-odd pictures of poop that originated from unknown predators. Apparently, I am an excrement expert, which got me thinking about all things poop.

So, I started digging out some of my poop files (pictures and articles including one of my all time favorites entitled "Facts From Feces"), and that led to googling various types of poop. At one point I caught myself thinking, "Wow, this really is a crap kinda day and its pretty fun."

Poop not only facilitates a seemingly endless barrage of sh*#ty puns, but is also scientifically informative. From scat samples you can learn about an individual's health, diet, dentition, reproductive status, stress levels, symbionts, parasites, and a plethora of other factoids, should you be so inclined. Heck, if you were lucky enough, from a single turd you could even sequence the genome of the pooper, that of the poopee, along with several strains of gut flora, and maybe even a worm or two! And the pooper, needn't be alive or even extant. I have colleagues working with coprolites from 1000-year-old mummies. Get this- you could even buy your very own fossilized dinosaur poop. WHY DON'T I HAVE ANY FOSSIL DINOSAUR POOP?! 

Seriously though, I use scat from my lemurs to understand what they are eating (and what they actually get out of their foods), and also to understand predator-prey dynamics of the forest. Predators are really difficult to keep tabs on, due to their elusive nature, so if you want to know what they are eating, well, you may as well bring yourself a paddle, because you are heading up sh*t creek. Wait, I don't think that pun/metaphor worked, but you get my drift. 

Figs before they are eaten by a lemur

And after!

Piece of ring-tailed lemur skull that I pulled from a fossa scat. 

Oh and just to be clear, I hold no particular affiliation to flatulence, although there may be an available niche for someone, in the wind domain. Cow farts, for example, contribute more to global warming than all other sources of greenhouse gasses combined. Or, you may also recall that the gas of some animals (i.e. folklore of the Little Bastardsare said to be lethal. Jobs of the future: cow fart analyst and/or forensic fart detective. Now those are careers your guidance counselor never mentioned. 

Lets get back to poop. I am sure that you are probably wondering "how hard can it be to distinguish scat from different animals?" Well, let me tell you, it can be tricky. Inter-species dung can appear remarkably similar while intra-species can look quite different. Contrary to what you may have heard, a turd is not a turd is not a turd. Climate, habitat, season, food availability, diet composition, body size, and sex can all influence the distinctive characteristics of a poop. Thus a keen eye is needed to get to the bottom of "who pooped the bed." And after many years, I have such an eye. I'm a turd doctor.

I think that's enough crap talk for one day. Consider yourself more informed than most on the scientific value of poop. I hope you never look at a dirt squirrel the same.

Here I am, coveting a bag of dog poop. With Bronwyn McNeil, assistant extraordinaire. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Exotic critters

Hi friends!

I just got back from Cancun, where I was at the International Primatological Society Congress, which is an academic meeting for people who study primates. It was great to see friends and learn about really important work surrounding primates and primate habitat conservation.

Anyhow, when I first arrived and was walking from my hotel to the conference center, I was very saddened to be asked by a young man if I would like to have my photo taken with his monkey- he had a beautiful juvenile squirrel monkey on a rope sitting on his shoulder, on the main drag among a bazillion lights and traffic and all things Cancun. "Photo with the monkey, señorita?"

The Cancun strip. The arrow is pointing to the dude who asked me if I wanted
my picture taken with his juvie squirrel monkey on a rope.

This was not the only primate I saw in this situation. There were three other capuchin monkeys, several very large snakes, iguanas, and although I didn't see it, I heard there was a baby tiger on a chain on Friday night. And clearly, I did not see all the exotic animals in this situation in Cancun. So, why not pay a couple bucks and get your pic taken with an adorable cheeky little monkey?

Sigh. There are so many reasons. I will gloss over these rather than explore in detail, for brevity's sake but also because they are horrible and simply too hurty for me to go through. Here are the biggies:

1. These animals are captured as babies in the wild. Sadly, their monkey families generally don't make it out of the altercations, simply because they try to protect/save the babies and other family members.

2. Wild animals can be sometimes tamed, but being tame is very different than animals which are domesticated (like cats, dogs, and livestock), and accustomed to living alongside humans. Furthermore, these wild animals can be a serious problem when they reach sexual maturity and will happily eat your face, instead of doing what ever their owners want.

3. Once the monkeys reach "eat your face" territory (ie are all grown up), 9 times out of 10 they are no longer suitable for tourist photos, and they are disposed of. Meanwhile, a new baby is captured at the expense of the new baby's family.

4. Lots of animals have very complicated social lives and life-long bonds in the wild. For example, squirrel monkeys can live in groups a hundred individuals. The females stay in the group where they were born, and when males reach maturity, they transfer to other groups. So females have moms/daughters/aunts/cousins etc who they live with their entire lives. Males often transfer with their male relatives and also form long-term friendships. These monkeys often travel beside, sleep with, and/or generally hang out with their best buddies. Thus, its really sad to see intelligent social animals such as this living alone, on a rope, so that tourists can get a photo. And, all of this doesn't even touch on living conditions, treatment, appropriate diet, and other daily concerns for these critters. It breaks my heart to see a young monkey, who should be in a beautiful forest playing with cousins and sleeping with their moms, on a street corner, alone.

Check out this short video of a couple of squirrel monkeys in the wild:

ARKive video - Red-backed squirrel monkey - identification
A far cry from life in Cancun.

Since many of these animals are endangered it is technically illegal to keep them, but in developing nations or those in political/social turmoil, laws are generally not enforced. Really, the only thing we can do is stop the demand. So please, don't ever pay to have your photo taken with a wild animal on the streets of Cancun, or anywhere you may encounter a dude with monkey or jaguar or kinkajou or whatever. Or for that matter, please don't give money to any person or organization with animals who are not well cared for or obtained in an unethical manner.

Tonyia mentioned feeding a giraffe, which was likely at a zoo. Visiting reputable zoos and interacting with suitable animals is totally different. Animals at zoos may have originally been part of the illegal wild animal pet trade, but are likely in a "best case" scenario for ex-captive ex-wild animals. At a good facility, keepers can select animals that enjoy interacting with people and train the animals (using positive re-enforcement) how to interact appropriately with the public. Interactions are at the animal's choice and can be great for education about animals as well as providing cool experiences for animal lovers.

My area of expertise is primates, but many of the same sentiments apply to other animals. Seriously, I can't think of an acceptable or ethical reason why some guy has a baby tiger on a chain in downtown Cancun. Or think of exotic birds, such as parrots or macaws which are pair-bonded and can live for over a hundred years. These animals are clearly much better off living in a forest with their life partner, than in a busy city making money for someone with little knowledge of their emotional and physiological needs or concern for their long-term welfare.

Bottom line? Use your judgement, put yourself in the animal's position, think of the animal's quality of life, and tell your friends not to have their photos taken with sweet little monkeys or tigers or whatever wild animal while in exotic destinations!

Thanks for caring!

Friday, July 27, 2012


I was going to write about Sam (my dead cat) today, but I got to thinking (about something unrelated) and zoom the day is nearly gone. Instead, you get to read my dissertation acknowledgments, which -let's be honest here- is pretty much the best part of any dissertation. Mine is verbose, but honest and hopefully inclusive- it notes the hamster I had when I was 4 years old, for goodness sake. I should clarify, however, that it does not include the burrito cat pictured. I have no idea who that cat is or why I was making a burrito out of the poor thing.

            This dissertation nearly killed me. Literally. A number of times. As a direct result of this work, I endured the following: inappropriate sinus tachycardia; dengue fever and associated delirium followed by seven months of "break bone" symptoms; malaria; mononucleosis; separate episodes of calcium and magnesium deficiencies, both severe enough to be conducive with heart failure; three fractured molars; heat upwards and beyond 50°C for months on end; several unidentifiable intestinal parasites; a few bouts of food poisoning; countless frightening rashes and inexplicable blisters; a handful of jagged limestone-induced scars; being stuck for the better part of five days in nowhere Madagascar, in a vehicle short a transmission, in the middle of a cyclone; and for lack of a better description, the plagues of mosquitoes, whose memory will forever give me chills. That being said, I am fortunate to of had these opportunities and that I  lived to tell the stories, and am indebted to so many people who helped along way...

To my academic advisor:
            Many thanks to Michelle Sauther. You are not only an outstanding and prolific scholar, but an exceptional advisor, and you truly went above and beyond for me. Without your patience, enthusiasm, mad editing skills, and dedication to my success, I would not be where I am today. I am forever indebted for all of the time and energy you bestowed on me, and can only think to repay this service through paying it forward.

To my academic committee:
            Thank you to the "beloved" Dennis Van Gervan. I have learned so much from you and am grateful to have been given free reign with the Nubian collection. Driving around 1000 year-old dead people for x-rays really is a once (or twice) in a lifetime opportunity. Though you are an extraordinary educator, I am most grateful for your friendship, kindness, and wisdom. I am certain that I would not be where I am today without your advice, honesty, and sense of humor. In your own words, "it's not dead babies and it's not cancer, so don't worry about it." True dat.
            Thank you to Herbert Covert for challenging me to think critically, and letting me know that it is ok to love dinosaurs, orangutans, and freezers full of dead things. I admire your conservation work and hope to someday make a difference in primate conservation, as you do.
            Thank you to Matt Sponheimer for taking the time to review my work and give insightful feedback. You are likely the most intelligent person I have ever or will ever encounter, and in addition to being a tiny bit frightened of your genius, I am truly honored to of had you as a mentor.
            And many more thanks to Frank Cuozzo for your detailed reviews and insightful suggestions, of much of my work, particularly pertaining to lemur prehistory. I am grateful for your insight, knowledge, and time, though cannot forget what you did to Gary. Those were some of the most frightening 3 minutes of my life.

And my unofficial mentors:
            To Darna Dufour, for taking an interest in me, even through my "I'm not an Anthropologist" academic coming-of-age phase. I am grateful for your ear, advise, and to know that I am not the only one to have had field disasters. You survived a plane crash, for goodness sake. I also admire your dedication to teaching and will keep many of the thing you taught me through to the next phase in my career as an Anthropologist.
            To Nayuta Yamashita (Instit für Population Genetik, Veterinary Medicine University Vienna), for laughing with and at me, for always having candy in the field, AND for the human skeleton. You are awesome! Oh, and for your advice and thoughtful review of my methods and written work. Next time I get hit with a plague of mosquitoes, I will heed your advice, and head for the beach. On an unrelated note, don't think for a second that I've forgotten about your involvement in the Gary fiasco.
            Thank you to Joerg Ganzhorn (Department of Zoology, University of Hamburg) for your advice and generosity with reference to plant nutritional analyses, and also Irene Tomaschewski for performing said analyses.
            Also thanks to Jacky Youssouf (Département de Sciences Biologie, Université de Toliara). Where to even begin. Jacky, you saved me from so many cestodes and literally welcomed me into your home. I am so grateful for the cultural experiences you've awarded me and your ability to laugh at anything. The dictator, the driver, the extortion. I am proud to be your colleague and look forward to seeing you many times again.
            And to Rokiman Letsara (Botanical and Zoological Park Tsimbazaza and the California Academy of Science) thank you for your persistence at door 7, facilitation of this research and your vast knowledge of the plants of Madagascar.
            Thanks also to Chia Tan for inviting me into the San Diego Zoo Global world, and  encouraging and helping me start my academic career.

And all others:
            Thank you to the government of Madagascar, Madagascar National Parks and the University of Toliara, Madagascar, for granting me permission to work at Tsimanampetsotsa National Park.
            And to those that accompanied me in the trenches: Meghan Hoopes, Bronwyn McNeil, Lanto, and Bakira Ravorona. I still can't believe that you stuck with me through the tortures of this expedition, and am so thankful for your companionship and ability to laugh. Additionally, thank you to the Beza Mahafaly animal darting team (Enafa Efitroaromy, Edidy Ellis, and Elahavelo) and the Tsimanampetsotsa National Park ecological monitoring team (Razanajafy Olivier, Lauren, Stephan), and local experts Fiti and Francisco. Also thank you to the village of Efotsy for welcoming me into your world and homes. And thank you to Jason Hale for you help in getting me set up in Madagascar and for keeping me in contact with the outside world during ridiculous emergencies. Thanks to Denise Gabriel, for your commiseration and friendship, both in Madagascar and beyond. Marriage proposals wouldn't be nearly as fun without you.
            Thanks to Lisa Gould for introducing me to lemurs, primatology, and deli. Your dedication and love of these animals encouraged me to pursue my dream of being a primatologist. And I love kugel. 
            Thanks to all my lemur peeps, in no particular order: Teague O'Mara, Stephanie Meredith, Elizabeth Kelley, Brandie Littlefield, James Loudon, Jim Millette, Krista Fish, Andrea Gemmill, Andy Fogel, Brian Gerber, Jennifer Prew, Megan Shrum, Nicholas Ellwanger, Emily Mertz, and Paul Sandberg.
            Thank you to my dear friends and colleagues, without whom my life would be much less rich: Michaela Howells, Richard Bender, Morgan Seamont, Marnie Thomson, Rachel Flemming, and Jordan Steininger, Michelle Graves, and Charlie Jordan.
            Many thanks to my parents (Michael and Donna LaFleur), and grandparents (Fred and Patricia LaFleur, Laurie Zona, Miss,  Audrey and George Aspin), and extended family, for thinking the world of me, and in turn, awarding me the strength to endure the challenges of this project.
            Thank you to Sam, Kitty LaFleur, Stretch, Gary, Minnie (Jelly), Winnie (Fish), Coco, Daisy, Baby, Lisa (aka Pig), Dude, Tiny, Trash, Issac, Newton, Kizzi, Jesse, Honey, Peppermint Pattie, most of all Amy, and all the other animal companions that instilled and inspired me with empathy, curiosity and wonder.
            And thank you to "my" lemurs! You tolerated me, despite my being an overly annoying bipedal omby. I am so privileged to of been privy to the soap opera that is your daily life. I will always treasure and miss your company.
            Finally, a special thank you to Ron Mombourquette for encouraging me to achieve dreams I didn't even realize I had, waiting for me, and tolerating scary things in the freezer. For being home team. I love you dearly and look forward to spending the duration of my days with you.
            This Project was generously funded by: National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Post Graduate Scholarship 296264), National Science Foundation (Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant 1028708), National Geographic Society (Committee for Research and Exploration Grant 88011), American Society of Primatologists (Small Research Grant), University of Colorado Boulder Graduate School (Beverly Sears Graduate Student Grant), University of Colorado Boulder Museum of Natural History (Clark Scholarship Fund), University of Colorado Boulder Department of Anthropology (Pre-dissertation research grant, Quintana Award, Haskell-Houghtelin Scholarship Fund), National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (Post Secondary Bursary), Native American Resource Advisory Group and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science's Department of Anthropology (American Indian or Alaskan Native Scholarship Award), and the Ron Mombourquette Scholarship Fund. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sh*t that matters

I sorta quit blogging. I just decided that it was way too obnoxious and narcissistic, and that I didn't have anything interesting to say anyhow. I thought maybe I'd blog again someday, that is if I had stumbled upon some riveting and important news. Something that really MATTERS. Like nuclear physics or really anything other that Steve (whom I'd love to catch up with, BTW). 

However, I have been reading the book called "Let's Pretend this Never Happened" by Jenny Larson (aka the Bloggess), and am completely enjoying how she rambles on about sh*t that doesn't matter. So, voila, here I am. 

Anyhow, here is something that matters: it is impossible to buy skinny jeans for a cat. OH, THE INJUSTICE! Seriously, google it. All you will find are jeans that look like something Kate Goslin would wear. But not Kate Goslin now. Kate Goslin from before she got all fancy and weird and actually started wearing skinny jeans. And "mom of multiples" denim will not do for Kitty LaFleur, whom I have decided it would be super fun to dress up as a hipster. I've even looked in the doggie apparel sections and have been to several specialty shops. Seriously, why can you buy a $50 bikini for your dog, but not skinny jeans for your cat??

Here is what I need:

  • Thick-rimmed cat-sized (obviously) glasses. Or maybe tiny Ray Ban's with neon arms. 
  • V-neck ironic t that says something like "I'm not a cat" or "dogs are the cat's meow." 
  • Skinny jeans.
  • Loafers. Although this may be pushing my luck with you-know-who.

A girl can dream. 'Cause that is the sh*t matters.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Stand (and fornicating cats)

Ever read the Stand? Well, I am reading it now and have been for about a month. Seriously, it is a long ass book. Anyhow, over the course of the last month, I have had about 3 decent sleeps because I am busy having super creepy dreams related to the Stand. And I am terrified of sneezes. Great. As if the Captian Trips and the post-apocalyptic world weren't enough, I am now on to the part of the story that takes place in Boulder. And Boulder, is of course, where I currently am.

Remember the fornicating cats that I some times "kitty" sit? Well, I've been watching them over the last few days and haven't had internet access at their place, so its just me, the gay cats (not that there is anything wrong with that), and the Stand. These cats bully me into over-feeding them, and don't mind one bit bullying me into over-feeding them when I am fast asleep. So a few times every night, one of them starts punching my face and they both stare at me, or rather, stare through me and yell. I wake up to the evil cat punching and staring, and each time they are in slightly different positions, but still doing the creepy staring. And then I am wide awake and without internet, wondering if the little cat bastards have high-jacked my mind, and inevitably reading more of the Stand. Everyone is getting murdered and walking past King Sooper's and thinking about going out West and telling me to go to Las Vegas, and now the evil cats' are in on it too.

Oh, but the cats weren't fornicating on me, which seems like a good thing, at least for my ability to catch some zzzs. Although, when they aren't busy tormenting me, they do always seem to be doing something weird...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

420 at CU Boulder

Let me first state that I am not necessarily an advocate of marijuana. I don't use marijuana. Its simply not my drug of choice. I prefer wine and sugar, both of which are, lucky for me, 100% legal. That being said, I am am advocate of  freedom. Freedom to medicate, choose, express yourself, engage in civil discourse, and of course,  freedom of association. Which is why, I am highly disappointed and alarmed at CU's attempts to extinguish the annual 420 event.

Here's CU's Norlin Quad on a regular old day.

Let me back up a bit, and in case you are't familiar, here is a nice overview of what 420 means to some

More Norlin.

Boulder is somewhat of an anomaly. A liberal wealthy bubble of a town where organic rules and medicinal marijuana dispensaries are a plenty. 420 at CU has become quite an event, and represents a protest against federal, state, and municipal laws which prohibit marijuana use. Many attendees are gawkers, like me, or undergraduates, or advocates, or yes, even faculty. The event entails 1000's of people collecting on the grounds of Norlin, a beautiful open space on campus surrounded by historic buildings, where at 4:20 pm most (but certainly not all) people light up. Its a peaceful gathering where people inhale their legally or illegally obtained mary jane, which I should add is not a criminal offense in Colorado. And that's it. It lasts all of about 30 minutes.

Norlin on 420, 2010.

CU has been mostly tolerant of the event, but has taken an entirely new stance this year, which is both contradictory and alarming. Rationale for this 180 degree turn have not been addressed, but here is an overview:

  • April 3 E-memo sent out campus-wide outlining that 420 is disruptive to learning and urging professors not to cancel or alter course schedules on that day. The message also promoted the free on-campus concert with Wycleff Jean, (who is known to be marijuana friendly), which will run from 2pm-6pm, and is incidentally sponsored by Coors. Oh, and apparently there will be extra security on campus issuing parking tickets. What?! So we should not accommodate 420, which is disruptive, but we should send students to a concert instead? What happened to learning? And parking tickets? Really?! 
  • April 13 E-memo # 2. I've pasted the entire letter at the bottom of this post. Highlights include campus being closed to all visitors and check points throughout campus requiring students, staff and faculty to show ID. Violators will be charged with trespassing. Also, Norlin is closed to EVERYONE and anyone entering the quadrant will be charged with trespassing, which is punishable with 6 months in jail and a $750 fine. 
  • April 16 CU also announced its plans to disperse fresh fish fertilizer on the grounds of Norlin on the morning of April 20 as an added measure to keep people away. 
This is unbelievable. CU's actions infringe on our right to associate and freely express our beliefs, whatever they may be. I am thrilled to see that the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Chapter intends to fight CU on this basis, noting that closing campus is a violation of the public's right to protest government policy and student's rights to assemble and express their views. And, than goodness for social networking....


TO:      CU-Boulder Students

FROM:    Deb Coffin, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

SENDER:  Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

DATE:    April 13, 2012

SUBJECT: 4/20 advisory on campus closure to visitors and non-affiliates

Dear CU student:

The University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano announced
today that the University will be open to students, faculty and staff on April
20, but closed to non-affiliates and visitors due to the disruption caused by
the 4/20 gathering.

On Friday, April 20, CU-Boulder's classes will continue as scheduled, but the
following measures will be in place:

-- Students, faculty, staff and all CU-Boulder affiliates will need their
BuffOne ID cards to get on, and around, the campus. Those not affiliated with
CU-Boulder will not be permitted on campus and if found on campus will be
subject to a ticket for trespassing.

-- Police will have checkpoints set up on all major campus entrances. Those with
a valid CU parking permit may park on campus.

-- Norlin Quad lawn areas will be closed to all people. Anyone, regardless of
campus affiliation, who enters these areas will face a ticket for trespassing.
Closure signage will be clearly displayed in this area. 

-- Visitors will not be allowed to park on campus. Attendants will check those
traveling to campus for BuffOne IDs and parking permits.

-- CU-Boulder police and regional agencies, and The Colorado State Patrol will
conduct enhanced patrols on U.S. 36, Colo. 93, the Diagonal Highway and other
highways throughout the day, looking for drivers under the influence of drugs
and/or alcohol.

-- Regent Drive will be closed to through traffic from approximately 1:30 p.m.
to 6 p.m. Only buses will be allowed to use Regent Drive. other drivers should
plan alternate routes.

-- The Buff Bus and RTD Stampede, 209, and J routes will be impacted between the
hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Please see for details on how these routes
will be altered and/or delayed.

-- CU-Boulder students are invited to attend the Wyclef Jean concert at the
Coors Events Center. Students attending the concert must be inside by 4 p.m.
Doors will be shut at that time. Attendees are free to leave whenever they
would like, however, there are no return privileges. For more information,
visit the Program Council website at

-- More information about campus procedures will be posted at

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dumb Dumb

When I get really focused on something, like say Dissertation LaFleur, and/or otherwise stressed to the point that my brain is nearly all-consumed, I start doing things that are quite, well, dumb.

One of those things is theft. The stealing started a few years ago when I was first in Boulder, and I walked out of Whole Foods with a watermelon. I didn't mean to, of course. I paid for everything else in my cart, but I just didn't  manage to get the GIANT watermelon on the conveyor belt. I was leaving the store when the security dude asked "M'am, did you pay for that watermelon?" I was totally stunned and big fat tears welled up in my brown eyes. I was 7 seconds away from ugly crying and telling this guy how I didn't know anything about cultural anthropology and that I really loved dinosaurs, when he oh-so-kindly slapped a "sample" sticker on the shop-lifted melon. In the past couple of weeks, I inadvertently stole both cold medicine and a box of raisin bran.

Recently, I also:

- added cream and sugar to the garbage bin at Starbucks, rather than to my coffee. I was oh-so-confused when I went to stir.

- put toothpaste on my razor, rather than my toothbrush. Luckily, I caught this booboo before slicing my tongue in half.

-have been trying to jam my chap-stick into keyholes. Contrary to popular belief, Whole Foods' peppermint lip balm does not open either my apartment or office doors.

- booked tickets to go "home" to see Ron and Kitty at Spring Break, backwards. i.e. SAN-DEN return, which is not very helpful come Spring Break when flights are sold out and you are in DEN. Crying.

Anyhow, my poor over-worked brain is already on the mend after only a few days of rest, so hopefully I WILL NOT text my way into a fountain or get arrested for "borrowing" anything containing pseudoephedrine anytime soon. And, a little brew never hurt...

mmm... Beer sampler at Bailey's Taproom in Portland.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Well, I survived the last and potentially worst semester of my academic career. Dissertation LaFleur and I had quite a battle of wills and luckily (and marginally) I came out on top. I had many a sleepless nights and 16hr days and lots and lots of candy. Seriously, I'm pretty sure I am producing enough insulin to supply the western world.

Now, I can go back to planning my life around things other than my advisor's office hours. So, I now find myself pondering, what's next? You'd think I'd be considering getting a job or finding a post-doc, but really what I am most concerned about, is the state of my toe nails. Goal #1: Grow toe nails. Seriously. I have a terrible and some what revolting stress-induced habit of pick pick picking at anything and everything, and my poor little piggies have taken the brunt of this. BUT, now that I am a doctor (and not the kind that helps people) I really must straighten out the state of my toe nails.

So, that's where I'm at. Go figure.

Here are a few phone pics of late...

Ron food. mmm... My first real meal in ages and it was amazing!

My hate of gluten-free labeling continues.
OF COURSE its gluten-free (and Vegan)- its coconut milk for goodness sake!

Spring Break cone-head cabbages. 

Work at school.

Work at home. And my awesome new shoes.

The scariest pile of free stuff ever.

I guess Steve likes kiwi.

Steve! Who incidentally only comes around every 3 days now
that's its Spring and she's busy with Spring things.
Later peeps!

Monday, January 30, 2012

No promises

The pressure is on peeps. There is a slight but real possibility that I could graduate this semester, and as such, I am spending my days all consumed with, dun dun dun -(insert looming melody)-,

Dissertation LaFleur

Well, I have also been reading the Hunger Games trilogy, but that is mostly just cutting into my sleep time. Anyhow, I am not likely going to be posting much on BLOG LaFleur in the next couple of months, since I will be busy working/thinking/writing/revising and the like. I will be sure to pick back up by the time a) my work levels off, or b) something interesting happens.

Right now, my routine is very boring, though functional. I go to school and work here:

Yes, that is a torso in the background.

And then I go "home" to my empty apartment and work here:

Note lack of torso(s).

I do enjoy being alone sometimes, but living alone is not for me. Out of desperation, I drew a face on my humidifier and named him "Stanley."  The mustache is supposed to make him look manly, but I'm not sure it working for him. I may need to go with a full beard.

Stanley, the manly humidifier, and my only companion.
Alright, I'm now going back to Dissertation LaFleur, and look forward to having a life again, when she is done. At some point. I'll let you know, but can make no promises...

Saturday, January 21, 2012


You know how most people know when a photo is about to be taken and they make a nice face? Somehow, I struggle with that. I try, but as soon as the trying starts, its all over and I end up looking like I'm experiencing significant bowel pain and a mini-stroke. If Ron is trying to take my picture, he has to say something funny and/or stupid in order to get me to look like a normal I-know-how-to-smile-for-a-photo type human. Anyhow the "Marn-face" was dubbed by some very astute field school students, after picking up on my near inability to make a normal smiley face for a photo. The Marn-face is neither flattering, nor something that I am proud of. It just is. Marn-face.

A good example of Marn-face, with a coconut.

The holotype Marn-face, with a coconut. I don't know why I have so many chins. 

Demonstrations of Marn-face.
I only look normal because I had no idea of what was going on.

More demonstrations of Marn-face.

New Year's Eve, sneaky, Marn-face.

NO Marn-face! If I am genuinely smiling, Marni-face stays at bay.

Thanks to MacKenzie Smith for the horrible pics.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Home again

Keeping Sweetie happy. 
Ahh... I am back in San Diego again. My time in Costa Rica was good, albeit super busy and mostly without internet. The last few days were "field trip" and I don't mind saying that they were pure awesome. I went on a boat ride to an animal rehab/sanctuary where I got to groom a spider monkey and hold a baby sloth. The spider monkey, aka "Sweetie," had a monkey group but was low ranking and preferred to solicit humans for grooming. Sweetie would grab your hand, point to a spot, and expect you to get cracking. Adorable. There were lots of other animals such as scarlet macaws, kinkajous, and peccaries, but once you've groomed a spider monkey and held a 3 week old sloth, meh. There was a flowering tree that was littering all these pink petals and the ground below was carpeted in hot pink loveliness. I had to sit for a few minutes to just enjoy the pink. And the beach was unreal. It felt like a movie set or something. Crystal clear water, white sand, palm trees and rain forest. WOW. I'd like to go back next christmas and volunteer for a month. We'll just keep that under wraps for now though, as my sweet husband might actually murder me. In the boat on the way back, we encountered and watched spotted dolphins frolick and work on bait balls. Not too shabby.

Pink flower petals.

Chillin in the petals.

A little dolphin action.
We then traveled to Drake Bay for an entire day of relaxation and beach/alone time. Ahh... I normally spend a fair amount of time alone and so some down time after nearly 3 weeks with others was great. The next day was yet another boat ride, but this time we were snorkeling. I don't know what to say other than it was amazing and the best snorkeling I've ever seen. Crystal clear blue-green water, every kind of tropical fishy, sharks, and beautiful corals. Bathwater warm. There were some stinging jellyfish which weren't that kind to my backside, but what's a few nematocysts in the big picture? After that I went to Isla del Cano, which in case you didn't know, is where Jurrasic park was filmed. I didn't see any dinosaurs, but I am pretty sure I heard one. For certain. Following snorkel and beach time, it was time for more snorkeling, which was again, fantastic. At one point, I was surrounded by hundreds of  iridescent rainbow striped fish and could see nothing but them and the clear blue sea. I love it!

Snorkel monster.
The boat ride out went through Cental America's largest magrove forest, which included sightings of crocodiles, scarlet macaws (yawn, those were totally on my front porch daily at forest camp), howler monkeys, and got to chill and watch a large group of capuchin monkeys play. Seriously. I was like, "is this for shiz?" They were flipping and chasing and hanging and biting. Oh and running for an ultra quick dip in the crocodile infested waters, so that they could grab a drink. A great end to a fantastic day.


Right, well if you are currently nauseated by my idealic adventures, wait a day. I will be back to being crotchedy and complaining tomorrow, when I fly to Colorado. FML.

I have very few pics of my own (recall the robbery and my lack of camera equipment), but I will post a few of my own, and some from others as I get them. Oh, and I'll have to introduce "Marnface" eventually.