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. 

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