Darwin wrote in The Voyage of the Beagle at length about his first impressions upon observing the preponderance of life in Brazil’s forests, saying, “delight itself, however, is a weak term to express the feelings of a naturalist who, for the first time, has wandered by himself in a Brazilian forest.” It’s pretty clichéd to open a post about wildlife with a quote from Charles Darwin, but when a Darwin quote so perfectly aligns with one’s own sentiments, it seems a shame to let those words fall by the wayside.
The first time I had the pleasure of wandering, by myself, in a Brazilian forest was in the summer of 2015, and the sense of awe and amazement that I felt those first few days in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest at the Reserva Particular do Patrimônio Natural – Feliciano Miguel Abdala (RPPN-FMA) made such a strong impression on me that I devoted myself to working in this area for the foreseeable future.
I currently have the distinct privilege of studying under Dr. Karen B. Strier in the anthropology PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a GWC associate conservation scientist. Dr. Strier has devoted more than 30 years of her life to working in this amazing forest and studying one of the most impressive primates in the world, the Critically Endangered Northern Muriqui.
The design that I created for the muriqui t-shirt pays homage to these amazing monkeys in many ways: their unique and immediately recognizable silhouettes are highlighted in the simple shapes that I used to create the image; and, the muriqui was drawn as if standing on all fours on the ground, a position I chose as an homage to the tremendous work done by Dr. Strier and many Brazilian scientists and students documenting the emergence of a terrestrial tradition in a primarily arboreal species. The profits from this design are all being donated to the Muriqui Project of Caratinga to help this international team of researchers continue their incredibly important work.
Through my work with Dr. Strier, I have been fortunate enough to visit her field site, the RPPN-FMA, on two occasions. During both of those visits, I focused on meeting her long-time Brazilian collaborators and narrowing down what the focus of what my own research would eventually be.
The forest at RPPN-FMA is home to the muriquis, as well as Tufted Capuchins, Buffy-headed Marmosets, and the Brown Howlers that I hope to eventually study. This forest is an incredibly unique, magical, and mysterious place that has been the subject of continuous study for over 30 years, and yet is still revealing new and exciting information about primates and ecology.