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Internship with Alouatta Sanctuary
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Emily Brokenshire

Emily Brokenshire

Major: Anthropology
Minor: Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management
Hometown: Tyrone, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I was very interested in gaining experience working with monkeys, so I did some research online, specifically on the website, Animal Behavior Institute. Here, I found opportunities within and outside of the United States that provided experience in handling and caring for primates. I then emailed the addresses provided on Alouatta's webpage and got in contact with the directors.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience definitely was informative. This organization is still in the process of becoming a fully developed agency. Alouatta Sanctuary is first and foremost a conservation site that takes in illegal pet-trade, abused, or orphaned primates to rehabilitate them back into their natural habitat. This internship took place approximately an hour and forty-five minutes outside David City, Panama in a rural area filled with jungle. The atmosphere was amazing. We were surrounded by wild capuchin and howler monkeys, which gave us the ability to observe them freely and compare them to our monkeys we were attempting to rehabilitate back into the wild. There were also projects going on to map our property as well as document wildlife activity within our property boundaries using transects. In the jungle, there was limited contact with the outside world due to minimal electricity (we ran a generator every now and then to charge laptops) and internet access. It was an aspect of the experience I was able to gain a lot from.

Because the sanctuary was in the process of becoming a fully developed agency, the internship program was not as structured as I anticipated. Prior to arrival, we received intern handbooks that informed us we would be working alongside professionals. I had hoped to be working directly with primatologists and veterinarians. Instead, we worked most closely with graduate students or recent graduates who were familiar with the organization.

"With this experience and previous opportunities I have been able to have, I learned that I am more compelled to continue studying the cultural subset of anthropology."

How did this experience impact you academically?

This impacted my career path substantially. I wanted to explore the primatology side of anthropology to see if working with primates and comparing their behaviors to humans was something I was interested in doing. I learned through this experience that I am more passionate about working directly with people. With this experience and previous opportunities I have been able to have, I learned that I am more compelled to continue studying the cultural subset of anthropology.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

My passions still lie with anthropology, but I think this experience helped me carve my future path for graduate studies. I am planning on continuing my education in cultural studies, specifically indigenous cultures in North America. Twice I was able to visit Ngobe-Bugle villages while in Panama, which added to my desire to learn more about the socioeconomic disadvantages they face.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I faced a variety of challenges in this internship experience, but if someone really wants an adventure, I would recommend this internship. Hopefully, once this sanctuary becomes a fully developed agency, the internship program will become more structured. In the meantime, if a student is interested in going, I would advise them to get in contact with the current managers on site and ask questions about the program, the professionals with which they will be working (e.g. their previous experience working with animals or conservation), and the projects the sanctuary is currently coordinating. This was information that would have been very valuable to me.

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