April M Ruiz, who is joining the Long Island Game Farm staff as an Ed-Zoo-Cation instructor this summer, poses with some of the lemurs.
June 9, 2009
April Ruiz Completes Doctorate Degree in Study
of Lemur Behavior
Joins Long Island Game Farm’s “Ed-Zoo-Cation” Staff
The Long Island Game Farm has announced that April M Ruiz, who will start conducting lectures and shows at the Long Island Game Farm this summer, has completed and successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, entitled “Social information gathering in lemurs.”
A 2001 graduate of Patchogue-Medford High School, Dr. Ruiz went on to pursue her undergraduate degree at Yale University, where she studied the behavior and cognition of several primate species. In 2005, she earned a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science and immediately went on to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of St. Andrews in Great Britain. She decided to concentrate on lemurs, a type of primate more distantly related to humans than apes and monkeys are, and was advised by Professor Richard Byrne (author of The Thinking Ape) and Doctor Juan Carlos Gómez (author of Apes, Monkeys, Children and the Growth of Mind). Her studies were funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship and the Overseas Research Student Award Scheme (ORSAS), which was provided by the British Council.
Her doctoral dissertation focused on how lemurs might seek out and use social cues to modify their own behavior. She studied two lemur species, the brown lemur and the black lemur, and conducted her research at the Centre de Primatologie in Strasbourg, France in collaboration with Dr Jean-Jacques Roeder. Some of the questions Dr. Ruiz posed include: If a lemur sees a group member spit out a piece of food, will it then be hesitant to try the same food? If a lemur witnesses a group member looking behind a barrier, will it then search in that area for food? And, do lemurs look to others for information in new or uncertain situations?
One of her research projects was published in the scientific journal Animal Cognition and went on to receive attention from news outlets such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). She is currently working on other manuscripts for publication.
Dr. Ruiz explained, “This research is important because we know a lot about the behavior and cognition of other primates (monkeys, apes and humans), but we don't know very much about another group of primate called the prosimians, of which lemurs are part. New information about these species will help us to better understand primates as a whole, and how primates relate to other animal species.”
This summer, Dr. Ruiz is working at the Game Farm as an instructor for its “Ed-Zoo-Cation” program. “We are proud to welcome April to the Game Farm,” said Melinda Novak, Co-Owner and Vice President, Long Island Game Farm. “She has a great interest in animals and is able to share that knowledge with the visitors at the Game Farm. We wish April the best in her employment here at the Game Farm.”