MY HUSBAND and I drive into Washington at midday after our weeklong holiday in Georgia. It's a bright day, with the sun shining, and the streets are clogged with weekend joggers, cyclists and picnickers.
As we pass the Zoo, we see a line of unmoving cars stretching from the Harvard Street gate as far as the eye can see. With parking spaces in such limited supply, the National Zoo cannot accommodate all the visitors that drive.
Once home, we start cleaning, shopping and otherwise organizing ourselves. My daughter comments that she is glad to see us back; after our longest period away, she has begun to understand the time investment involved in caring for a 50-year-old house full of eccentricities as well as an odd assortment of animals. Monday
After dropping my husband off at his office (he also works at the Zoo), I drive to the Research Division. Working with exotic animals is a bit like working in a hospital. You are faced with a never-ending succession of births, deaths, illnesses and insoluble problems; sometimes the responsibilities are overwhelming.
I have numerous responses from colleagues in other zoos who are interested in attending a workshop I am organizing on the genetic management, health care, breeding and rearing of the golden lion marmoset, a tiny Brazilian monkey which is so highly endangered that there may be fewer than 150 remaining in nature.
As usual, much of my day is spent on the telephone or talking, checking on both animal and people progress. The recent introduction of a father maned wolf to his mate ahd her young cubs has proceeded well out at the Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va. The male's positive interest in the cubs suggests that my graduate student will collect excellent data on paternal care in the species.
I leaf through the check sheets on the behavior of our giant panda male and female. Just before vacation, I started the annual Friends of the National Zoo volunteer watch on the giant pandas. As has been the case in previous years, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing are intracting more than I would have predicted, considering that she is not due to come into heat for another four to six weeks. Tuesday
I am at work only a short time before the arrival of my first appointment, a new faculty member in the Department of Zoology, University of Maryland. I review with him the longstanding connection between the Zoo's research division and his department, and we discuss future collaborative efforts. He gives a noon seminar in the Zoo, and our staff, students, fellows and other visiting "groupies" engage him in some prolonged and penetrating discussion of his hypotheses.
After lunch, I give my guest a rapid tour of the Zoo's research facilities and off-exhibit animal collection. He shows considerable interest in the elephant shrew colony. I explain something of their natural history and the research a student from Maryland is doing on elephant shrew social behavior and chemical communication.
Before my husband and I leave on our commute home down Beach Drive, I hear some good news. I have received a telegram from the zoo director in Frankfurt, Germany; a pair of golden marmosets we sent them on loan last October have had their first litter with no problems.
At home I get a start on reviewing a monograph on tiger ecology in Nepal, written by one of our visiting scientists. Wednesday
I spend the morning finishing the tiger manuscript and reviewing with our staff ecologist the status of our proposal for South India and Sri Lanka. We are in the planning stages of a project which, if even part of it works, will be not only biologically exciting, but also may have considerable impact on the future of conservation in these countries.
The scientific side involves a joint effort with colleagues in India and Sri Landa to examine the behavior and ecology of some of the rarer, large mammals in these regions, including several monkey species, tiger, wild dog, leopard and elephant.
After lunch, I have a short chat with one of the veterinary staff about cockroaches. He has recently become heavily involved in the Zoo's pest control program, and we discuss a proposed study of cockroach population dynamics which an entomologist at the University of Maryland wishes to do. The timing is perfect now because in a small area of the Zoo there are two buildings to be renovated, a new ape house under construction and one building, the primate house, remaining unchanged, where we can observe the fall and rise of cockroach numbers as food and animals are successively removed annd then reintroduced into buildings.
At home, I have my only hands-on contact with animals. I give the two dogs a good brushing since they are shedding all over the house.
My husband and I discuss the equipment we will need to pack for our weekend trip to Front Royal where we will be initiating a field study of the movements and population dynamics of native small mammals at the Zoo's Conservation and Research Center; the study will involve using live trips to catch the animals which are then released after being weighed, measured, examined and given identification marks. Thursday
The morning starts with a frenzied cutting up of meat and vegetables by my husband and me for a crock pot beef stew.
At work, the staff ecologist informs me that another government agency (the Zoo, as part of the Smithsonian, is federal) is working up a proposal for field studies on endangered speices in China and was completely unaware that the Smithsonian was already negotiating with the Chinese to collaborate on some field research.
I read over manuscripts written by staff and students. As I have taken on more administrative duties and am supervising more people, I find myself increasingly tied to the desk, and doing less and less active research. It is a bind, and I do not yet know how to balance my schedule so that I have a regular set time for research.
Once home, I take my daughter out for a driving lesson. I have never driven with her and am a bit apprehensive, but try to act calm and chatty. Wandering from home on upper 16th Street through Takoma Park, she nearly sideswipes a van in the left lane and almost rear-ends a car stopped at an intersection. We both agree that she needs more practice. Friday
My first task is to give a short tour of our research animal collection to a staff member from the Bronx Zoo. For the next hour, the staff ecologist and I run around collecting odds and ends that will be needed for the weekend at Front Royal: scales, thermometers, tattoo kits, clipboards, cameras, binoculars.
I have a meeting with the head of one section of the computer services division of the Smithsonian. Zoo researchers are depending more and more on the computer for data analysis, and the Zoo's bills have skyrocketed. I review the projected needs of our staff, students and visiting scientists.
Lunch brings another seminar, this time by a field biologist discussing the social life of dwarf mongooses in East Africa. Seminars always end with my being cornered by students with innumerable questions since I am not easy to find and my telephone (I am told) is usually busy.
I have the chance to discuss the progress of our South American leaf-nosed bat colony with a colleague from the Natural History Museum, who has spent his lunchtime weighing and measuring our 30 or so bats. I return home to pack a few more items before my husband and I leave for Front Royal. h Saturday
Since I have decided to host a social hour for the researchers and keepers at the Conservation and Research Center, I try to calculate the number of people and the best way to contact them all on such short notice. A trip to town is rapidly organized after our liquid refreshment needs are estimated.
We finally set out, and as we drive, one person spots some animal tracks. We spend about 20 minutes examining the tracks from every conceivable angle, and following them on foot along the road. No one dares to voice a strong opinion as to their origin. They seem big enough for a mountain lion, but mountain lions were exterminated from this region years ago.
Armed with photographs and measurments of the tracks, but no answer to the riddle, we move on to set the traps. The trapping site is a plot of land, measuring 200 meters by 200 meters, withh a stake to mark each 20-meter interval. I take the task of painting an identification code number on each stake.
As I walk and paint, the sun emerges, and I am surprised to find that I am hot. The area is hilly and includes part of two fields and some woodland with a creek running down the middle. I enjoy the mild exertion, but keep ending up ankle-deep in water and mud as I cross the creek and some boggy areas.
The party goes well, I think. There are sometimes communication problems between the "city" and "country" halves of the Zoo, even though our goals and programs are so tightly intertwined. I hope that the short party might have a beneficial effect.
Later I realize that I forgot my alarm clock, and don't know how I will wake up early enough since the traps should be checked at dawn. I also try not to fantasize too much that tomorrow I will be the first person ever to sight a mountain lion at the center.