Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thinking Back on Think Elephants

by Lisa Barrett

As my time with Think Elephants International (TEI) comes to a close, I have been reflecting more and more on what I have accomplished with my team members and what the experience has meant to me.

This fall I will be attending the University of Wyoming (UW) as a doctoral student in the Zoology & Physiology Department. I am so excited to begin on a new journey that will bring me one step closer to fulfilling my professional goals, but I will never forget how my adventure in Thailand has influenced me. Living in Thailand, a developing nation with a fascinating, rich, and complex culture has helped me to learn new things about myself (both personally and professionally) and has equipped me with the skills I will need for graduate school and beyond. Living in Wyoming will certainly evoke a new lifestyle, but I am eager to adapt what I have learned in the Golden Triangle to my new home.

Me and Poonlarb.
Photo by: Elise Gilchrist

By working as a member of the TEI team, I have learned how to work together to accomplish research goals. On a day to day basis, our small group discusses research protocols, designs research apparatus, and inputs data—all while getting along famously! Believe it or not, I couldn’t have asked for better team members with whom to live in a rural town for over one year. These tasks make me better-prepared to collaborate with lab members at UW. Perhaps just as importantly, I have learned how to think from the perspective of other animals (elephants) when designing research experiments.

One of my favorite aspects of research is studying social behavior through behavioral observations.
Photo by: Lisa Barrett

I am so glad that working with TEI gave not only gave me valuable research experience, but also allowed me to delve into the realm of education. Creating and revising curriculum for TEI’s school lessons has reinforced my desire to teach, a desire that has culminated in my goal to become a research professor. I thoroughly enjoyed creating activities and games that would serve to explain each of our ten lesson’s themes and goals.
Working on our monthly newsletter, creating YouTube videos, and writing blogs (especially my three-part series on “How to Become Un-endangered”) was another favorite aspect of the job. The practice of engaging with our fans via social media drew upon my interest in marketing and disseminating scientific information to the public. These are both interests that, after honing related skills at TEI, I hope to incorporate into my future career.

Everyone has their favorite elephants-- mine are Buathong (right) and Am (left). 
Photo by: Lisa Barrett

Lastly, my time with TEI has produced lasting friendships that cover the globe. I will surely miss the other members of the team; we developed relationships based on a very unique experience, and it is one that I will never forget. Although I cannot say for sure that I formed any sort of friendships with the elephants here, I will certainly miss seeing them at research and learning more about their personalities!

The 2013 Elephant Team: Elise, Rebecca, Gae, Ou, Sophie, and me.

I hope you continue to enjoy all of our blog posts, newsletters, and social media posts in the future! I am excited to see what the new team will do at TEI, and I will always remember my year here. Thank you for the enthusiasm about elephant conservation and for the fantastic support!

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