Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Typical Day

A typical day for me (if you can have one working with monkeys). This is a day working in Shelters. My schedule has recently changed and I'm getting ready to start training part of every week in the Harem building with the Japanese Macaques in an obesity study.

  • 5:30 AM: Wake up! Yes, I know way too early for most people (and that includes me most days).
  • 6:00 AM: Breakfast. Usually cereal, but I have been known to make pancakes or eggs and sausage or bacon if I feel awake enough.
  • 6:30 AM: Leave for work if taking the MAX (Metropolitan Area Express - Portland's train system; got to love me some public transportation)
  • 6:45 AM: Leave for work if driving. Catch MAX from Hatfield Government Center to Willow Creek Transit Center.
  • 7:10 AM: Arrive at work either way.
  • 7:15 AM: (If by car) change into scrubs and hang out in the break room until time to clock in.
  • 7:25 AM: (If by MAX) change into scrubs and walk to the break room. It takes me a bit to walk all the way across campus from where the shuttle drops me off at the VGTI (Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute).
  • 7:30 AM: Clock in and move to Colony Building for morning meeting.
  • 7:40 AM; Morning Meeting. No, it doesn't take 10 minutes to walk from the break room to the meeting, but we're given 10 minutes if we don't want to change into scrubs until after clock in. This is where we're told anything important for the day, if it is a lixit/eyewash day, who is doing produce cutting (if needed), and who is in what areas. 
  • 7:50-9:30 AM: Out in shelters either feeding or starting washing.
    • If feeding: Each shelter gets between 3/4 and 1 bin of their designated chow (1 gets special 5045 chow that is high protein, three get special 5040 chow that has higher levels of vitamins and minerals, and the rest get regular chow). Takes about 30 minutes depending on the golf cart being used. (The older one dies a lot.) Shift to washing when finished. I can wash between 2 and 3 shelters after feeding.
    • If washing: The number of shelters I can was in a day depends on one major factor. If it's supposed to be a hot day (above 84 degrees), we will fill pools as we wash. Filling pools takes 5-10 minutes. In that amount of time I can wash half to all of one room, depending on the room and the condition the monkeys left it in from the night before. Straight washing, not filling pools, I can clean 4 shelters. With filling pools, I can generally get 3 1/3 shelters done. I mean 1/3 because our shelters (at least the ones inside the giant Jurassic fences) are split into three sections each. The front and back rooms are identical and the middle has the doors by which you enter the area
  • 9:30 AM: First break. We get ~15 minutes to relax and chill out before going back. For most of us, it's snack time.
  • 9:45 AM - 12:00 PM: Washing or Produce Prep.
    • If washing: Repeat morning routine
    • If on produce: Depending on the produce for the day, this could be really easy or really frustrating. Easy treats: Melons, bananas, apples, zucchini, cabbage, pretty much anything other than oranges. Oranges are a mess. Most things (cabbage, melons, and usually bananas excluded) go through this big old commercial slicer. Usually it's fairly clean, no huge mess to clean up. Oranges are a different story. We get orange juice all over the floor, up and down the wall, all over us, pooled under the blade. It royally sucks to clean up and the containers are really heavy to have to lift into the golf cart. Everything except the melons and the cabbage go in tubs for shelters (Melons get smashed in the shelters and cabbage is already diced). We have 3 25-gallon tubs, 2 10-gallon tubs, and 4 or 5 2-gallon bags. The largest tubs all go to shelters. One of the 10-gallon tubs goes to Harem and the J-macs. The other tub and two bags goes to the Colony building and it's assortment of Rhesus and cynomolgus macaques (aka cynos). The other two bags go to the monkeys in South Annex and the Kroc quarantine building.
  • 12:00-12:30 PM: Lunch! Some days (most days) we seem to get to this point so fast that I can't believe the day is already half over. It's nice to just sit, eat, chat, and relax.
  • 12:30-2:30 PM: Washing (if any left), enrichment, and afternoon feeding.
    • Enrichment depends on the day. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are fresh things. Monday and Friday are usually fresh fruit or the occasional veggie. Wednesdays are cabbage or bok choy. Tuesdays are some kind of grain (brown rice, oats, actual grain + trail mix stuff called Monkey Morsels). Thursdays are either frozen treats (Koolaid and trail mix frozen in cubes or yogurt containers) or jello boards. Yes, I said jello boards. Basically peg boards filled with frozen or mostly frozen jello. The monkeys love it.
    • A few shelters get more food than we have bins, so they get food at 2 pm and at 3 pm. Right now there are only 3 shelters that get this (3/4 which is actually 2 shelters with the slides pulled to make it one, shelter 20, and shelter 25).
  • 2:30 PM: Break number 2. Probably the hardest break of the day knowing we only have an hour or so until we are done for the day.
  • 2:45-3:45 PM: Final feeding, refill pools if needed, water bamboo again, clean chow room, check locks and slides, general maintenance and chores.
  • 3:45 PM: Lock the gates and head out! We are done! Time to change back to street clothes and chill until 4 o'clock.
  • 4:00 PM: Clock out and head home!
  • 4:15 PM: (If by car) Home already or very nearly in good traffic. (If by MAX) Board MAX Blue Line for Hillsboro.
  • 4:45 PM: (If by MAX) Home!
  • 4:50 PM: Into the shower! Do not want to go to bed smelling like monkey poo, chow, and sweat.
  • 6:30 PM: Or somewhere there abouts. Dinner time! Afterwards I'm usually knitting, reading, watching tv, on my computer, or some combination.
  • 9:30 PM: In bed or on my way. Seems really early for me to be in bed after the midnight-1 AM sleep times of college.

Questions? Comments? Let me know!

Oh, and just for your viewing pleasure...

Rhesus Macaques - This is actually in our corrals!
The picture was taken in the Spring of 2008.
Picture from http://dft.ba/-onprcpics
Japanese Macaques or Snow Monkeys -
Also from our corrals! The picture was taken in the Spring of 2008.
Picture from http://dft.ba/-onprcpics2

Saturday, August 4, 2012


For those of you who don't know, I have finally got a job. I am a Lab Animal Tech at Oregon Health and Sciences University/Oregon National Primate Reasearch Center. It isn't as fancy or lab oriented as it sounds. I am a glorified pooper-scooper. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy what I do, but that's what it is.

I work in the Sheltered Housing area of the Colony section of the Division of Comparative Medicine (DCM). Our monkeys are all Rhesus Macaques, all 650 or so of them. They are part of the largest specific pathogen free (spf) Rhesus colony in the country. They are a joy to be around, even (maybe especially) when it is hot and miserable. I have recently discovered the joys of monkeys with pools of water. No running and no diving rules don't exist here. It is a time of big splashes and huge cooldowns.

The people I have met are simply amazing. My friend Jaclyn, another tech that started the same time as me, pointed out that it is almost impossible to be miserable working with these people. Even if you want to be miserable and grouchy because it is 85+ degrees and you're wearing long sleeves and layers and your feet hurt, it is hard. Whenever we are together, whether at a morning meeting, on break, or just down in shelters shifting food, there is usually laughter to be heard - especially when Mr. Shannon is around.

Now I say Mr. Shannon because we have Shannon McAllister, the manager lady in Colony, and Shannon DeCota, one of the trainers in Shelters. We also have Kirsten (Kearsten) - she's like the go between with us and Shannon - and Kirsten (Kursten) - who is a temp like me but recently transfered to spend most of the time inside - (I hope the names made at least some sense). It was confusing for a while. We also have Elsa, Pete, Michael, Amanda, Len, and Olga. Then there are Katie and Greg from BSU (that's the Behavioral Studies Unit). And there's Doug, who is like the all around guy that transports big cages and equipment to and from cage wash and brings us pallets of monkey chow once a week or so. And that's just the people I work with directly.

And then there are the monkeys. It's mostly the alpha males that have names and I only know a few of them right now. Like Isaac in shelter 10 - he isn't a huge fan of people and you have to shift him to do enrichment. Timothy in 24 and Harris in 14 like to play games and not shift for washing; I usually have to play with the slides and bribe them with bamboo. And then Spock likes to carry around one of the babies and Mellow is very mellow. Sid is Bonkers and Popeye likes to people watch. Our two newest males are Hobbit and Smeagol.

I still have a lot to learn but right now it is all washing cages, filling pools, and giving enrichment (the best part of the day!)