June 25, 2024

UCalgary grad student inspired to share the primatology adventure with youth

Megan Mah’s exhibit at Telus Spark Science Centre continues until June 27
Megan Mah, A Primatology Adventure, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Megan Mah pursues primatology research in Costa Rica. Courtesy Megan Mah

Megan Mah, a master's student with the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology in the Faculty of Arts at UCalgary, is on a mission to ignite the curiosity of young minds about the fascinating study of primates. Partnering with the Telus Spark Science Centre’s Steven’s Lab, Mah has set up an engaging exhibit and activities aimed to get youth interested in primatology.

"I hope to help youth become interested in primatology by sharing it with the public," says Mah, reflecting on her own journey into the field. "My path in primatology was largely inspired by passionate primatologists whose courses I took or whose stories I read about as an undergraduate student. These role models have greatly impacted my life, leading me to this path, and I want to do my part to get others interested in the discipline."

Spider monkey, Megan Mah, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Calgary

Spider monkey

Megan Mah, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology

Mah's exhibit, A Primatology Adventure, offers hands-on experiences with authentic scientific tools. Participants experience the world of research through video observations of real primate subjects in Costa Rica, and comparing the feeding behaviours of black-handed spider monkeys and white-faced capuchins. Through these activities, participants gain insight into the methods primatologists use to understand human behaviour through the study of primates.

"Primatology is for anyone and everyone who is interested," says Mah. "The exhibit has been an excellent platform to engage visitors of all ages in discussions about primate conservation, as well as a platform for me to learn to effectively communicate my work to different audiences.”

Collaborating with Kayley Evans, a fellow master's graduate in primatology from UCalgary and now creative project manager at Steven’s Lab, Mah has crafted the program to cater to participants of all ages and backgrounds. Their efforts are a result of the rich primatology program at the University of Calgary, renowned as one of the best in Canada.

Megan Mah, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Calgary

Before beginning her undergraduate studies, Mah had never heard of primatology. She enrolled in her first primatology course on a whim, inspired by her friends who had chosen it as an elective. Mah then found herself captivated by the enthusiasm and field stories of her professors, which sparked her passion.

"I am very lucky to have unwittingly undertaken my studies at an institution that is such an important research hub for primatology," she reflects.

Currently, Mah's research focuses on the behavioural aspects of aging in white-faced capuchins in Costa Rica, part of a broader project led by esteemed researchers in the field, including Dr. Amanda Melin, PhD, an associate professor with the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology. Her experiences studying various primate species in their natural habitats have been nothing short of exhilarating, offering daily challenges, adventures and unforgettable encounters.

White-faced capuchin, Megan Mah, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Calgary

White-faced capuchin

Megan Mah

"Observing wild primates in their natural habitat is truly a dream come true," Mah says enthusiastically. "It is a privilege to witness these animals living their lives and to become familiar with them as individuals."

Through her exhibit and ongoing research, Mah continues to inspire the next generation of primatologists, fostering a deep appreciation for these remarkable creatures and the vital role they play in understanding our own species.

“A Primatology Adventure” will take place at the Telus Spark Science Centre until June 27. For more information, visit Telus Spark's Steven's Lab website.

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