There are a million things that could take a recent Haverford graduate across the world, but for Claire Burdick ’19 there was only one: lemurs. Following her graduation, the psychology major is heading to Madagascar to volunteer for the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership.
During her three-month stint, Burdick will aid in local reforestation efforts. She will spend the rest of her time studying the island’s uniquely indigenous primates.
“I will be a field research assistant in a lemur-monitoring research project,” said Burdick. “I will work with local Malagasy people to find groups of radio-collared lemurs and record observations on social behaviors, feeding, and home ranges.”
Burdick hopes to apply her academic interests to her study of lemurs. In particular, she hopes to one day examine the animals through the lens of disability studies. “Critical Disability Studies,” a course Burdick took with Professor Kristin Lindgren, provided a valuable framework for Burdick’s aspirations.
“[That] course also showed me that I can combine my interest in animal behavior and disability studies and helped me develop my interest in this aspect of animal behavior,” said Burdick. “I wrote my final paper for this course on primates and disability, and hopefully I will expand on this connection in my future career.”
For Burdick the study of animals, as a useful lens to discuss varying concepts, is past, present, and future. In addition to working with lemurs since high school, she also spent the summer preceding her senior year interning at the St. Louis Zoo, after receiving a Center for Career and Professional Advising’s Liberal Arts in the Workplace grant. At the zoo, Burdick was able to employ methods of psychology research and develop her interest in animal behavior research. Following her time in Madagascar this summer, Burdick has no plans to halt this development in the slightest.
“My long-term dreams and goals are all animal-focused,” she said. “I want to be a primatologist that studies prosocial behavior, especially in relation to disability in primates… Longer-term, I am hoping to go to graduate school and get a Ph.D. working with a professor who researches prosocial behavior in primates, especially lemurs. I worked with lemurs starting in high school and throughout college and they have a special place in my heart.”
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series detailing the post-collegiate paths of recent Haverford graduates.