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Natural Resources Student Gains Hands-On Experience With Endangered Lemurs

Lemurs perch on branches - Natural Resources Students Gains Hands-On Experience With Endangered Lemurs - College of Natural Resources News NC State University

Gatsby is charming, winsome and the first love of NC State student Rhiannon See. The infant ring-tailed lemur — named after the title character of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” — has captivated the attention and heart of the graduating senior ever since she joined the Duke Lemur Center as a communications assistant last spring.

“At the beginning of the summer, there were a few lemur parents who had babies early on and those babies were going out into the free range enclosures for the first time and learning how to jump in the trees and they’re falling everywhere,” said See, who is studying natural resources in the Department of Forestry of Environmental Resources. “Just seeing the little infant lemurs learning how to do life was really cute.” 

Founded in 1966, the Duke Lemur Center is home to the most diverse population of lemurs on Earth, outside of their native home of Madagascar. The center houses more than 200 lemurs of some 13 different species, with naming conventions for each species. Each of the center’s ring-tailed lemurs is named after a literary character.

Two Passions, One Job

See’s position at the Duke Lemur Center has not only allowed her to pursue her passion for the outdoors and environmental conservation, but it’s also allowed her to further explore her interest in photography and other aspects of marketing and communications.

In her position, See writes feature stories and profiles for the center’s website, magazine and digital newsletter. She also assists with social media, design projects, media inquiries, media tours and preparing marketing/fundraising campaigns.

See also photographs the free-ranging lemurs that live on the center’s 100-acre property, including the mongoose, sifaka, aye-aye and red-ruffed lemurs. Each time she photographs the lemurs, she aims to capture their big personalities.

lemur in environment
A photo Rhiannon took of Binx the aye-aye, a nocturnal lemur, at the Duke Lemur Center.

One of See’s biggest projects involved writing a feature story for the center’s annual magazine last summer. The story focused on how a former intern’s experience led them to shift their career path to conduct research with lemurs in Madagascar. See spent a large amount of time coming up with ideas for the feature, setting up interviews and conducting research.

Since the summer, See has focused on managing the center’s social media accounts and testing different types of content to see how it performs across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok. She has been learning detailed processes on how to incorporate her work into the center’s brand. For the center’s TikTok account, for example, See creates short, fun and informative videos of the lemurs.

The Journey So Far

Though See has always had a passion for the outdoors, she didn’t actually begin her NC State journey at the College of Natural Resources. She instead enrolled at the College of Education, majoring in high school education and later elementary education. During her junior year, however, See decided that the College of Natural Resources better aligned with her interest after one of her close friends from the college shared his work with her.

It wasn’t long after transferring to the College of Natural Resources that See, a Goodnight Scholar, found out about the internship opportunity at the Duke Lemur Center through the NC State program. “I knew before I came to NC State that I wanted my career to be in communications and creating media,” she said. “So, I thought that was really cool that it could mix what I’m interested in major-wise and the job I’d like to do.”

See said her time at the College of Natural Resources has equipped her with the background knowledge needed to succeed in her internship at the Duke Lemur Center. “It’s a lot easier to write captions if I understand what I’m doing and if I have general knowledge of nature and scientific things like the species of lemurs.”

Rhiannon See poses with Binx, an aye-aye at the Duke Lemur Center.
Rhiannon See poses with Binx, an aye-aye at the Duke Lemur Center. Photo provided

See’s post-college goals include managing social media for an environmental organization and working as a communications manager. Upon graduation, See will continue to work for the Goodnight Scholars Program as she continues to search for a full-time job in her career field. She has been employed with the program as a communications assistant since 2021.

“This internship gives me the opportunity to gain more necessary experience and skills to be used for this future position and allows me to increase my knowledge and abilities surrounding photography, writing and social media content,” See said.

See concluded by offering some valuable advice for her peers: “Take every opportunity even if you feel you’re not qualified for it because chances are the people around you feel the same as well,” she said. “Everyone has to start somewhere and people, especially in the College of Natural Resources, love telling you about what they do and how they do it.”