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Four anthropology students from Indiana University are taking their funding request to the public. Crowd-funding websites like Kickstarter are becoming more and more popular as a way to fund all kinds of projects, big and small.
This group, studying in the lab of evolutionary anthropologist Michael Muehlenbein hopes to continue their study of how tourists and primates interact in South Africa by using these types of funds.
“The whole idea of ecotourism is that you take only photos and leave only footprints. But the reality is that unregulated ecotourism can have a variety of potential costs. One of those costs being the welfare of endangered species that we’re interested in going to visit,” Muehlenbein says.
Diseases transmitted from humans to primates can be disastrous to wild primate populations. Primates can transmit diseases like malaria right back to humans. The goal for these researchers is to study what people know about primate and human diseases and their attitudes towards them. These and other factors can influence disease transmission.
“Humans are attracted to monkeys and apes, they’re cute, they’re fuzzy and they act like us. Non-human primates share a lot of diseases with humans and we know there are a lot of instances of disease transmission from them to humans, HIV being a good example. So, I wanted to wrap my brain around the decisions tourists make that might influence the transmission of diseases like that,” Muehlenbein says.
The students helping Muehlenbein in his research hope to reach out to the community by involving them in the funding and researching process. They plan on using Microryza, a website dedicated to helping smaller science projects reach their funding goals.
Muehlenbein thinks that becoming involved in this kind of research project could mean so much to the science community.
“I think a lot of younger people are not as involved in science as they should be. In general, I think the public loves celebrities, but I think they should love scientists just as much. As a donor, they have an investment more than just money because we have multiple incentives. We want to involve them every step of the way, telling them why we’re doing this, from the inception of the project to the very end,” Muehlenbein says.
The goal is to raise $7,500 to pay for plane tickets and the research would take about three weeks.
By Casey Kuhn