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Melina Nolas

M.S. in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) Candidate 2022

B.S. in Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, 2019

Current Position:
Animal Caretaker, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation

What were you doing before entering the M.S. in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) program?
Before entering the program, I worked as an animal caretaker at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, a wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation hospital in Texas. I worked in the hospital providing husbandry and basic medical care to injured and orphaned native wildlife before releasing them back into the wild. I also worked in all sections of the animal sanctuary, providing daily care for monkeys, carnivores, farm animals, non-native birds, reptiles, and companion animals.

What aspects of MAPP led to your decision to join the program?
I was really drawn to the MAPP program for the wide perspective view that it affords to the animal field, and the interdisciplinary approach it uses to combine animal studies, policy, communication, and advocacy. My previous experience has been primarily with academic research and animal care, so I was really excited about a program that could show me another side of how to work with and for animals and learn how to be an advocate for these species that I care so much about.

Interests in and experience with animals
I studied primate behavior, conservation, and ecology in the Duke University Evolutionary Anthropology department, where I graduated in 2019. While there, I joined a lab studying wild baboons and wrote my senior thesis on wild baboon father-daughter inbreeding avoidance strategies. I also spent a summer in a field site in Madagascar, following and collecting behavioral data from wild ring-tailed lemurs. After graduating, I interned for six months at the Great Ape House of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, where I worked with orangutans and gorillas, and conducted a research project on young great ape gestural communication. From there, I worked for a year and a half at the wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation hospital, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, with a variety of native and non-native species including primates, large carnivores, farm animals, and companion animals.

What do you want to focus on at MAPP?
At MAPP I want to focus on primate conservation and advocacy. Primates have been my passion for many years now, and I want to learn how to make an impact and affect positive change to help endangered species. I am also interested in broadening my horizons and learning about other animal topics, which is why I am excited about the broad array of courses that the program offers.

What are your career goals?
After the program, I hope to make an impact for endangered species, whether that be working for a non-profit conservation organization or continuing on to further conservation research. But I also want to allow myself to be open to other opportunities as I learn about other fields and ways to make an impact for animal species through this program.

What are your outside interests?
I enjoy music and singing, as well as playing games with my friends and going on hikes.

Number of pets? What type?
I have one gentleman cat named Randy, who I love with all my heart.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
I’m really excited about this program and getting to know everyone and all their specific interests. I love talking to people about the subjects that excite them and learning new facts about the animals work with and for.

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