Monkey Girl and I were house-mates when we were both studying in Boulder, Colorado. Prior to her arrival, word got to the Asian community that there will be a Singaporean girl studying monkeys joining us! We were all very curious of who she was and her expertise, of course not without making nonsensical jabs about her major AND her name.
Dr. Andie Ang. Monkey Girl. Tennis Fanatic. Queen of Mahjong.
After graduating with Masters of Science in Biology at NUS, Andie went on to complete her PhD at University of Colorado, Boulder focusing on her love for primate conservation. Since jobs related to primate conservation are significantly less in demand than the likes of engineers, doctors and lawyers, she was constantly worried about getting a job she loved after graduating. As an international student with limited income, she was also extremely thrifty. To save money, she would occasionally take leftover pizza from meetings, take part in school surveys to earn gift vouchers and even eating multiple meals from a single dish. Here's some insight into Andie's life! =)
When we had so much fun roaming Malaysia over the summer in 2012, photo courtesy of Dr. Alyssa Koay! =)
T: Your scope of study and interest is really focused, how did you first become interested in primates?
Dr. A: I was given a pet vervet monkey from Africa when I was 10 years old. The juvenile monkey was illegally taken by friends of relatives who were sailors to Africa. Not fully grasping the difference between a wild animal and a domestic pet at that time, I raised my pet monkey like I would have to a pet dog; bringing him for a walk in the neighbourhood on my shoulders, feeding it with home-cooked food… Gradually over the next 5 years, as my pet monkey grew bigger, I learned through watching him every day that he was miserable chained up at home, without his rightful freedom to be in the forests and among his friends. It was after going through several contacts internationally and locally that I managed to contact ACRES. We raised funds and through their help, my pet monkey was repatriated back to Zambia, Africa in 2004. The monkey is my motivation to learn about monkeys and the threats they face so as to better help them.
Raffles' Banded Langur - Species first noted by Sir Stamford Raffles with white bands on their bodies.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Andie Ang
T: With the obscurity of what you study, are there more prospects overseas? Why did you choose to return to Singapore and what that a choice?
Dr. A: I think there are challenges both overseas and in Singapore to pursue this sort of career that I am doing (probably applies to all jobs as well). Even though there are more job opportunities overseas as it is a more recognised career, there is also more competition. In Singapore, this unconventional career path gives me a niche area to explore. I chose to come back to Singapore because I would like to first contribute to the conservation efforts locally before seeing if there’s opportunities to also contribute regionally.
T: What were your toughest times and who/what played crucial rules in helping you overcome these times?
Dr. A: One of the toughest times when I was doing my Master’s was when I could not find the study animals in the wild for two months even though I went to the field sites almost every day. It was depressing as I felt that I was not doing anything worthy and not contributing at all whatsoever. My advisor said, “no data is data, as you know that the animals were not there at that time, and this can be meaningful data”. Another difficult period was during my PhD, when I struggled to finish on time and battled inertia. The pressure to finish came from within as I felt that I could really contribute more significantly towards animals and their conservation only after completing my studies.
Dr. Ang during her field work. Photo courtesy of Long Vu
T: How has your environment growing up helped with your career?
Dr. A: I came from a low-income family where my parents stressed the importance of education as they did not have the privilege to complete school due to the pressure to quit school to earn a living. In a way, I valued the chance to be in school as a student, and this motivation drove me to complete the highest education.
T: What are you most thankful for in your life now?
Dr. A: I am grateful for many things; for my family and dogs, a job that I love, my friends and colleagues, and generally the stability and freedom to pursue my interests.
I'm thankful for Andie's generosity in sharing! I'm extremely lucky to have been close friends since we were house-mates. We've shared many experiences, happiness and pain, and have also binged watched way too many korean variety shows together! To more years of friendship to come! <3 For more of her work, check out her amazing personal website www.andieang.org and her primate watching website www.primatewatching.com!