Featured EyeWirer: @Atani

me and spider monkeys

A behind the scenes look at the EyeWire community.

Meet the EyeWirers who are mapping the brain. Today’s featured EyeWirer is @Atani.

Introduce yourself!

My name’s Melissa. I’m a zoo keeper who works with primates (lemurs, monkeys, and apes) at the Little Rock Zoo in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the United States. I love being a zoo keeper! The animals are so wonderful, and although the work is hard, it’s very varied. I have to know a little about a lot of things and a lot about a few things. It is pretty typical for me to have to work on construction, give a tour, mix medications, trim trees, make toys, and train the animals, all in addition to the animals’ routine care all on the same day! There is no chance of getting bored there!

I also volunteer at a therapeutic riding center on my days off. I typically handle the horses but also assist the riders too. I’m lucky enough to be on the schooling team, which keeps the horses exercised and reinforces their training.

Why do you play EyeWire?

EyeWire is very relaxing to me, it’s a great way to decompress after a long day. I’ve even literally fallen asleep in the middle of tracing cubes! But what really keeps me coming back are the amazing people I have met in chat. Everyone here, from the players to the admins, are so friendly and the conversation is awesome! I’ve been in tears from laughing from some of the things we’ve talked about. You just can’t find this type of camaraderie very many places!

How did you discover EyeWire?

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I read an article about the belly button project. Sadly, I was too late to become a participant in it. However, that study got me interested in citizen science. Around that same time, IFLS featured EyeWire in a Facebook post, and I decided I wasn’t going to miss out again. So I signed up! Sadly, my computer at the time couldn’t handle EyeWire and it was over a year before I actually was able to start playing. But I’ve been enjoying it since!

Share a story that helps the world get to know you.

Geeze, that leaves it wide open doesn’t it?

About the most common thing I get asked is, “Why did you become a zoo keeper?” The short answer is that I’m a second generation keeper, it’s in my blood. The long answer is, when I was little I wanted to be a paleontologist. From age of six that is what I wanted to do. I even had to educate my teachers about what a paleontologist was! I did have a few teachers tell me that I couldn’t do that because I was a girl, but my family was very supportive of my dreams, so the teachers’ opinions didn’t matter. Fast forward to middle school, and I suddenly had an epiphany that I really preferred working with live animals as opposed to dead ones. So I changed my focus from geology to biology/wildlife management and started volunteering at the zoo while I was in high school and college, and the rest, as they say, is history!

What else would you like to share about yourself?

Hmm, I’m pretty easy to get along with. Although, I don’t like it when people are deliberately mean or cruel and will not tolerate it! I do have a dry sense of humor which sometimes gets misinterpreted as me being serious, so I tend to compensate with a lot of Lols and emoticons. I like to tell stories so if you are ever in the mood to hear one just ask!

Would you like to be a featured EyeWirer? Submit your own responses here: Featured EyeWirer Questionnaire

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