At the Duke Lemur Center, girls run the show

At the Duke Lemur Center, girls run the show

Liesl, a 9-year-old ring-tailed lemur with the attitude of an Amazon warrior, is the undisputed matriarch of the North Carolina pine forest her family calls home. She and her troop preside over 14 acres of land, foraging alongside squirrels and cardinals when the weather is nice. Aracus, Liesl’s aging mate, is attuned to the slightest

Liesl, a 9-year-old ring-tailed lemur with the attitude of an Amazon warrior, is the undisputed matriarch of the North Carolina pine forest her family calls home. She and her troop preside over 14 acres of land, foraging alongside squirrels and cardinals when the weather is nice.

Aracus, Liesl’s aging mate, is attuned to the slightest change in her body language – a single glance and he hastily vacates a sunny napping spot or drops a choice piece of food. If he hesitates, a swift yank of the tail reminds him who’s boss.

Matriarchy is rare in the animal kingdom, but it’s rarer still in the scientific community. At the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, the females are in charge – the lemurs and the humans.

While women held only 28 percent of science and engineering jobs in 2015, the Duke Lemur Center’s staff directory and volunteer roster are 85 percent female, and five of seven department heads are women. It’s a sign of progress – at least in the life sciences – and a testament to the legacy of early primate researchers like Jane Goodall.

Read the full story News & Observer story here.

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