Editor’s Note: Deon was a summer apprentice at CHCI. You can learn more about the summer apprenticeship program here.
My name is Deon Schmalholz and I was a summer apprentice at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute. This apprenticeship was an eight-week program that began on June 28th and ended on August 21st. I am going to share with you my wonderful eight-week experience at CHCI!
My days always started off with an early rise out of bed due to the promptness of the sun in Ellensburg. It was as if the sun was saying, “Get up sleepy head and get a move on to your busy day!”
My day at CHCI began by getting a nice steaming cup of delicious coffee from the kitchen. Every staff member here helps supply coffee and creamers so there are limitless amounts for the much-needed boosts in the mornings. After my morning cup of Joe I was off to check my schedule on the job board!
There are lots of unique work duties at CHCI! I could be scheduled to take observational data outside on the berm (this is an outdoor walkway overlooking the chimpanzee’s outdoor enclosure), put together or make daily enrichment, or collect or enter observational data. I could also be assigned to prepare meals for the chimpanzees, which was my favorite job!
I find great joy in preparing dinners for the chimpanzees! The staff here allows us to explore our creativity in the kitchen! You take a quick look in the fridge for ideas and voila, start your masterpiece! My creations included stuffed peppers filled with mashed potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and BBQ vegetables with rice and crouton skewers for fun!
All the apprentices also had research projects that they were assigned to during the program. I was assigned to work on a survey study to measure the educational effectiveness of the new Chimposiums they have on the weekends for the public. This study was very interesting and I had a great team to work with!
Another great quality that I found at CHCI was the friendly people. Every time I came into work everyone would greet me with a friendly smile and, “how are you doing today?” which is a wonderful thing to have in any workplace! Also, if a problem or question ever arose there was always someone willing to help out!
I had a wonderful experience during this apprenticeship and I plan on taking all the valuable information I obtained with me to my future workplace. I recommend this experience to anyone that is interested in the field of primate care and/or conservation. These primates were amazing to work with and I cannot wait to share my experience with others when I am home! Thank you everyone at CHCI for everything this summer!