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MaLinda Henry, '92

MaLinda Henry '92 knew she wanted to study primates by her eighth-grade year at McCook Middle School. She met her share of doubters. McCook is a long way from primates and forests. But fortunately, role models can go anywhere and they made their way to MaLinda in textbooks, television and visits to the zoo. The more she learned about female scientists like Dr. Dian Fossey and renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, the more she wanted to emulate them. 

MaLinda made believers of her doubters a long time ago. "I've gone all over the world to study primates on the dollar of someone else and I've had some amazing experiences." She has learned enough to get by in seven languages. She has studied primates in captivity and in their natural environments, earning a master of science in zoology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, for her assessment of competition for food between bonobos and humans in Zaïre. Her Ph.D. research examines how changes in food abundance affect the physiology and endocrinology of reproduction and nutrition in wild golden lion tamarin monkeys.

She's living in Nebraska for a few months, but home is a small town about 90 minutes from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She will likely return there for a post-doctoral fellowship after she defends her dissertation with the University of Maryland this spring. Brazil is where she wants to raise her 2-year-old son, Justice, for a while. Already a scientist, she carries him in a backpack when she leads tours in the Poco das Antas Biological Reserve.

Her career wouldn't have happened without Doane, she said-without Dr. Rob Wikel showing her graduate-level lab techniques; without Dr. Peter Reinkordt inspiring her to love the German culture enough to master the language. "Doane had Ivy League academics in a small-town setting. I received the best hands-on biological field and laboratory training you can get in the state."

As a senior, MaLinda earned a Fulbright in botanical research in Göttingen, Germany. Ironically, the Fulbright led to enviable connections in the field of primatology. Her career mixes teaching, researching and working. She learned genetic tools and techniques researching causes of breast cancer in the sterile and orderly world of the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Eppley Cancer Institute. It stands in sharp contrast to her time in the field, studying squirrel monkeys in Suriname and the wild golden lion tamarin monkeys in Brazil, where the environment changes every 20 meters and conditions are anything but controlled.

Someday, MaLinda hopes to use every experience in a classroom, teaching at a small private liberal arts college similar to Doane. She'll tell her students about the morning she came around the corner in a forest in Africa and heard children's voices singing in Lingala. The music drifted from a tiny thatched-roof school house. The forest was the foggy-green of early morning, sun streaming through leaves still dripping with dew. Something about it was profound and privileged. This was part of the life she had made. And at some level, the life she pictured back in the eighth grade. It will make a good illustration to students: just because you can't see it, doesn't mean you can't do it.

Malinda Henry Bio

Dr. Rob Wikel, Dr. Peter Reinkordt, and Dr. Donald Ziegler jump started her scientific career by guiding her toward a Fulbright Grant to conduct botanical research in Göttingen, Germany. 

The year abroad heightened her courage and confidence and gave her life-changing connections to the study of primates in their natural environment and in captivity. Following the Fulbright, she diversified her teaching, research, and working experiences.  She received a Masters of Science in Zoology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio for her assessment of competition for food between bonobos and humans in Zaïre.  She taught several courses while at Miami and also worked as an assistant to the curator at the Hefner Zoological Museum at Miami.  Close proximity to the Cincinnati Zoo also allowed her to complete two independent research projects examining the social behavior of captive primates.

Between her M.S. and Ph.D.,  she worked as a field assistant studying the behavioral ecology of squirrel monkeys in Suriname and then as an endocrinologist and reproductive physiologist working with various exotic animal taxa at the Henry Doorly Zoo and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  She further diversified working at the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Eppley Cancer Institute investigating the causes of breast cancer.

She is now on schedule to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park, from a multi-disciplinary program in Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics in May of 2010.  Her research there examines how changes in food abundance affect the physiology and endocrinology of reproduction and nutrition in wild golden lion tamarin monkeys.

"My goal is to understand what is limiting reproduction in this endangered species and to target food resources and habitats that are particularly valuable in terms of tamarin reproduction for conservation."