Loomstate's Family Tree
We are very proud of our roots...the roots of our organic crops and our family roots! Both have encouraged Loomstate's growth in a wholesome and sustainable way. In our Family Tree series, we will introduce you to our family members that inspire us to reach a little higher! We appropriately start with PhD Primatologist Tremie Gregory, sister of Loomstate co-founder Rogan Gregory. We caught Tremie just back from a trip to Peru, where she is studying monkeys, scaling trees, battling creepy insects and leading the way for women in her field of work. Read on to learn more about monkey sky bridges and the latest trends in primatology fashion...
Rogan has been telling us amazing tales of his jungle activist scientist sister. Can you tell us what you are working on now?
My current project is in the Peruvian rainforest. It’s a post doctoral project with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, studying the impact of the construction of a natural gas pipeline on the new world monkey population in the area.
These are types of monkeys that are almost entirely arboreal [live in trees]. When the gas company builds a 22km long pipeline through the jungle, removing a swath of trees along its path, it’s just like putting a river through the forest—the monkeys can’t cross without connecting tree limbs.
What’s you’re role in this?
I am researching how the pipeline fragments the forest and impacts the monkeys’ mobility. I select trees to be saved, that offer connections in the canopy for these monkeys, and then I install cameras so we can track how effective these connections or “sky bridges” really are. I’ve been working on this project for about a year and half now.
You install cameras in the rainforest canopy to track monkeys!?
It’s not that hard. All these construction guys working on the pipeline were a little machista and didn’t believe that I could climb these trees. I took a class last Christmas in Panama to learn properly. The hardest part is actually getting a line up into the trees. You do it with this 7-foot tall slingshot. You shoot a string with a little bag of lead weights attached to it way up into the tree. Of course then you spend the next eight hours trying to untangle the line [laughing]. After that, you just secure the rope, suit up, and, up you go! On Saturday I was up 100 feet. I have been up 120 feet in Panama.
Wow! I could only imagine what it is like up there in the canopy dangling a hundred feet off the ground. What’s it like?
Once you’re up there, you realize the monkeys’ world is so different than you perceive it to be from down below. We walk around on one plane, while they [the monkeys] move through an interconnected network of planes. I think that very few primatologists know or experience this. It’s also super lush…all the epiphytes, the communities of insects. One thing I hope not to run into are the vipers, but their venom is too expensive for them to produce to waste it on a human…unless, of course, I step on one.
I can only imagine the things that want to snack on you in the middle of the jungle. Any stories from your work?
One of my least favorite experiences has been with bot flies. They’re larvae that bury under your skin and bite out little holes. They like to pop to their heads in and out. To get rid of them, you cover up the holes with nail polish or tree sap and duct tape. At this point they really start rolling around. They have little spikes on their heads so this is an uncomfortable experience. Yeah, that bothered me a little.
What’s fashion like for primatologists these days?
Ha. The natural gas company I work with has lots of rules to keep me safe that effect my fashion. I have to wear a helmet, safety glasses, long sleeves, rubber boots, and I am required to walk around with a guide, a private nurse, and an entourage of others. It’s a bit much. But, everything I wear has to be very specific, with all the right pockets. Utility is very important. If the pocket is in the wrong place, your data book could fall out, meaning you lose a month’s work. Shirts should be long to prevent bugs from climbing up the back. I always bring my pocket knife my dad gave me and another that Rogan gave me.
What is it like being back in Washington DC? That must be a change.
I think a third to half the time I’m traveling. Otherwise I’m in DC working on a bunch of publications. It’s a little odd; I’m not a city girl. But the main goal is to publish what I’m doing out there and develop strategies for companies to reduce their impact on the forests. There’s a possibility that the Peruvian government will make canopy bridges mandatory for all pipeline projects, so my work has had an impact.
How do you get into primatology? When you were a kid, did you dream of being a fireman, an astronaut, or…a primatologist. Is that how it works?
Around third grade, I remember wanting to be an astronaut or the first female president, both of which seemed reasonable at the time. My grandfather was a pilot and my dad was in the Air Force National Guard. I think he really wanted me to be an astronaut. After the Peace Corps, my dreams became more practical. I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian, but then I realized I’d rather study animals in their natural habitat.