We asked volunteer and Duke undergrad Faye Goodwin what she loves about leading tours at the Duke Lemur Center. Find out why she leaves her busy campus life twice a week to be a tour guide — sometimes on Sunday mornings when most of her classmates are sleeping in — and what she learns from visitors along the way:

Well, this is familiar.

As a budding environmentalist, educational docent, actor, and undergrad, my life is composed of instances in which I’m facing an expectant audience, preparing to express my passion for something.

That audience is sometimes an actual audience in a theatre. Sometimes it’s professors or academic advisors, who I’m hoping will help me figure out my academic path. Soon it will be committees and interviewers who may help me work in Madagascar this summer, or create my own major focusing on environmental outreach.

And two days a week, it’s a group of people from all over the US (sometimes the world), young, old, student, teacher, all gathered in a classroom in Lemur Landing, waiting to hear what the big deal is about lemurs.

What do you care about? And why do you care about it? These are very important questions for anybody, especially students at Duke and other universities, and the Lemur Center has been a wonderful way for me to learn about the answers to these questions. “Why should I care about it, too?” is possibly an even more important question, especially when it comes to things like conservation and biodiversity. It’s a fantastic privilege to be able to discover the answers to these questions for myself and share those answers with the people who come to visit.

The first few times I gave tours at the Lemur Center, I had my script, my fun facts; my arsenal of answers to possible questions. But I spent time with the passionate people working, studying, and learning here, and, I came to understand how the center operated; I grew to know some of the lemurs on the tour path by name, age, and personality. And now I look forward every day (even those early Sunday mornings) to coming in to work (they pay me for this??) and telling everyone who comes to visit just how important these animals are.

And they tell me right back! Even cooler than getting to share my passion for the lemurs is seeing how passionate my guests are about their own endeavors. I meet docents from zoos in San Francisco and Maryland, bird-watchers from Canada, wildlife photographers, chameleon-spotters, 3rd grade classes with a hunger for animal facts…They tell me about the lemurs at their own zoo, and we swap new baby stories. They tell me about their time in Madagascar, or Africa, and show me photos of primates that I might be able to help them identify. Five-year-olds make wonderful comparisons between the behaviors of lemurs and their dogs at home. An eight-year old boy knew so much about lemurs that I made him my assistant tour guide for the day.

I’m so excited to be able to share my passion in this way, too. Communicating the passionate responses and dialogues that happen on the education side of the road is an important way to understand the wonderful, positive effect our center is having both in the hearts of our furry friends, and those of our human ones.


Faye is a sophomore at Duke University and a docent at Lemur Landing. She’s studying environmental science and performance art, and spends her free time onstage, at the Duke Lemur Center, or baking goodies.