Oxford Brookes student wins prestigious award for report into work with endangered monkeys

Caitlin is on the right with the Lord Mayor of London
Caitlin with the Lord Mayor of London, Nicholas Lyons, at the awards ceremony. (Credit: Peter Long.)

An Oxford Brookes student has won the Lord Mayor of London’s 800th Anniversary Trust Award following a research expedition investigating endangered monkeys in Mexico.

The trip proved that Caitlin Green’s hypermobility syndrome — a chronic condition that affects all the joints in her body causing partial dislocations and large amounts of pain — won’t stop her achieving her ambition of working in the field as a primatologist. 

Caitlin, 22, from Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, is studying for a BSc in Animal Biology and Conservation. She spent six-weeks investigating the effects of forest structure and habitat on Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys and Black Howler Monkeys.

On her return Caitlin wrote a report about the highs and lows of her trip, which won her the award. 

During her expedition Caitlin was working in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, living in basic conditions with dry toilets, bucket showers and hammocks to sleep in.

“I chose this project as I have always had a particular interest in primatology, the protection of endangered species and the impact of climate change on the natural world,” said Caitlin.    

“I was incredibly anxious before embarking as it was my first time solo travelling and staying away from home without any contact with my family,” said Caitlin, in an acceptance speech she gave at the Lord Mayor of London’s 800th Anniversary Trust Awards Ceremony at Mansion House, London. 

“I also had a lot of concerns surrounding my chronic medical condition, and I have always had doubts about whether I would physically be able to achieve my goal of working in the field.

“Throughout the expedition, I gained invaluable field experience not only with primates but also mammals, butterflies and moths, reptiles, birds, and bats. I also met an incredible group of like-minded students and professionals who provided great company, learning opportunities and made the experience so unforgettable.

“Some challenges I faced included adapting to the hot, humid climate and exhausting working days, initially having the confidence to talk to new people, and getting used to having all the creepy crawlies you could imagine all over me, all of the time.

“The most memorable high of the experience was getting to study two species of endangered primate in the wild for the first time. As a budding primatologist, the first time I saw them in their natural habitat will be a moment I will never forget.

“I developed a huge amount of self-confidence in myself and my ability, with the entire experience being so much more than I could’ve ever expected. It has provided me with fond memories and great experiences that I will take forward as progress through my career.

“It has also validated that this is the career path I wish to follow and that my chronic medical condition will not stop me from doing so, with my next step to work towards a Master of Research in Primatology and Conservation Biology. I would like to thank the Lord Mayor’s Trust for their support of my research and it is a huge honour to accept the Lord Mayor’s Anniversary Trust Award this year.”

The Lord Mayor of London’s Anniversary Trust awards grants to young people for projects to help them broaden their experience, develop self confidence and improve their career chances. The scheme awards grants of between £100 and £1,000 depending on the project. Early in 2022 Caitlin was given a Trust grant of £450.

Each of the 130 young people awarded grants in 2022 had to write a report into what they had learned to be in with a chance of winning one of three top awards: the Lord Mayor’s Trust Award, the Guild of Freemen’s Prize and the Accountants’ Company Prize.