Long-term Primate Field Studies: Behavioral, Parasitological and Spatial Monitoring | Field Projects International
 

Long-term Primate Field Studies: Behavioral, Parasitological and Spatial Monitoring

Course Description

Long-term primate monitoring sites are uncommon – only a small fraction of primate species have been studied intensively over time. Even within these well-studied species, studies often focus on a single site, which could then bias our view of the ecology and life-history of the primate species in question. For such long-lived mammals, the only way to really see beyond catastrophic fluctuations in population stability or weather events is to study multiple generations of animals over a greater period of time.

In this class, we will focus on an Amazonian primate community (11 species) but also take special note of a long-term monitoring program on saddleback (Leontocebus weddelli) and emperor (Saguinus imperator) tamarins. We will examine first-hand the unique struggles and advantages to long-term monitoring programs by focusing on several research projects being conducted simultaneously on this population: a) wildlife handling, which allows us to identify each individual primate and track habituated groups; b) sensory ecology, utilising feeding experiments with identified wild tamarins; c) community disease ecology, in which we compare screenings of the tamarin population with the remaining primate species; and d) behavioral ecology, in which we track 14 habituated groups to study scent-marking, behavior, and vocal communication. 

This course will be held at the Los Amigos Biological Station, also known by its Spanish acronym EBLA (Estación Biológico Río Los Amigos), which is run by the Amazon Conservation Association. Situated between the Madre de Dios and Los Amigos Rivers on terra firme forest rising above the floodplain, this field station was established in 2000 and boasts incredible biodiversity that includes 11 primate species and 595 species of birds. 

Course Details

  • Highlights
  • Topics
  • Faculty
  • Eligibility
  • Documents
  • Food & Lodging
  • Travel
  • Program Costs & Student Aid

Try your hand at tracking several species of primate, there are 11 at the field site, including bald-faced saki monkeys, night monkeys, spider monkeys and emperor tamarins. For a short description of all primates present, click HERE.

Experience first-hand the ins and outs of conducting field research in the tropics – how to think on your feet, make the best of materials present, and keep track of multiple projects at once. You’ll spend time observing up-close our mark-recapture, behavioral, sensory ecology, and parasite ecology programs.

Interact with biologists and other students from around the world, exploring the journeys that got them to this point and what the future holds. Including course students, principal investigators, and research interns there are upwards of 30 people who are all keen to share experiences and ideas with you.

Climb into the rainforest canopy in our fail-safe tree-climbing module to get up close and personal with arboreal wildlife

Assist in the annual health screening of wild tamarins – learning critical skills in wildlife handling and safety in the field

Observe more species of plants and animals than anywhere else on earth

Dig into why scientists like Jane Goodall and Jean Altmann have dedicated their lives to studying a single primate population over multiple decades

While focusing on how primates are monitored long-term, you will learn the basic principles and methods of primatological research and about the ongoing challenges to the conservation of primate biodiversity in the Amazon basin. Course topics include:

  • The setup, maintenance and funding of a long-term primate monitoring project
  • The study non-charismatic primates – how to make people care 
  • Field ethics, safety precautions, rules, and useful field skills
  • Tracking multiple primate species – how to adapt to each primate’s behavior
  • Forest navigation on and off-trail
  • Project management – how to monitor hundreds of animals without getting in a muddle
  • Conservation biology of the Amazon
  • Neotropical primate diversity
  • Neotropical primate disease ecology and screening
  • Wildlife handling – when it is necessary and how to be effective.
  • Fail-proof tree climbing.
  • Proper maintenance of a field notebook.
  • Upkeep of detailed and accurate wildlife sightings lists.

This may seem like a lot for 2-weeks but bear in mind that this is a learn-by-doing program in which you will spend a portion of your time with each of our 4 major research programs concurrently taking place. There are no other field programs in primatology that offer this range of hands-on experience.

Gideon Erkenswick co-founded Primates Peru Inc. in 2009 which later evolved into Field Projects International. Cumulatively, he has spent 8 years working in the Neotropics leading research programs in primate behavior, disease ecology, and mark and recapture, and for the past 4 years, he has also taught field courses in general tropical biology and primate behavior. Between 2011 and 2017 he completed a doctorate in biology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) that focused on parasite-host relationships from a diverse community of nonhuman primates.  At UMSL he also acquired formal classroom teaching experience in anatomy and physiology, comparative vertebrate anatomy, evolution, and organismal biology. In addition to his role as a Senior Research Scientists for FPI, he continues in the UMSL Biology Department as a post-doctoral researcher.

Visit his full profile here or his website.

Mrinalini (Mini) Watsa began a love affair with the rainforest in the backyard of her home in India, virtually overrun with cobras, chameleons and even jackals. She went from being an animal-obsessed teen to a graduate student in biological anthropology, a natural enough trajectory. She spent her first summer “abroad” in Costa Rica’s pristine Osa Peninsula.  Less than a year after the experience, she began to plan an extended field stay on tamarin biology and by sheer chance stumbled upon the stunning Los Amigos Field Station in Perú.  She spent ten exhilarating months at the site, researching tamarin development and reproductive behaviors. Today, she splits her time between being a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Missouri St. Louis and instructing courses on tropical field biology through Field Projects International.  

Visit her full profile here or explore her website

There are a few simple requirements to determine eligibility for this course:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the course.
  • You must have medical insurance, and provide proof of such insurance to us to complete your reservation.
  • We have no citizenship requirements. Anyone is welcome to apply. You must obtain visas independently if necessary.
  • You do not need any training in biology – our course is structured to accommodate people from a variety of backgrounds.
  • Courses have a maximum capacity of 12 participants. If you are concerned that you will lose your spot, please contact us to confirm how many spots we have left.

  • Course readings: These are to be read before the course to serve as a basis for discussion and debate during the course. Files will be emailed to course attendees one month before the course start date. A full list will be announced by October 1, 2019. Readings can be made available to course participants starting April 1.
  • Download the Syllabus: Available for download after October 1
  • Download our Sexual and Gender-Based Policy: HERE
  • Download our Student Policy Manual: HERE

The Estación Biológica Los Amigos (EBLA) offers a variety of housing options, from small cabins with no electricity and shared bathrooms, to large bungalows with private restrooms and solar-powered lighting through the day. In this course, you will be housed in the dormitories, with a set of shared bathrooms. 

EBLA will provide each visitor with a mosquito net, a pillow and one set of sheets. They also cover such necessities as toilet paper, towels, and blankets. Visitors must bring their own insect repellent, medications, headlamps, batteries, battery chargers, and detergent.

The dining hall is at the heart of each research station — a place where researchers and staff come together for meals, relaxation, and chats on the porch. The cuisine is a mix of Andean and international dishes. Meals typically include soup and a main course of rice, chicken, or beef, and a vegetable side. Vegetarian options are available upon request, but vegans will have a very hard time at the station without being flexible. Snacks are available in the dining hall throughout the day, as are tea, coffee, and drinking chocolate.

The food at this site is GOOD, particularly in comparison to the meals researchers would make if they were in charge of all the cooking. They are not fancy, and at EBLA, fresh vegetables are not a staple item on the menu, which is due mainly to difficulties in refrigerating food that has to be brought in by boat every two weeks.

Air travel: Getting to Peru from a different country is accomplished primarily by air. We recommend using Kayak, Orbitz or Expedia to book your flights online. Please do not book flights until April 1 for this course.

The course will be held over the span of two weeks. This means that you should plan to arrive in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, on, or before, Day 1. US residents, it usually takes 1 day to fly to Lima (Peru’s capital) and then connect to a domestic flight to Puerto Maldonado, so you should be departing no later than Day 0. Please keep this in mind while booking your flights.

Your return flight should depart from Puerto Maldonado anytime after 1:00 pm on Day 13 or on Day 14. You will be leaving EBLA by boat the morning of Day 13, and you will want to ensure that you have enough time to reach the airport that day.  

If you choose to stay on in Peru you may, and we can even provide hotel recommendations for you depending on your travel plans. Please note: If you choose to arrive later or fly out earlier than the stipulated times for this course, you will be ENTIRELY responsible for traveling to or from the field station on your own. The group will travel together at a fixed time and we will not accommodate mistakes in flight plans except in extenuating circumstances. Please see the FAQs below for information on visas and vaccines.

As with all of our courses, a comprehensive travel packet that contains information on when and how to book your travel, visas, vaccinations, and packing tips, will be made available to all students. This packet is provided to students once they have registered for the course.

The fee for this course is $2500 and is due in full 6 weeks after online registration or by June 1, whichever comes sooner. The fee includes the following:

  • Food and lodging for the entire course.
  • Round-trip travel to EBLA from Puerto Maldonado.
  • Experienced instructors and field equipment.

This course fee does NOT include:

  • Air travel to and from Puerto Maldonado, Peru.
  • Travel or health insurance (proof of health insurance is required for course attendance).
  • Rubber boots, binoculars, flashlight and insect repellent (all of which are required to take this course).

There are two ways to obtain financial assistance for attending this field course. You may participate in both of these programs simultaneously as follows:

  • Scholarships: This year, we are offering two scholarships to attend this course for students from Peru. For the application details please visit our scholarships page.
  • Fundraising: FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform for all field course students. You will be able to make your own fundraising page to share with your contacts and social networks. At the end of the fundraising period, FPI will issue a discount code to you for 100% of the funds that you have raised. You would then enter this code as you make your final course payment. If you raise enough to cover all (or part) of your initial reservation fee, you would be refunded that portion as well. Please note that funds raised in excess of your program fees will be rolled into our scholarship fund. Also, if you withdraw from the course at any time, your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those funds would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other students. To set up this option, please register for a course, first, and then contact us at info@fieldprojects.org to set up your fundraising page.

Please read our cancellation policy carefully before applying to a field course:

  • $100 of your deposit made during registration is a processing fee that is nonrefundable under any circumstances. If the course fee is not paid on time your registration fee is forfeited, and you would be required to re-register for this course.
  • If you cancel on or before May 1, you will be refunded 40% of the course fee, minus the processing fee of $100.
  • After May 1 course refunds are not available.
  • If FPI has to cancel this course due to mitigating reasons, a full refund of all fees paid, including the registration fee, will be made available to all participants.
  • Early departures from the field course are not entitled to a refund for any reason.


Frequently Asked Questions

If you don’t find the answers you are looking for below, you can send us a question HERE.

Course Benefits

Can I get credit for a course?

Yes, this is possible. Participants can acquire credit directly from their own universities. You would provide the school with the course syllabus, and the school may decide to accept the instructor’s grade and issue credit for the course. Any questions about this should be directed to info@fieldprojects.org

Will I receive any official acknowledgment of course completion?

Yes, upon finishing with a passing grade, you will receive a certificate that states that you attended and completed a particular course. You will also receive your instructor’s grade report and evaluation which can be very useful in the future when you require recommendation letters from instructors for summer internship programs, graduate schools, or jobs.

Why else take this course?

Apart from the valuable skills, knowledge, and experience you will acquire, FPI encourages alumni to network, support, and collaborate with each other after the course is done.  In addition, our staff remains available for academic and career advice. Many of our alumni have returned as research assistants, and later even joined us as research collaborators, field team leaders, and instructors.

Apart from specific training that will benefit those going into many fields, our courses also entail pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and being challenging both mentally and physically. Furthermore, this is a chance to visit a remote research station in one of the most bio-diverse regions of the planet, and to learn about the incredible flora and fauna you will see at every turn. 

Preparing to travel to Peru

Do I need a visa for Peru?

Every country has different requirements for visitors, depending on their citizenship. Tourist visas are free for US citizens and are available upon entry (see the US State Department’s information on travel to Peru here). For all other nationalities, please check here for your specific requirements. It is possible that you will have to apply for a visa at your local embassy before you arrive in the country so please confirm your visa requirements early. Visa applications can take as long as 6 weeks sometimes, during which your passport will need to be with the embassy in question. 

One further thing to consider is the visa requirements of any country you are transiting through. For example, flying from Asia into Peru can be done via Europe, or via the UK, Canada or USA, which require transit visas.  So when you consider purchasing a flight, please look at the visa requirements of any stops along the way.

What should I bring with me?

Download a packing list here. Please read sections below for explanations for each item as well.
How do I deal with Peruvian money?

The currency in Peru is the Peruvian Nueve Sol. We say 1 “sol” and many “soles”. The currency exchange rate is ~ 2.7 soles to 1 USD.  Changing US dollars in Peru is a difficult thing to do; you will need to bring brand new,high-denomination bills, without any blemishes on them, for a bank to exchange them for you. You can find currency exchanges easily in the airport in Lima as well as in Lima city. In Puerto Maldonado, you will have to change currency at a bank (so keep in mind bank working weeks and hours). Thus, the easiest way to get money is to use an ATM via a credit or debit card.

Things to consider: Bring two cards, in case one doesn’t work. Test that your pins work on both of your cards before you come to Peru. You can use an ATM in Lima and Puerto Maldonado very easily. The most you can withdraw in a single day from an ATM is 700 soles or ~$260. ATM charges can apply, including conversion fees, so check with your bank about that. Withdrawing from an ATM is convenient, and prevents you from carrying around a lot of cash, which is always a much safer way to travel.

Traveler’s checks are entirely a thing of the past – just don’t buy them!

You do not need to have cash on you at the station except for possibly 100-200 soles at the very most, for emergencies. There’s nothing to buy, no stores to spend it on; cash, in short, is irrelevant in the rainforest. You only need enough to allow you to return back to town in comfort.

What's the lowdown on footwear?

You will require gumboots (aka wellingtons or muck boots), which are knee-high rubber boots. These are essential for all activities, every day at the station. You can bring these from home or buy them in Puerto Maldonado. If you have unusually large feet, don’t risk it and please buy your boots at home. Select a natural colored or black pair, if possible. You will wear these boots every single day while you are in the forest, so if you’re bringing them from home, break them in if you can. If you have sensitive feet with arch trouble, please bring insoles for your boots.

A pair of sneakers will come in handy during your travels and for use while at the camp itself. You will never wear flip-flops at camp, for your own safety. You may, however, prefer to bring a pair so that you can wear them to — or in — the shower.

What kind of luggage should I use?

Pack in something you can carry on your shoulders. Suitcases are not very practical (though people have managed with them). We recommend bringing a big duffel bag, or a backpack with most of your things in it. Try to make it waterproof, or buy some kind of waterproof cover. In the worst case scenario, though, you can put your whole bag in a giant plastic bag to keep it dry once you get to Puerto Maldonado. You’ll also need a small daypack when on site.

What do I need in the forest?

The most important things you need in the forest that we will NOT be providing are your daypack, a water bottle, insect repellent, rain jacket or poncho, and a pair of binoculars. Additionally, a laptop (not a Chromebook) can be extremely helpful, as will be a digital watch with a repeat timer. Check your packing list for more details. In addition, some things to consider bringing include a penknife (check it in, don’t hand carry – it will get caught), a bandana or hat, and some kind of energy bar as an extra snack.

What about battery-operated equipment?

You will need to use a battery-operated headlamp with LEDs at these sites. This headlamp will be your best friend and is useful since it is hands-free. If you’re interested in seeing wildlife at night, bring one that is bright and that has a red light option, as the red light scares nocturnal animals a lot less. Headlamps will need batteries and we strongly suggest that you bring rechargeable batteries with you.  This means that you must also obtain a small battery charger. If you can’t and have to bring regular batteries, please buy energy efficient ones so you use as few as possible, since you will have to take all batteries back with you and recycle them (you cannot leave them at the field station).

Do I need a watch or alarm clock?

Yes. Make sure that you have something extremely reliable as an alarm clock – whether you use your phone or watch is up to you. Please buy a digital watch with a repeat timer – this last factor is essential in allowing you to collect data while on the course. When at the store, please specifically ask if you can set a timer for a specific duration (eg. 1 minute) that will continually beep every minute. That is what we mean by a repeat timer. If in doubt, purchase this watch from Amazon Smile, or something like it.

How do I care for my passport and papers?

Passports are valuable items that you want to protect from mold in the rainforest. The best way to do this is to put them in small ziplock bags and then leave them entirely alone.  Do the same with any cash you bring with you also. Paper gets moldy very quickly.

What is the weather like at the field station?

While the weather at the station is typically warm and pleasant (~24C or 75F), we do get moments of cold weather coming in from the Andes. We call these friajes and they can last anywhere from a day to a week. At these times, temperatures can drop as low as 8C (~46F) but tend to be around 12C (~54F). Now a lot of you have definitely experienced temperatures a lot worse than this, but experiencing this type of weather in the rainforest is quite different from anything you have been through. Since the station is designed to keep people cool for most of the year, all the buildings are made of wood and wire mesh (to keep bugs out). Unfortunately, this lets the cold weather right in, so you have to be prepared for this to happen. Bring at least one pair of warm socks, a pair of light gloves and a hoody and some thick sweatpants. If you tend to feel colder than most, bring a little more warm clothing than listed above.

We cannot promise you a friaje but they occur often from May to July, so you have to be prepared for one to happen!

What medications should I bring?

The field stations and the course do not provide any medications to students. As such, they must bring a small medical kit for minor issues:

– A course of broad-spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin is a common and effective one)

– A course of antibiotics for digestive trouble, and a small number of pills of immodium (to be used in emergencies only)

– Electrolyte/rehydration packs (hint: the juice flavoured ones are much nicer than the medical ones)

– Anti-fungal cream/powder (effective on yeast), particularly if you are prone to these infections

– Anti-itch medication: over-the counter lotions are ok

– Camphorated alcohol – a local anti-itch/disinfecting method that we highly recommend  (can be purchased in Puerto Maldonado)

– Antacids to comfort your stomach

– Band aids, tweezers

–  An Epi pen if you are allergic to anything at all

– Antihistamines to be taken in case of mild allergies (something like Claritin/ Zyrtec)

– A venom extraction kit: these are useful in case of wasp or bee stings.

What vaccinations do I need?

You will have to provide proof of a normal vaccination record (as listed here by the CDC). For travel to Peru, we require that you also get the following vaccines: Typhoid (oral or injectable), Yellow Fever, and Tetanus. Note: If you want to participate in the wildlife handling component of the course, you MUST show proof of a valid rabies vaccine (a series of 3, taken over 1 month). If you have the flu shot for the year, all the better. Find a travel clinic and get your shots EARLY.

What about health and safety?

We take the health and safety of all participants very seriously at this site.  We look out for each other and take care of our team. All field sites have stringent protocols on safety procedures in the case of an emergency that we are obliged to follow.  If anyone should need medical help, they can be transported downriver to town in a matter of three hours (at EBLA), where they can be treated or evacuated to Lima for treatment. Neither the field station nor Field Projects International will be responsible for costs associated with medical emergencies.

Before being accepted to the program, applicants must submit a brief medical history evaluation. This is not meant to discriminate against people, but instead to protect them from being in a situation where they are at a serious or life-threatening disadvantage.

All participants must sign a participation contract, without which applicants cannot participate in our courses or research programs. We make special references to an alcohol policy in our participation contract – we have a zero tolerance policy at all field stations. You will also sign a sexual and gender-based misconduct contract (and so will your supervisors). This is not to suggest that this issue is a problem at these field sites in particular. However, there has been a large amount of reporting on these matters in the press of late, and we want to assure you that we take any such violations extremely seriously. We want our participants to be as safe and comfortable as possible.

 

Field Station Amenities

What are meals like at the field station?

You will be provided with three meals at the field station each day – breakfast (6 – 7 am), lunch (12-1 pm) and dinner (6:30 – 7:30 pm). These meals are healthy and will fill you up, but this being the middle of the rainforest, don’t expect to get all your food groups represented in the same way you try to eat while you are at home. If you are concerned, take a multi-vitamin while at the field station. Every single thing you eat has to be brought in by boat, so there are limitations on what will make the journey. Rice is a major staple of almost every meal, with proteins, vegetables, and fruits widely available. The stations have fabulous cooks who can make the tasty dishes with basic and wholesome ingredients. Vegetarians will sometimes get tofu and soy meat substitutes. Being vegan at this field site can be difficult (but not impossible).

You will also have access to cookies, crackers, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, at all times during the day (while you are at camp). If you think you will do better with Cliff or Lara bars (or the like), please bring some for yourself. Any additional treats you bring (including precious chocolate) will be fair game for a lot of small rainforest creatures, so bring plenty of ziplock bags in which to place your food. Also, avoid leaving wrappers in your rooms containing anything at all edible because that will attract some curiosity from miniature wildlife.

Do I need to bring linens and towels?

The station will provide you with sheets and towels during your stay. However, we strongly encourage you to bring a spare towel for use while your present one is in the wash or drying. It really sucks to be without a towel!
How do I care for electronics at the field station?

We strongly encourage you to bring your laptops to the field station, as well as your cell phones. They will come in handy for data entry, entertainment, assignments and for checking email. Due to the intermittent/slow nature of the internet, as well as the need to use Garmin Basecamp software, Chromebooks are not recommended.

Electronics have to be treated differently in the rainforest than you would anywhere else. Do not bother to bring a soft sleeve for the laptop with you, because it will suck up moisture from the air and will envelop your laptop in it, which is bad news. We find that simple plastic ziplock bags work better than sports dry bags. We recommend that you purchase at least two ziplock bags that are large enough to fit your computer. You can also purchase silicon gel packages online (Amazon Smile or Jake’s Silica Gel are good places to try, along with local stores like REI). Put a couple of 5-gram packets inside the ziplock with your computer and bring at least 2 more packets with you.

Peru uses a different set of plugs than the U.S. or England. The field site, however, will have extension cords and power strips that accept US plugs. If you want to plug things in while you travel, though, you might consider picking up a small converter for your electronics that will fit plugs in Peru (see here for a full explanation). The Peruvian system uses 220 volts, instead of 120/140 volts as in the U.S. Please CHECK your electronics to make sure they are compatible before plugging them in at the station or anywhere in Peru. If they don’t work at both voltages, you will need to bring a step up converter such as this one.  Also, note that you will not find three-pronged sockets in most places, so definitely at least bring a three-to-two prong modifier (such as this) for your electronics.

Electricity at EBLA will be provided via a generator from 6 pm to 9 pm each night, during which you will charge your electronics as needed. You may certainly bring solar chargers if you feel the need to, but most of the day you will not be using your electronics at all.

Do not bring a hair dryer, electric razor, or electric toothbrush because those are very much considered an unnecessary luxury at this site. We will prioritize charging absolutely everything else over those items.

Is there internet at the field station?

Internet access at EBLA is wireless but slow. This means that smartphones, iPads, tablets, and computers of all kinds should be able to connect to the internet. Since the internet at EBLA depends on a satellite connection, weather can interfere with it in two ways – one, messing with the signal and two, not allowing solar panels to charge long enough to power the wireless router.

Thus, the internet will not be available at all hours of the day. Most likely, neither will you, since you’ll be in the forest fully occupied. The network will work in the evenings when the generator is on and running, but since everyone will be trying to connect it can slow down a lot. We strongly recommend that you do not rely on it to be available to you every day. Sending an email once every three days or so is a reasonable estimate to provide to your family. See the section on phones to learn about other ways in which to communicate with home from the field station.

Is there phone service at the field station?

The best way to stay in touch with your family is on your phone. The phone network accessible at both field sites is called “Claro.” Contact your cell service provider and make sure that you can pick up Claro service while in Peru. Then, purchase an international calling plan, pre-paid minutes, or some kind of international texting plan. This will allow you to communicate with your family at home, as and when you want.

Things to consider: If your phone is not compatible with Claro, you can rent a cell phone in the Lima airport with a local number. You can communicate by services like Whatsapp while you are in Puerto Maldonado because your hostel has wireless internet service, but remember that the internet can often be slow or inaccessible at EBLA.

How do I do laundry at the field station?

You will do your own laundry at the field station, so bring (preferably) biodegradable laundry detergent from the US with you. You don’t need a lot of it, so a 10 oz bottle of liquid or a small packet of powder should be more than enough for the duration of your stay. You can purchase nonbiodegradable detergent as well as clothespins (to secure your washing to a line for drying) in the Puerto Maldonado market.

What is the risk of disease in the Amazon rainforest?

This is the Amazon rainforest, and as with all tropical areas, there are disease risks. Unlike towns, however, this field station does not hold enough people to serve as constant reservoirs for many diseases.

As such, malaria is not a major concern, and none of our principal researchers take malaria prophylactics. Your travel doctor will most likely disagree because their information is about the region in general, and it is true that malaria can be contracted in Puerto Maldonado. As such, the choice to take malaria prophylactics is entirely personal – if you feel better about it, take the medication. FPI offers no recommendation or medical advice whatsoever.

In recent years, there have been a few cases of dengue at EBLA, although it is hard to verify whether researchers have contracted it in town or at the field station. There is no vaccine, but there are cures – we remain watchful for this disease.

Leishmaniasis is a tropical disease that is found at these sites – and several researchers have contracted it in past years. It is not a painful disease, but it can be unpleasant if left untreated. As such, if any student or researcher receives a bite that does not heal in a week, we advise them to get tested locally. This has worked for everybody in preventing leishmaniasis and will be the rule for our field course at this field site. In short, any misgivings you may have about using high concentration DEET are significantly outweighed by the unpleasantness of leishmaniasis. Treatment for leishmaniasis can be obtained in Peru or abroad at a travel/CDC clinic.

The recent Zika outbreak is of concern in much of Latin America, although a great deal is still not known about this virus. Since Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are the primary vectors of the virus, we again recommend DEET to prevent bites. For much more detailed information, please see the next section in this FAQ.

Chiggers are annoying but do not carry disease. They are small mites of the family Trombiculidae (also known as harvest mites) that can cause you some irritation at Los Amigos. They cause small welts, like mosquito bites, that can itch very badly. They clear up quickly, and there are rarely any scars. Using insect repellent can help in preventing these bites. Also avoid directly on the ground, and tuck your shirt into your pants. Wearing the tall rubber boots will also help greatly. FYI, the mites are 1/60th of an inch long (nearly invisible to the naked eye) and are long gone by the time the bites start itching.

How concerned are you about the Zika virus?

A great deal is still not known about this virus, which is spread by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. There is a possible link to a condition called microcephaly in children born to infected women. While mosquitoes are the primary vector of the virus, the virus can be sexually transmitted.

The CDC’s travel advisories for pregnant women have extended to Peru, suggesting that students who are pregnant — or likely to be pregnant at the time of the course — use caution. There is currently no evidence of any effect on future births for those who are not pregnant at the time of infection, and only around 20% of all infected people exhibit even the minor symptoms of Zika (fever, rash, etc.). There is an additional suspected link to a rare but more severe condition called Guillain-Barré, however, this risk is exceedingly low.

The Peruvian government is taking numerous proactive measures to prevent the spread of Zika within the country. These include the use of ovitraps to identify the virus in mosquitoes at many monitoring sites around the country, allowing for a swift response, if detected.

This is a developing story, and much is still unknown regarding the transmission and health risks of this virus. We recommend that each prospective student and researcher determine their own comfort levels by weighing the available data against their own relative risk. At this point, FPI’s non-pregnant investigators and other staff remain confident about safely returning to the field.

To reduce mosquito bites, we recommend repellents with DEET as the active ingredient, along with loose-fitting clothing and long-sleeves. Clothing may also be treated with permethrin. Furthermore, mosquito bed nets are provided at the field station.

Read more:

General information from the CDC

CDC travel advisories

Discussion of Zika (Cosmos Magazine)

 

Travel and Stay in Puerto Maldonado

Does it matter what time of day I arrive in Puerto Maldonado?

No, it does not. You will be using either Taca, LATAM or StarPeru to fly the last leg between Lima and Puerto Maldonado. It does not matter which flight you book on that day at all. All flights arrive before 4:00pm and the earlier you fly in, the more time you get to spend in the town and the market.

*Please make sure to arrive in Puerto Maldonado on the date specified for your course, and depart no sooner than the end date specified for your course. If you have any confusion about this at all when booking your flights, please contact us (info@fieldprojects.org).

Can I take a bus to Puerto Maldonado?

You can take a bus from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, but it is a long journey so give yourself a lot of time to finish this. People frequently experience delays in bus travel from Lima to Cusco, and sometimes from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. Traveling by bus from Lima to Cusco takes ~21 hours non-stop, and tickets cost between $65 and $85 for a one-way ticket. Traveling from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado takes ~11 hours and occurs only overnight at a cost of ~ $30 each way. (These prices are based on bookings at this site – note that we are not responsible for the failures of third party websites) If you are late in arriving in Puerto Maldonado, the scheduled boat might leave without you and you will have to take a local boat taxi to the site. We strongly advise you to give yourself plenty of time if you are planning to rely on bus service in Peru for local transportation.
How do I plan for my arrival in Puerto Maldonado?

When all students on the course have submitted their travel information, we will collate this information and send you an Arrival Packet. This document will let you know if others are traveling on the same flight/bus as you, and provide you with their email addresses so you can get in touch in advance (if you want to).  You will also receive exact instructions on what to do when you land, and an image of your instructors so you can look out for them at the airport/bus station. The Arrival packet will also provide you with instructions on what to do if you have been delayed, or if your luggage should go missing. In addition, it will include local contact information for your instructors so that you can get in touch with them if needed to let them know if your travel plans were forced to change for some reason.
How do I get to the field station from Puerto Maldonado?

Getting to the station: You will travel as a group to EBLA on a boat that is owned by the station, or on a water taxi. Boats depart from Laberinto, a town ~ 1 hour from Puerto Maldonado. Vans will be arranged to take you from Puerto Maldonado to Laberinto. The journey to EBLA takes ~6 hours, going upstream on the Madre de Dios River.
Returning to Puerto Maldonado: Return journeys from EBLA can happen in less than 3.5 hours, because you will be traveling by boat downstream on the Madre de Dios River. Taxis will take you from Laberinto to Puerto Maldonado.
What about accommodation in Puerto Maldonado?

From the airport, you will be picked up by your instructor(s) and taken directly to a hostel, which you will also stay at, at the end of the field course. You will likely be sharing rooms with others. Anyone preferring not to share dorm rooms with the opposite sex will have their requests honored.  You do not have to pay for this accommodation as it will be covered by the course fee.
Do I need to pay for meals in Puerto Maldonado?

Since everyone has widely varied standards of what they would like to eat and can afford to eat in Puerto Maldonado, we will take you to a restaurant with a lot of options where you can have your pick of foods. Breakfast in Puerto Maldonado will be provided at your hostel (on the last morning only, since we typically leave for the station too early in the morning to have the hostel breakfast).

Individual lunches and dinners in Puerto Maldonado will not be covered by the program, and snacks are highly recommended for the boat journey to the field station. Meals in Puerto Maldonado are very affordable. For example,  a fancy dinner at a very nice restaurant will cost ~$10. Other meals can be purchased for much less than that amount. You will thus be responsible for a lunch (possible, depending on your flight) and dinner on your first and last day in Puerto Maldonado. Scholarship recipients, your meals are covered by FPI.

Course Information
  • Course Id:P-PRIM-19
  • Credits:3 credit hours
  • Location:Estación Biológica Rio Los Amigos
  • Dates:June 30 to July 13, 2019
  • Duration:2 weeks
  • Deadline:April 15, 2019
  • Language:English
Itinerary
June 30: Arrive in Puerto Maldonado, stay the night
July 1: River travel to Estación Biológica Los Amigos (EBLA)
July 2-12: Complete modules in primate mark-recapture, parasitology, primate behavior, and sensory ecology
July 13: Return to Puerto Maldonado, stay the night/fly home
July 14: Course departure

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Department
Biology

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