2017 Research Assistantships | Field Projects International


2017 Research Assistantships

We are proud to announce the 2017 dates for our research assistantship training programs. These programs will all be conducted at the Los Amigos Biological Station in Southeastern Peru. Situated between the Madre de Dios and Los Amigos Rivers on terra firme forest rising above the floodplain, this 1,119-acre field station abuts a much larger conservation concession and features palm swamps, an oxbow lake with giant river otters, and a 60-meter observation tower overlooking the vast rainforest canopy. Each day participants will experience incredible biodiversity that includes 595 species of bird, 11 primate species, a host of charismatic reptiles and amphibians, and countless entomological wonders.

Community Disease Ecology

Parasite infections reflect not just an individual animal’s health status and behavior, but also broader community interactions, environmental change, and population stability. This program was launched in 2012 and is now one of the most comprehensive studies of gastrointestinal parasites in South America. We use microscopic and genetic tools to evaluate parasite infections in non-invasively collected fecal samples. Using these samples, we can identify an individual primate, determine its sex, tell if it is sexually mature, assess its stress level, and describe its health status (particularly in terms of parasites and disease). Since we are collecting samples from these primates consistently over time, we can follow parasites and diseases as they spread through populations and possibly spill over between species. We can also conduct population genetics on these monkeys, which – among other things – is a major tool for monitoring primate conservation status. With baseline data on parasites from already 11 primate species at the field station where we work, we can monitor if and how climate change may be altering parasite-host relationships.

This program is ideal for curious, enthusiastic, and self-motivated individuals. You’ll help us maintain important longitudinal data collection on the local primate assemblage, and usher in data from new taxonomic groups. Among the many questions we hope to tackle with these data, our primary goal is to expose new ecological linkages between Neotropical animals.

At the end of the program, research assistants will be able to:

  • Track primates by movement and vocalizations, as well as radio telemetry
  • Work off trail systems, and conduct full-day follows
  • Conduct behavioral observations on known individuals (scan and focal animal sampling)
  • Record data on feeding ecology
  • Correctly sex individual primates
  • Collect GPS data on species movements to create a large, overarching primate movement database.
  • Become proficient in collecting and storing primate fecal samples in field conditions, including participating in downstream applications like endocrinology and parasite analyses.
  • Input sample and movement information into databases for further analyses.

Community Disease Ecology Program Dates for 2017

Session one: June 1st – July 1st
Session two: June 16th – July 16th
Session three: June 30th – July 30th
Session four: July 14th – August 13th

Application deadline: April 17th, 2017, or until all program openings are full

Program fee: $1800; $450 each additional week

Training areas: Sample collection and preservation, off-trail navigation, telemetry, land-use mapping, census data collection

Learn more: http://fieldprojects.org/research/disease-ecology


Wildlife Handling Program

This is a training program targeting students with an interest in wildlife handling, zoology, or veterinary science.  Students will participate in an annual capture and release program mainly focused on tamarins (small Neotropical primates) in southeastern Peru. As part of our ongoing long-term monitoring project begun in 2009, each participant will handle upwards of 25 animals,  gain valuable knowledge of their biology, learn to record morphometrics, collect and process a variety of samples, and become competent in several roles that are vital to a successful health screening program.

At the end of this program, students will be able to:

  • Identify all materials used in an animal field processing kit
  • Collect swabs of secretions and genetic materials from the primates
  • Determine sex and appropriate age of individuals by morphological characters for two primate species
  • Appropriately handle wild primates under time constraints
  • Record TPRs at regular intervals (temperature, pulse, and respiration)
  • Manipulate a weighing scale to accurately record the body mass of subjects
  • Collect biological samples
  • Store and process biological samples analyses of endocrinology, parasitology and reproductive physiology

Wildlife Handling Program Dates for 2017

Start date: June 1st
End date: July 1st

Application deadline: April 17, 2017, or until all program openings are full

Program fee: $1800

Training areas: Wild primate mark-recapture and handling, health assessments, TPR monitoring, morphological measurement

Learn more: http://fieldprojects.org/research/wildlife-handling


Primate Communication

Tamarin mating systems are exceptionally flexible, ranging from pair-bonded monogamy to polygamy, even within the same species. Their vocalizations, which encode information on the producer’s age, sex, and reproductive status, may be integral to identifying mates and guiding dispersal. We aim to catalog the vocalizations of emperor and saddleback tamarins, and test whether calls can identify potential mates.  We also collect data on adult scent gland morphology and scent-marking behavior, another main form of communication among tamarins. With olfactory communication, we want to understand the mechanisms that underlie the behavioral and physiological phenomenon known as reproductive suppression.  What forms of communication from dominant females are responsible for suppressing maturation of subordinate females?

Participants will conduct full- and half-day follows of individually tagged primate troops, recording context-specific vocalizations alongside non-vocal forms of communication. Research Assistants will also learn to perform playback experiments, during which different vocalizations are played over a speaker to certain individuals and their responses are recorded.

Research assistants who complete this program will be able to:

  • Comfortably and safely work and move on and off trail systems
  • Conduct half and full-day follows of these miniature primates
  • Learn to identify primates based on individual identification markers
  • Track primates by movement and vocalizations
  • Become well-versed in scan and focal animal behavior sampling protocols
  • Use radio telemetry systems
  • Operate high-pitch audio recording systems and audio analyzing software
  • Learn how to collate data collected into a usable database for further analyses
  • Record data ad libitum on several unique behaviors such as mating, aggression, competition, and grooming
  • Identify life-stages of the tamarins, and specific behaviors particular to those time stages
  • Operate portable audio recording and speaker systems in field conditions
  • Conduct experimental trials for communication research on a wild population

Primate Communication Program Dates for 2017

Session one: June 1st – July 15th
Session two: June 16th – July 30th

Application deadline: April 17, 2017, or until all program openings are full

Program fee: $2700; $450 each additional week

Training areas: Off-trail navigation, wildlife tracking, telemetry, focal behavioral sampling, vocal repertoire, audio analyses

Learn more: http://fieldprojects.org/research/primate-communication


Sensory Ecology Program

Primates are often heralded as a group of mammals that rely more on their vision than their olfactory senses. Tamarins are a particularly unique subset in which to examine the role of vision because they display a sex-biased variation in trichromatic (color) vision. To probe this topic, we use feeding experiments that test the reliance of tamarins on vision, olfaction, and taste when selecting ripe fruit.  We will also be conducting playback experiments to investigate whether various tamarin alarm calls emitted in response to specific threats can be distinguished across different species, as well as using urine and scent gland compounds to determine what olfactory signals are being emitted and how they are received.

 At the end of this program, you will be able to:

  • Design an experiment
  • Record focal behavioral data
  • Work with video recording equipment
  • Complete basic video edits
  • Understand relational databases
  • Perform basic behavioral data analyses
  • Recognize all 11 species of primate at the Los Amigos Biological Station
  • Distinguish species specific vocalizations
  • Gain a general knowledge about rainforest ecology

Sensory Ecology Program Dates for 2017

Session one: June 16th – July 8th
Session two: June 30th – July 22nd
Session three: July 14th – August 5th

Application deadline: April 17, 2017, or until all program openings are full

Program fee: $1350; $450 each additional week

Learn more: https://fieldprojects.org/research/sensory-experiments

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