We offer short-term field courses at locations across the globe, and in-depth research training programs in the Peruvian Amazon, typically between May and August.
summer 2021: Genomics in the Jungle III - Herpetofauna of the Amazon
Our third Genomics in the Jungle field course combines training in molecular research techniques with a real-time survey of Amazonian herpetofauna (tropical amphibians and snakes). We are holding it at the Los Amigos Conservation Hub, which sits at the edge of a 300,000 hectare conservation concession of intact lowland tropical rainforest. Participants will assist experienced herpetologists conducting a methodical, rapid inventory of frogs and reptiles, then use the field station’s in situ genetics laboratory to carry out full pipeline DNA extraction, amplification, sequencing, and species identification with experienced molecular biologists.
Conservation Technology Program
Currently enrolling until April 15th
Tamarins are some of the most challenging primates to study. They’re small, fast-moving, and highly arboreal. We collect detailed information on their space use, feeding ecology, and social behavior by tracking animals in person. For this program, though, we have developed custom-built, low-cost GPS micro-collars can function on a single coin cell battery for several months in order to track their movements. In addition, we will be deploying slightly larger devices for mid-sized terrestrial mammals in order to gain similar data about their movement ecology, as well as to discover sites for collecting non-invasive samples.
Other technology debuting in the field this year will include devices that conduct automated censuses of animals: identifying and photographing them while also recording their body mass. These along with other new tools, such as smart traps and innovative hair snares that will collect samples along with meta-data then reset themselves automatically, will link to a “giant ear in the sky.” This is a LoRa network in the forest that can pick up small signals from sensors and relay them away from the site to enable remote monitoring.
Primate Monitoring Program
This program is full for 2021
Participants will join FPI researchers and veterinarians conducting an annual capture-release program that began in 2009, and which focuses on 14 groups of saddleback and emperor tamarins. We record individualized data on body condition, disease, and growth, as well as population level data on births, deaths/disappearances, and dispersal. In addition, one individual in each social group is given a GPS or radio collar, and all receive temporary identification tags (that drop off within months), setting the stage for a variety of behavioral and ecological research projects.
During capture-release events, participants in this program assist with documenting weights, TPRs (temperature, pulse and respiration), injuries, and dentition, as well as collecting biological samples such as feces, urine, hair, and blood. Additionally, students will become skilled at tracking primates by sight and sound, as well as with radio telemetry and GPS devices, while systematically collecting behavioral data. Upon return to the field laboratory on site, they will manage and process all samples collected, as well as perform steroid hormone extractions as part of our investigations into tamarin reproductive biology.
Biodiversity Monitoring Program
This program is full for 2021
Our Biodiversity Monitoring program has a single, simple mandate: to conduct large-scale biodiversity screens of mammals in the Madre De Dios region, which will be used to develop genetic and genomic resources and tools for more targeted population monitoring of focal species in the future. We will implement site-specific eDNA monitoring protocols as a model for future large-scale monitoring. Samples handled here include water and soil. We will also trial rapid-tests for critical species in specific environments, such as anacondas and giant river otters, and we’ll coordinate morphometric- and DNA barcoding-based species identification for all animals screened by the various monitoring programs on site. Other activities will include hair-snare monitoring and multiple bioblitzes for rapid biodiversity inventorying.
Wildlife Health Program
This program is full for 2021
In 2012, we began evaluating parasite richness and prevalence in our study population of tamarins, using microscopy and molecular screening techniques. Since then, our Wildlife Health program has grown in sophistication, broadened its pathogens of interest, and greatly expanded the taxa from which we sample to include birds, bats, small mammals and rodents, and primates. Hosting multiple concomitant parasite/pathogen infections is the norm for wildlife, so we are monitoring for statistically significant changes in prevalence, richness, or abundance of infections across years.
Participants will learn to navigate in the rainforest while tracking wildlife, how to administer safe and efficient capture-release protocols, how to record and manage data as well as preserve, process and analyze specimens, how to identify parasites and pathogens via microscopy, how to screen for methylmercury, how to measure levels of neopterin (a useful biomarker for immune system activation), and lastly, how to conduct genetic testing, including DNA/RNA extraction, PCR, Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP), and nanopore-based amplicon sequencing.
COVID-19 has dramatically altered most of our lives, introducing uncertainty into our futures and challenging our ability to continue to do conservation on the ground. We’re in this together, and we appreciate your patience as we adapt to these fluid and challenging times.
– The FPI Field Team
What’s it like to join us in the field?
Learn more about our 2021 research projects: