Field Research Training Program: Primate Behavior
Applying for this program is now under the Wildlife Biology Training Program. Select the “Primate Specialty Track” in the application form.
Since 2009, the smallest rainforest primates at the Los Amigos Biological Station have been monitored in a unique long-term program spanning 17 social groups, more than 300 unique animals, and two species: the saddleback tamarin (Leontocebus weddelli) and the emperor tamarin (Saguinus imperator). This program will focus on the study of two free-ranging populations of these primate species.
Our most recent publication on communication and sexual signaling:
Moreira, L. A., Watsa, M., Erkenswick, G., Higham, J. P., & Melin, A. D. (2022). Evaluating genital skin color as a putative sexual signal in wild saddleback (Leontocebus weddelli) and emperor (Saguinus imperator) tamarins. American Journal of Primatology, e23456.
You would be joining an established primate research program, ongoing since 2009. The primary task in this position will be to conduct daily behavioral follows of several focal groups, each with one radio collared individual. Full day follows (i.e.. following a group from sleep tree to sleep tree) will be expected several days per week. Data collection will consist of scan sampling of behavior at fixed intervals, marking and collection of fruits from feeding trees, opportunistic collection of fecal samples, and recording of spontaneous reproductive behaviors such as mating and scent marking. If newborns are observed, focal observations of adult parents and alloparents will also be performed. The movement data collected will be associated with forest structure parameters acquired by high density lidar imaging. Feeding behavior data and samples will be incorporated into a study on natural seed dispersal. Social behavior will be used for a long-term dataset on cooperative breeding behavior.
These positions will provide incumbents with invaluable experience in conducting primate field work, and may also coincide with opportunities to observe primate capture-release techniques. Team members will operate in pairs, following primate groups off-trail. The habitat is variable, broadly consisting of terra firme and varzea habitat. Within these areas are palm swamps, oxbow lakes, bamboo patches, primary and secondary growth forest. The field site is privately protected lowland Amazonian rainforest, contiguous with a 300K hectare conservation concession.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Apply online here. You will need a CV/resume and two references.
2. Once we hear from your references, we will schedule an interview with the principal investigator of your desired project
3. If accepted, you will be notified within 1 week
4. Upon acceptance, gain student access to online training modules to get prepared before you arrive.
5. Turn in medical info, vaccination record, liability waivers, etc.
6. See you in the field!
While it is impossible to predict how the global pandemic will continue to unfold, we were able to safely conduct our programs in 2021, and fully expect to do so again in 2022. However, we do ask that all participants, upon acceptance into the program, check with us before purchasing airline tickets.
*If a program postponement occurs and a participant could no longer join on the revised dates, we would refund all fees paid up to that point, minus a 1.5% credit card processing fee. Similarly, if FPI must cancel a program completely for any reason, we will refund participant fees.
Learn more about FPI and COVID-19 HERE.
If FPI cancels a program due to complications related to COVID-19, participants would receive all but 1.5% of fees already paid. The 1.5% represents the credit processing fees charged to FPI for accepting online payments.
Our cancellation policy is:
- 30 days or more before your start date: 45% refunded
- Less than 30 days from your start date: no refund is possible
Our cancellation policy specific to COVID-19:
- Before May 1st, if you cancel for a COVID-19 related reason, you will get all payments refunded, minus a 1.5% credit processing fee.
- After May 1st, FPI will have paid a large portion of your program fees to our field station partners, who provide your accommodations and meals the entire time you are on site. This means that those withdrawing due to COVID-19 after May 1st will be refunded all fees paid minus 6.5%. This portion is retained solely to cover our own credit processing fees, as well as the bank fees incurred by our partners at the Los Amigos Conservation Hub in Peru.
Yes, but it would have to be approved by your university, who will also bill you for the credit hours. If approved, there is also an additional $250 fee that serves as an honorarium for the FPI senior scientist mentoring you through this project. From there, it is just a matter of coordinating between your university mentor and the FPI researcher.
In order to train our research teams, it is necessary that everyone arrives on specific start dates and be trained together to stay on pace with their cohort.
In addition, we arrange to meet arriving groups at the airport, escort them to get COVID tested in Puerto Maldonado, and pick up any last-minute supplies before leaving very early the following morning to the field station. Getting to the field station requires travel overland to a small town called Laberinto (~45 minutes), then a 5-6 hour boat ride upriver. All of this would be difficult for most participants do do alone, which is why we ask that you arrive on fixed program start dates.
If you REALLY cannot make a particular start date, don’t abandon hope – email us and we can do our best to accommodate you.
There are pretty firm minimum requirements for each long-term research training program (typically 5 weeks). These are firm because each participant must be trained, during which time the data they collect cannot be relied upon entirely.
On the other hand, for most programs you are welcome to apply for stays that are longer than the minimum period, which is common among our student researchers. This can be arranged beforehand, or even sometimes in the field if accommodation is available at the field station.
If you have a special circumstance and want to request a shorter program time, you may contact us and we will discuss it with the lead investigators on your chosen project. There is no guarantee, but in the past we have been able to accommodate on occasion.
Our courses have fewer enrollment requirements, and we strongly encourage anyone to apply. The long-term programs involve becoming an integral part of a research team, and thus are more competitive.
You absolutely can apply to both a field course and a long-term training program if the dates will line up! In fact, if you are accepted into the long-term program you can attend a field course for a lower fee (typically a $400 discount)
No, you do not need previous research experience. These are training programs designed for participants at all levels. It can be hard to acquire field experience, so we balance our teams with veteran researchers and those new to the world of field research. We seek bright and enthusiastic candidates with the right temperament to work in this challenging environment.
The cost to participate includes:
- Lodging and all meals at the field station
- Specialized equipment and supplies necessary to conduct training and research activities.
Program fees do NOT include:
- Transportation to the field station
- Lodging and meals in Puerto Maldonado
- Health or travel insurance
- Required vaccinations
- Binoculars or other personal field equipment
A large majority of the fees paid to our training programs cover lodging fees charged by the host field station. Importantly, at the Los Amigos Biological Station lodging fees not only support the cost of running and maintaining a remote field site, but contribute to the larger mission of their parent NGO (Association for the Conservation of the Amazon Basin) to protect conservation areas, monitor deforestation, maintain wildlife corridors, and more.
We are now able to offer a peer-to-peer fundraising program for research assistants. Once accepted, you would be able to (optionally) create a shareable profile on our platform. This is a team-based initiative, so half of your raised funds will go toward your own program fees, while the other half will go into pool to be split evenly among all program participants who had at least 5 donors. More details will be available during (and after) your interview.
If you require help with the cost of the program, there are other options that you might pursue as well. You could start by contacting the Office of Undergraduate Research of your school, or request professional development support from your employer. Here you can explore what is available through your college/place-of-work, as well as through external funding sources. Many universities have SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) programs, which may provide stipends for students to pursue independent research. Please note that if you do find any kind of research-related funding — as many RAs have in the past — it will need to be applied for in conjunction with us, on research projects that we approve. In this case, one of our principal investigators will consult with you about developing a project that is feasible.
All participants are required to show proof of medical insurance before joining us in the field. Many travel insurance providers can assist with emergency medical coverage and emergency medical evacuation. Be certain that COVID-19 is covered in your plan.
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:
- Yellow Fever
- COVID-19 (no exceptions)
- Rabies pre-exposure series (only for those in programs involving wildlife handling of mammals.)
If you have the flu shot for the year, all the better. Find a travel clinic and get your shots EARLY.
A fully independent research project is not feasible in this program due to time constraints, as well as the fact that all research projects must be sanctioned by the field station, approved by an IRB/IACUC, and have the required permits from the relevant government agencies in Peru. All of our research projects have obtained the necessary approvals and permits, which cover the specific data we collect and how we use it.
That said, some candidates may have an opportunity to win a grant that will fund their program fees and travel, and that grant requires them to submit a research proposal. If this is your situation, we may be able to work with you on a proposal. You can contact us at info(at)fieldprojects.org and let us know your situation. Then after you officially apply to the program, you can discuss this in greater depth with one of our senior scientists.
We cannot accommodate completely independent projects, but we can assist you with finding a subset of our samples or data that has not yet been fully analyzed, which you could potentially develop further under our supervision.
Yes, you can. We do not give co-authorship for collecting data alone, but we offer interested students the opportunity to work on data analyses after the summer research program, that could lead to co-authorship in the future. Many of our former field team members have gone on to become research collaborators.
It is too early to predict any quarantine requirements that may be in place for those arriving in Peru. However, in 2021, the 14-day quarantine was permitted at each visitor’s final destination if they got there within 24 hours after landing in Lima. The field station where we work was permitted to serve as this site, since they meet all government-approved COVID protocols, and have the capacity to maintain social distance between all visitors.
Negative tests are not currently an official requirement for those arriving at the field station, but a strong recommendation. Researchers from different institutions and others who are not affiliated with FPI also use this field station, and while temperatures will be taken and screening questions will be asked of everyone, there is no guarantee that an asymptomatic or presymptomatic person won’t be present. This means that masks, social distancing, and other detailed protocols are especially important. In addition, this is why we require all participants to get vaccinated.
The first signs of suspected symptoms or a temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit should be reported immediately to the field station managers and FPI senior scientists. They will have protocols for isolating symptomatic guests, arranging viral testing, notifying those you have been in contact with, and evacuating you to the nearest hospital if necessary. (Note that travel to a hospital and any care there is at your own cost; make sure your insurance policy covers this.)
The nearest healthcare facilities are in Puerto Maldonado, which is approximately 4-5 hours downriver from our field site. In that city, our Peruvian partners have a recommended doctor certified by MINSA (the Ministry go Health). There are also other private and public healthcare options. The private facilities are more expensive (one of the reasons we require participants to have travel medical insurance), but they will likely be able to treat patients faster if public facilities are full.
The second option would be in Cusco, which is approximately 10 hours by car from Puerto Maldonado. There are more clinics in Cusco than Puerto Maldonado.
*While everyone will have their temperatures taken upon arrival by an infrared thermometer, we suggest that participants bring their own thermometers in their first-aid kits, and check themselves daily.
If a person must leave the field station to get treatment and recover from COVID-19, they will be permitted to return after 7 days with a negative antigen test. A negative molecular test will let someone back to the station after 14 days.
The field station’s safety protocols apply to everybody: staff, researchers, guests, and visitors. We do not yet know exactly what these will be in June 2022, but we can share some insight from 2021.
In 2021, every new person arriving at the field station met with the science director to go over the COVID-protocol with them personally, including the mandatory use of face masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing. There are planned spaces equipped for maximum distance between people.
People living or traveling together in a group for more than 14 days were able to share the same table at the commissary and will be treated as a “grupo de aislamiento,” keeping distance from other guests or groups. Room service and/or separate seating at different tables will be arranged for all others.
The field station also practiced “cuarentena laboral.” This means that there were separate working areas, and everyone was expected to avoid using workspaces and equipment that was designated for other individuals or groups.
Effective December 6, 2021, all airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship, must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within one calendar day of travel.
You can get your COVID test in Puerto Maldonado or Lima. In the event that you test positive, your travel/health insurer may be able to cover expenses related to an extended stay/repatriation. You are advised to contact them before traveling to Peru to understand what they cover, recommend, and require.
Our enhanced protocols in laboratory or wildlife handling situations are designed to meet or exceed scientific best practices. They are drafted in conjunction with our Peruvian partners (Conservacion Amazonica), Peruvian authorities (SERFOR) and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) of our affiliate research universities. Broadly speaking, they will involve strict use of face shields, N95 masks, and gloves. Participants will receive detailed instructions on our procedures prior to departing for the field site.