Training Program: Primate Reproductive Biology
Join Our Field Team!
Reproductive variation is the currency of evolution, with individuals who produce more offspring having higher chances of passing on particular characteristics. But what determines who gets to reproduce, and why do we see reproduction regularly skewed toward particular individuals? In tamarins and other callitrichine primates, these questions are particularly perplexing. While multiple females may live in a group, reproductive success is generally limited to a single primary breeding female. This female gives birth to twins that are cared for by other members of the group. However, the other females in the group almost never reproduce. Captive studies suggest that this suppression of reproduction occurs via physiological means, where non-primary females experience delayed development or temporary pauses in ovarian cycling. These responses occur in response to the sight or scent of the primary breeding female or in groups where the only available breeding males are closely related. In the wild, though, we get a more complicated story. Group members are more widely dispersed and their home ranges overlap extensively with other groups, and contrary to what’s been found in captivity, the few studies on wild female reproductive physiology show that non-primary breeders are experiencing regular ovarian cycles. Nevertheless, they still do not reproduce, and the single primary breeding female remains.
What is happening in these natural systems? Through what behavioral or physiological mechanisms does this extreme variation in female reproductive success persist, and why? Answering these questions is key to understanding not only the basic dynamics of callitrichine reproduction, but the fundamental element driving callitrichine evolution. To this end, this project will use behavioral observations and hormone profiles from female tamarins in conjunction with data collected by the Wildlife Monitoring and Behavioral Ecology teams to investigate female reproductive physiology, relationship dynamics between females within and between groups, and genetic relatedness between individuals in the same and neighboring groups.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are pretty firm minimum requirements for each program (3- to 6-week commitments). These are firm because each research assistant must be trained, during which time the data they collect cannot be relied upon entirely. Anything less than the minimum time is deemed insufficient for the research assistant to contribute real data to the project. However, for most programs, you are welcome to apply for stays that are longer than the minimum period – in fact, we really do recommend and love it when you do!
You absolutely can apply to both a field course and an RAship program if the dates will line up! In fact, if you are accepted into the research assistantship, you can attend a field course for a lower fee (typically a $400 discount)
In order to train our research teams, it is necessary that everyone arrives on specific start dates. However, for some programs we are able to provide multiple start dates in order to accommodate the varying schedules of our research assistants. Note: this is not offered for all of our programs, so please pay attention to the specific start times for each program. If you REALLY cannot make a particular start date, don’t abandon hope – email us and we can do our best to accommodate you!
Our courses have fewer enrollment requirements, and we strongly encourage anyone to apply. The research assistantships are more competitive, and there are fewer positions available.
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, transportation between Puerto Maldonado and the field station, specialized training for candidates accepted into the program, and the provision of equipment and supplies necessary to conduct this research.
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 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.
Some candidates may have an opportunity to win a grant that will fund their research assistantship site fees and travel. However, the grant requires them to submit a research proposal. If this is your situation, we may be able to work with you on a proposal. Contact us at info(at)fieldprojects.org and we can help you structure one. 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 full used, which you could develop further with 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.
Here is our cancellation policy:
- 45 days before your start date: 45% refunded
- Less than 45 days from your start date: no refund is possible
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!