OUR Research

Biodiversity Monitoring

longterm primate research

How long do tamarins live? Are all of them equally likely to reproduce? The very rich drama of the social lives of three primate species forms the backbone of this study. We annually identify, track and evaluate individual primates to study them holistically, exploring demographics, reproduction, dispersal, and relatedness.

barcoding the amazon rainforest

In order to track biodiversity using DNA, you must first build a good reference library. We use noninvasive and nonlethal methods to collect tissue samples from capture-release programs of bats, birds and small mammals to advance DNA barcoding efforts for biodiversity monitoring.

trace dna using field laboratories

Everyone sheds DNA, all the time, animals included. If you know something about a species' biology and ecology, you can develop a pretty good idea of where you can go to consistently collect this shed DNA. This could be in the form of hair, scat, or even a scent-gland secretion. In this program, we are developing methods to extract individual signatures from environmental DNA to better monitor populations of less-studied mammals.

conservation technology

It's an exciting time to be alive. Previously insurmountable tasks are now yielding to the relentless advancement of technology. In this program , we develop innovative solutions to field biologists' problems. Can we make a tracking device that costs less than $50? Can it be less than 20g in weight so a tamarin could wear it? Can we make capture-release devices smart so they tell us when an animal has entered them? Can we put census devices in the rainforest to track animals without any human involvement at all? The answer to all of the above is yes!

Biosurveillance

Community Disease ecology

What does "normal" look like for Neotropical wildlife when it comes to pathogens? We work with wild and captive non-human primates, bats, birds and small terrestrial mammals in southeastern Peru to describe natural pathogen communities

metabarcoding scat and Mucosal samples

After collection of noninvasive tissue samples we use next generation sequencing techniques to classify the majority of pathogens present in a heterogeneous sample (such as feces or saliva).

portable jungle genomics

The genetic sciences are at the core of emerging infectious disease monitoring and wildlife conservation biology today. However, access to funding and infrastructure for genetics research is confined to relatively few wealthy countries. For years, FPI has been involved in large-scale sample collection programs in Peru, followed by relentless work to transport samples to outside labs for analysis. Innumerable delays, significant effort, and large amounts of money are involved in analyzing biological samples this way. Further, there is a substantial loss of opportunity for professional growth and advancement among bright and ambitious field researchers. To counter this, we have pioneered installation of three molecular laboratories situated in areas without similar services. These are not standard labs, however. These are genomic centers established at a fraction of the cost of their urban counterparts, in fringe locations that have had minimal opportunity partake in the 'omics' data revolution. Welcome to the Green Lab Revolution!

Our
Publications

Erkenswick, G.A., Watsa, M., Pacheco, M.A., Escalante, A.A. and Parker, P.G., 2017. Chronic Plasmodium brasilianum infections in wild Peruvian tamarins. PLoS One, 12(9).

Watsa, M., Erkenswick, G., Halloran, D., Kane, E.E., Poirier, A., Klonoski, K., Cassalett, S., Maciag, E., Mangalea, M.R., Dinsmore, M.P. and McCready, H., 2015. A field protocol for the capture and release of callitrichids. Neotropical Primates, 22(2), pp.59-68.

Erkenswick, Gideon & Watsa, Mrinalini & Gozalo, Alfonso & Dudaie, Shay & Bailey, Lindsey & Muranda, Kudakwashe & Kuziez, Alaa & Parker, Patricia. (2019). A multiyear survey of helminths from wild saddleback (Leontocebus weddelli) and emperor (Saguinus imperator) tamarins. American Journal of Primatology. 81. 10.1002/ajp.23063.

Erkenswick, G.A., Watsa, M., Gozalo, A.S., Dmytryk, N. and Parker, P.G., 2017. Temporal and demographic blood parasite dynamics in two free-ranging neotropical primates. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, 6(2), pp.59-68.

Robakis, E., Watsa, M. and Erkenswick, G., 2018. Classification of producer characteristics in primate long calls using neural networks. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 144(1), pp.344-353.

Watsa, M., Erkenswick, G.A., Pomerantz, A. and Prost, S., 2020. Portable sequencing as a teaching tool in conservation and biodiversity research. PLoS Biology, 18(4), p.e3000667.

Sacco, A.J., Mayhew, J.A., Watsa, M., Erkenswick, G. and Binder, A.K., 2020. Detection of neopterin in the urine of captive and wild platyrrhines. BMC Zoology, 5(1), pp.1-8.
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Watsa, M., Erkenswick, G.A., Rehg, J.A. and Pitman, R.L., 2012. Distribution and new sightings of Goeldi’s monkey (Callimico goeldii) in Amazonian Perú. International Journal of Primatology, 33(6), pp.1477-1502.

Watsa, M., Erkenswick, G. and Robakis, E., 2017. Modeling developmental class provides insights into individual contributions to infant survival in callitrichids. International Journal of Primatology, 38(6), pp.1032-1057.

Souza-Alves, J.P., Mourthe, I., Hilário, R.R. et al. (2019). Terrestrial Behavior in Titi Monkeys (Callicebus, Cheracebus, and Plecturocebus): Potential Correlates, Patterns, and Differences between Genera. International Journal of Primatology 40, 553–572.

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