Research | Field Projects International
 

Research Assistantship Programs

Field Projects International offers students with little or no prior field experience the unique opportunity to receive hands-on training in the Peruvian Amazon. We partner with several universities to carry out a number of long-term research programs. Our primary subjects are the primates at the Los Amigos field site in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, with research topics including growth and development, life history, health and parasitology, reproduction, space use, and communication.

All of our research programs contribute to the student training opportunities that we offer, especially as platforms for learning for our long-term research assistants. We specialize in teaching field research methodologies applicable to small mammal capture-and-release, parasitology and health monitoring, behavioral observation, tracking and space-use, and communication. Research assistants come from a variety of backgrounds — pre-vet, anthropology, biology, and young professionals — and may  participate in one or more of the research programs we offer. If you are interested in joining a field research team, you’ve come to the right place.

We are an equal opportunity organization; we do not exclude candidates who lack previous field experience. Joining our team is a competitive process, but extends generous support for participants in pursuit of further opportunities to conduct research or join graduate programs.

Read below about 6 ways you can get involved!

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1. Community Disease Ecology

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. With baseline data on parasites from 11 primate species at CICRA, we can monitor community interactions, health, and population stability, animal behavior, and whether climate change may be altering parasite-host relationships.

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 foremost goal is to expose new ecological linkages between Neotropical animals.

Program dates: Summer 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 full
Program fee: $1800; $450 each additional week
Appeals to majors: Anthropology, Evolutionary Biology, Veterinary Science
Training areas: Sample collection and preservation, off-trail navigation, telemetry, land-use mapping, census data collection

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3. Wildlife Handling

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 in southeastern Peru. As part of our ongoing long-term monitoring project begun in 2008, 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. Our work in this project is sanctioned by the Amazon Conservation Association, the Animal Care Committee of the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Perú.

Program dates: Summer 2017
Start date: June 1st
End date: July 1st
Application deadline: April 17, 2017, or until full
Program fee: $1800
Appeals to majors: Vertebrate Physiology, Anthropology, Veterinary Science, Zoology
Training areas: Wild primate mark-recapture and handling, health assessments, TPR monitoring, morphological measurement

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5. Titi Monkey Project

This is a scholarship opportunity in conjunction with the Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon (ASA) that will support project proposals to investigate the demography, spatial ecology, and/or feeding ecology of brown titi monkeys (Callicebus brunneus). The exact nature of the proposed research project is open, but should be in line with the ASA’s mission of promoting conservation. Please note that at this stage the trapping or handling of vertebrate species at our field site is not authorized; proposals, therefore, should be for observational research only.

The successful applicant will have the support of the ASA’s academic faculty and staff, resident naturalists, and a number of volunteers and internship program participants that may serve as field assistants. The scholarship will cover food and lodging for a period of up to four months (15 May – 15 September, 2017) at Finca Las Piedras, the ASA’s field site in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon. The scholarship does not cover the cost of travel to Puerto Maldonado, or the cost of medical/travel insurance.

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2. Primate Communication

Tamarin vocalizations encode information on the producer’s age, sex, and reproductive status, and 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. 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.

Program dates: Summer 2017
Session one: June 1st – July 15th
Session two: June 16th – July 30th
Minimum stay required: 6 weeks
Application deadline: April 17, 2017, or until full
Program fee: $2700; $450 each additional week
Appeals to majors: Anthropology, Biology, Wildlife Management, Psychology
Training areas: Off-trail navigation, wildlife tracking, telemetry, focal behavioral sampling, vocal repertoire, audio analyses

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4. Primate Sensory Ecology

Primates are often heralded as a group of mammals that rely more on their vision than their olfactory senses. Tamarins are a particularly special subset in which to examine the role of vision because they display a sex-biased variation in trichromatic, or color, vision. In this project, we use feeding experiments to test the reliance of tamarins on vision, olfaction, and taste in the wild. We also explore sensory ecology in relation to a variety of stimuli, such as familiar/unfamiliar alarm calls, urine, or scent-gland compounds. Participants will learn how to conduct the experiments, record behavioral data, and perform basic data analysis in the field.

Program dates: Summer 2017
Session one: June 16th – July 8th
Session two: June 30th – July 22nd
Session three: July 14th – August 5th
Minimum stay required: 3 weeks
Application deadline: April 17, 2017, or until full
Program fee: $1350; $450 each additional week
Appeals to majors: Animal Behavior, Anthropology, Captive Zoo Management, Psychology
Training areas: Foraging behavior, ecological experiment design and analysis, focal behavior sampling, video analyses

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6. Goeldi’s Monkey Project

Callimico goeldii is the only recognized species of its genus and differs from other callitrichids in its anatomy, reproduction, behavior and ecology. Where other tamarins have twins, it raises only single infants. While others roam high into the rainforest canopy, callimicos remain safe in the undergrowth. Most importantly, only two long-term study sites in Brazil and Bolivia, both disturbed by nearby human settlements, tell us all that we know about this distinctive creature, listed by the IUCN as vulnerable to extinction. In 2010 we chanced upon a group of three Callimico roaming with other, more common, tamarin species at Los Amigos. In the last four years we have only seen them a handful of times in the presence of other tamarin species. Today, we are working towards discovering it’s whereabouts throughout Peru with the aid of scat-detection dogs.

Please note: this project is currently in its early stages of acquiring permitting and funding; we are not yet accepting research assistants. More information to come soon!

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The Application Process

In order to apply for a research assistantship you must submit an application. Do not wait till the deadline to turn in an application - limited program slots may fill before then. Read about our eligibility requirements and the application process in the section below.

Eligibility

  1. Must be at least 18 years of age by the time the training program begins
  2. Demonstrate a grounding or strong interest in zoology, biology, or anthropology
  3. Previous field experience is not required, but previous research experience (either outdoors or in the laboratory) will be a plus
  4. Must provide 2 letters of recommendation
  5. Must be unafraid of insects, reptiles and the jungle in general
  6. Must be in good physical condition, with the capability to walk 4 miles a day while carrying field equipment
  7. Participants will not be discriminated against for medical conditions they might have if we determine that being on this project will not pose an immediate risk to their health.
  8. Must be willing to adjust schedule to primate daily activity patterns. This can require waking up early, sometimes by 5 am, and going to bed early.
  9. Due to the nature of the work and weather constraints, participants MUST be willing to be flexible about their days off. Assistants will typically have one day off per week; however we cannot guarantee a set schedule each week.
  10. Must sign waivers of liability for this project and for the field station before their participation in the project is finalized

How to Apply

  1. Submit a research assistantship application online and inform your references to await a notification from us
  2. Reference letters must arrive within 2 weeks of application submission
  3. If you pass initial screening, you will be contacted for an interview via the internet and asked to submit an unofficial transcript from your university
  4. Decisions on your application will be made by the Research Committee within 2 weeks of your interview
  5. Important: All applications are processed as received until all spots are filled. Applying early definitely pays off.
  • Want credit for independent research? Please contact us at info(at)fieldprojects.org AFTER submitting a research application.
  • Feel a little under-prepared? Consider taking one of our field courses before beginning the assistantship.
  • Have questions? Explore our FAQ section below and/or complete our message form at the bottom of this page.”

Research Assistantship FAQs


Can I stay for shorter or longer than the minimum specified per program?

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!

Why are there specific start dates?

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.

What if I want to do both a course and the research assistantship?

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)

Which is easier to get into - the course or the research assistantship?

The course has fewer requirements, and we strongly encourage anyone to apply. The research assistantship is more competitive, and there are fewer positions available.

Do I need previous field research experience to be a research assistant?

No, you do not need previous research experience. We value enthusiasm and determination, and we will be proud to be your first foray into the world of field research.

What does the cost of this program cover?

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.

Since a large portion of the fees paid to our training programs supports our host, the Los Amigos Biological Station (aka CICRA), you are not just supporting the cost of running and maintaining a remote field site, but also funding the larger mission of the their parent NGO, the Association for the Conservation of the Amazon Basin (ACCA).

Do you offer financial assistance?

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 at your school. Here you can explore what is available through your college, 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.

Can I conduct my own research project with you?

Question cont’d: I have an opportunity to win a grant that will fund my research assistantship site fees and travel. However, the grant needs me to submit a research proposal. Is there any way I can work with you to generate a proposal?

Sure, contact us and we can help you structure one. We cannot accommodate independent projects, but we can assist you with finding a compatible section of research to work on with us.

Can I receive credit for research conducted through this program?

Yes, you can sign up for credit through Washington University in St. Louis for research you conduct with us. This will involve paying additional fees for the 3 credits to the university, a separate application form, and approval by the anthropology department at the university. You will then work on a section of our research data collected this summer, possibly along with previous data collected at the site, to present your results in a research paper after you return from the site. We will consider each person’s case independently from another, so please indicate your interest on your research application form AND by emailing us at info(at)fieldprojects.org AFTER you submit an application. We’d be happy to discuss project options with you at that time. You will work under Dr. Mrinalini Erkenswick Watsa, who is a faculty member in the Anthropology Department at Washington University in St. Louis

Will I get a chance to work on publications that come out of this research?

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.

What are some of the things previous assistants have done after the program?

First, they graduate! They have subsequently gone on to graduate schools in primatology, conservation, and biology. Some have interned as assistants in other programs all over the world. Some are training to be veterinary surgeons now, and one even runs an amazing animal rescue center. We are proud to support their futures and careers. Learn more about them on this page.

Cancellation policy

Once you make your payment towards the RAship, we will go ahead and book your stay at the field station, which requires us to pay in advance and provides no refunds. We also block your spot and reject other applicants based on your being on the team; thus cancellations can affect team recruitment quite strongly. Nevertheless, we do recognize that circumstances sometimes demand cancellations – so we do the best that we can, given the restrictions we are under. Here is our cancellation policy:

On or before April 17, 2017: 80% refunded

After April 17 th , 2017: no refund is possible

What are the steps to becoming a research assistant?

1. Apply ASAP
2. Send in letters of recommendation electronically; your references will be contacted by us (within 10 days of application)
3. We will schedule an interview with the principal investigator of your desired project
4. If accepted, you will be notified within 1 week
5. Upon acceptance, gain student access to online training modules to get prepared before you arrive.
6. Turn in medical info, vaccination record, liability waivers, etc.
7. Get featured on our website
8. See you in the field!

Concerned about the Zika virus?

The recent Zika outbreak is of acute concern in much of Latin America, although a great deal is still not known about this virus being spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. There is a possible link to a condition called microcephaly in children born to infected women (although it does appear that Zika-caused microcephaly in Brazilian infants has been over-diagnosed. While mosquitoes are the primary vector of the virus, a recent case in Dallas has also confirmed that the virus can be sexually transmitted.

Presently the CDC’s travel advisories for pregnant women have not extended to Peru, but our recommendation is that students who are pregnant — or likely to be pregnant during their time at the field station — use caution. There is currently no evidence of any effect on future births for those who are not pregnant at the time of infection, and only around 20% of all infected people exhibit even the minor symptoms of Zika (fever, rash, pink eye, etc.). There is an additional suspected link to a rare but much more severe condition called Guillain-Barre, however this risk is exceedingly low.

The Peruvian government is taking numerous proactive measures to prevent the spread of Zika within the country. These include the use of ovitraps to identify the virus in mosquitoes at thousands of monitoring sites around the country, allowing for swift response if detected.

This is a developing story, and much is still unknown regarding the transmission and health risks of this virus. We recommend that each prospective student and researcher determine their own comfort levels by weighing the available data against their own relative risk. At this point, FPI’s non-pregnant investigators and other staff remain confident about safely returning to the field.

Read more:

General information from the CDC

CDC travel advisories

Discussion of Zika (Cosmos Magazine)

Have a question? Send us a message:


  • Please be very specific about which course or research program you require us to assist you with