Research | Field Projects International

Research Assistantship Programs

Field Projects International offers students 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 our current programs

*Note: some programs are only available at specific times of year


  • 1. Wildlife Handling: Primates
  • 2. Wildlife Handling: Terrestrial Mammals
  • 3. Primate Behavior and Space Use
  • 4. Primate Sensory Ecology
  • 5. Primate Disease Ecology
  • 6. Wilderness Technology

Wildlife Handling: Primates

This training program targets students with 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: May 27 – July 8, 2018
  • Start dates: May 27 or June 3
  • Minimum stay required: 4 weeks
  • Application deadline: April 15th, 2018
  • Program fee: $1800 for 4 weeks; $450 each additional week
  • Appeals to majors: Vertebrate Physiology, Anthropology, Veterinary Science, Zoology
  • Training areas: Wild primate mark-recapture and handling, health assessments, TPR monitoring, morphological measurement.

Wildlife Handling: Terrestrial Mammals, Birds and Bats

This training program targets students with interest in wildlife handling, zoology, or veterinary science. Students will participate in a pilot capture and release program that is focused on small to medium-sized terrestrial mammals (rodents, marsupials, armadillos, tayras), birds and bats in southeastern Peru. Participants will work alongside several Peruvian wildlife veterinarians, obtaining opportunities to handle a variety of mammalian and avian species, learning to record morphometrics, collecting and processing biological samples, and becoming competent in several roles that are vital to a successful capture-release 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: May 27 – July 14, 2018
  • Start dates: June 3 or June 10
  • Minimum stay required: 4 weeks
  • Application deadline: April 15th, 2018
  • Program fee: $1800 for 4 weeks; $450 each additional week
  • Appeals to majors: Vertebrate Physiology, Veterinary Science, Zoology
  • Training areas: Terrestrial mammal mark-recapture and handling, health assessments, vital signs monitoring, morphological measurement, sample collection and storage.

Primate Behavior and Spatial Ecology

Tamarins are notoriously difficult to track and identify in the wild, because of their diminutive size and morphological homogeneity. In this program, we monitor a population of ~14 tamarin groups, individually identifiable and radio-collared, to study their space use and means of communication. 

We collect data on adult scent gland morphology and scent-marking behaviour, another primary form of communication among tamarins. Participants will conduct full- and half-day follows of individually tagged primate troops, recording alarm calls and scent-marks alongside habitat use and feeding ecology. 

  • Program dates: June 3 – August 12, 2018
  • Start dates: June 3 or July 1
  • Minimum stay required: 6 weeks
  • Application deadline: April 15th, 2018
  • Program fee: $2700 for 6 weeks; $450 each additional week
  • Appeals to majors: Anthropology, Biology, Wildlife Management, Psychology
  • Training areas: Off-trail navigation, wildlife tracking, telemetry, focal behavioural sampling, spatial analyses.

Primate Sensory Ecology

Primates are often heralded as a group of mammals that rely more on their vision than their olfactory senses, however, olfaction is a strong feature of tamarin communication. In this program, we will use two types of experiments to assess the strength of the olfactory system in tamarins. First, experiments to detect communication of gender, familiarity and breeding status via glandular secretions in urine. Second, feeding experiments to detect the constant battle between visual or olfaction-dependent foraging.  Participants will learn how to conduct the experiments, record behavioural data, and perform fundamental data analyses in the field. They will also actively participate in experiment design and troubleshooting working closely with the wildlife handling team. 

  • Program dates: June 3 – July 30, 2018
  • Start dates: June 3, June 10, June 17, June 24, July 1, or July 8
  • Minimum stay required: 3 weeks
  • Application deadline: April 15, 2018
  • Program fee: $1350 for 3 weeks; $450 each additional week
  • Appeals to majors: Animal Behavior, Anthropology, Captive Zoo Management, Psychology
  • Training areas: Foraging behaviour, ecological experiment design and analysis, focal behaviour sampling, video analyses, cognitive experiments

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

You’ll help us maintain crucial 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 principal goal is to expose new ecological linkages between Neotropical animals.

  • Program dates: May 27 – July 30, 2018
  • Application deadline: April 15, 2018
  • Minimum commitment: 4 weeks
  • Start dates: June 3 or July 1
  • Program fee: $1800 for 4 weeks; $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.

Wilderness Technology

This program is focused on the intersection between photography and engineering and its application to conservation and wildlife research. This program has three foci: 1) Advanced camera trapping, in which we build camera traps using DSLR cameras to take high-quality images of wildlife non-invasively; 2) Camera trap sensor design, in which we take small, inexpensive cameras and create field technology that can be used to detect temperature/humidity, but also animal weight and even microchip ID; 3) Storytelling with photography, in which you shadow various researchers with FPI to document scientific research in real-time. 

  • Program dates: June 2 – August 2, 2018
  • Application deadline: April 15, 2018
  • Minimum commitment: 4 weeks
  • Start dates: June 3 or July 3
  • Program fee: $1800 for 4 weeks; $450 each additional week.
  • Appeals to majors: Photography, Wildlife Conservation, Journalism, Scientific Communication
  • Training areas: Field camera design, camera trap construction and monitoring, sensor platforms, tree-climbing, telemetry, photo story and journalism.

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.


  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 doing full-day follows.
  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) AFTER submitting a research application.
  • Feel a little under-prepared? Consider taking one of our field courses before beginning your 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.  If you REALLY cannot make a particular start date, don’t abandon hope – email us and we can do our best to accommodate you!

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 - a course or the research assistantship?

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.

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.

A large portion of the fees paid to our training programs supports our host field stations. For example, at the Los Amigos Biological Station (El Centro de Investigación y Capacitación Río Los Amigos, 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 at info(at) 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) 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, through 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:

45 days before your start date: 45% refunded

Less than 45 days from your start date: no refund is possible

If you have extenuating circumstances, or applied closer than 45 days to your start date, please contact us to confirm your specific cancellation policy.

What are the steps to becoming a research assistant?

1. Apply online here.
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 Zika virus outbreak is of acute concern in much of Latin America, although a great deal is still not known about this virus. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and 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 do extend to areas below 6,500 feet in Peru, which includes the Amazon basin and any field station in it. Our recommendation is that participants who are pregnant — or likely to be pregnant during their time at the field station — use caution and avoid traveling at this time. If you are not pregnant but are thinking of having a child in the near future, the CDC recommends waiting 8 weeks post potential exposure for women, and 6 months for men. All participants can protect themselves by taking precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes.

The Peruvian government is taking numerous proactive measures to prevent the spread of Zika within the country. The most recent update (March 2, 2017) from the Pan American Health Organisation can be found here. Here are a few excerpts of note from the report, keeping in mind that the field station we work at is in the Madre de Dios Department of Peru:

  1. Between 2016 and 2017 (Epidemiological Week 5), confirmed autochthonous cases have been reported in six of Peru’s 25 departments: Cajamarca, Lima, Loreto, San Martin, Tumbes, and Ucayali.
  2. Three of these six departments, have reported autochthonous confirmed cases only in 2016: Cajamarca, Lima, and Tumbes.
  3. As of EW 5 of 2017, no cases of Zika-virus-associated Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) or other
    neurological syndromes have been reported by Peru health authorities.
  4. As of EW 5 of 2017, no cases of congenital syndrome associated with Zika virus infection have been
    reported by Peru health authorities.
  5. As of EW 5 of 2017, no deaths among Zika cases have been reported by Peru health authorities.

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 station given that Zika has not been detected in the entire Department.

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