Monitoring Biodiversity in the Amazon

longterm monitoring

A focused annual survey of primates

barcoding the amazon

Building a DNA barcode library for life

trace dna in field laboratories

Using eDNA to track wildlife at frontline labs

conservation technology

Innovating low-cost tools for wildlife monitoring

Longterm Monitoring

Tracking tamarins can be tricky. They are small and fast, and you have to earn their trust while trying to distinguish each near-identical animal from the next. To achieve this, we use an annual mark-recapture program, behavioral observations, tracking technology, and genetics. 

By The Numbers

years of study
social groups
1 %
Recapture Rate

Who are the Tamarins?

The Saddleback Tamarin

Tamarins are primates (family,  Callitrichidae) known for their miniature stature and complex, female-dominant social systems.

Emperor tamarins (Saguinus imperator) in our focal study group

They have hirsute faces and are very hard to distinguish from each other. No sexual dichromatism is present in the species’ pelage.

They produce twin offspring over 90% of the time. These dizygotic or fraternal twins are more closely related on average due to genetic chimerism

Meet the Tamarins at EBLA


Emperor tamarins (Saguinus imperator), known for their fantastic mustaches, are also fierce creatures, despite their size.


Saddleback tamarins (Leontocebus weddelli) are milder in temperament. They are the most widely ranging tamarin species in the Amazon.


Goeldi’s monkey (Callimico goeldii) is a rare and cryptic primate occasionally observed at our site. They are larger, quieter, and fond of fungus.

Published Findings

We published a protocol on safe mark-recapture techniques for callitrichids. Additional detailed protocols are available upon request.

Our review of sightings of Callimico goeldii in Peru examined data from 340 sites over 40 years to and predict species distribution.

We developed a model to predict the breeding status of individuals based on morphological, reproductive characteristics.

We collated published and unpublished data from 86 studies across 65 localities to assess titi monkey (Callicebinae) terrestriality.

In the summer of 2020, we hope our Peruvian research team will continue our work with additional safety protocols, subject to Peru’s permission to work with wildlife.

Barcoding the Amazon

DNA provides a unique signature for every organism, if you know where to look in its genome. Using near-universal genetic markers we are expanding the DNA barcode library for the Madre de Dios region.


In 2018, we conducted a large-scale monitoring program for birds, bats, small mammals and primates at EBLA, asssessing 400 + animals in 7 weeks.

We sequenced 580 amplicons across multiple mitochondrial markers, adding to the DNA barcode reference library for the region.  


We achieved this in conjunction with the Inkaterra Green Lab, the Amazon’s first molecular genomics laboratory. 

Trace DNA in Field Laboratories

By tracking individual signatures from some unusual sources of DNA, we hope to monitor species that cannot be approached easily. For example, SNP genotyping DNA from footprints, scat, hair snares, or scent-marks can allow us to build databases of the DNA fingerprint of individual animals at our field site. To do this, we use portable sequencing in field laboratories.

Conservation Technology

A great portion of time spent doing field research is devoted to figuring out how something originally meant to do A can be re-jigged to perform function B. Applying the same principle today, we can utilize miniature controllers to invent devices that greatly enhance our capabilities in the rainforest. 


The Naturechip is a censusing device that snaps an image, records a weight and scans an animal for its microchip.

new collar

The Biscuit is a miniaturized GPS collar designed for tamarins. It is low-cost and low-energy, and pretty chic.

small mamm_

We are improving mark-recapture programs on small rats and marsupials by making smart traps to inform us when an animal enters them.

A Giant Ear in the Sky

Using long-range, low-power radio frequencies, we can wire the area surrounding the field station to create a perpetual data collection system that is always listening for signals produced by sensors. These sensors can be anything from a GPS location to a temperature reading. Signals received by the network can be aggregated and transmitted, ideally in real-time.


In 2015, we measured the color (absorbance spectra) of tamarin genitalia, in a bid to understand the biological basis of signaling using a spectrophotometer

In 2017, we used the Torion portable mass spectrometer to analyze scent-gland secretions in wild tamarins – the first effort of its kind.


Since 2015, we have studied tamarin vocalizations, characterizing vocal repertoire and signals of individual and species in sound.