Name: Natalie Schall
Internship Placement: Research project with Field Projects International in Peru.
What’s happening? We’d love to hear how your internship is going.
This summer I did a research assistantship with Field Projects International (FPI). I was helping a PhD student from Washington University of St. Louis, Effie Robakis, with her dissertation research. She is focusing on the mating habits of tamarin monkeys. We are in the middle of the Amazon, in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. It sometimes feels like we are still in civilization, because we have a very comfortable field station set up here, but it really is completely removed from the rest of the world. Every day, we go on follows of different groups of tamarins, either emperors or saddlebacks. We have several different groups that FPI has tagged with radio collars and beaded collars. This makes it really easy to identify individual monkeys, because they all have a unique combination of colors, distinguishing their group and sex as well as individual identity. Every follow consists of finding the group we are assigned for the day and then running scans, finding every member of a group and writing down what they doing, every five minutes, and focals, focusing on one member of the group and keeping a running commentary of what they are doing into a voice recorder as well as recording any vocalizations they make into a microphone, every twenty minutes. We are also working on an experiment which involves seeing how breeding individuals react to the calls of breeding individuals from other groups, which is what Effie’s research is specifically on. It is fascinating, and really fulfilling to know that I am contributing to an important research project.
I applied for this RA position because I have been interested in primatology as a career since my first year at Bryn Mawr. This was the first opportunity I’ve ever gotten to see what it’s really like doing research in the field, so of course I jumped at the chance. I’m so happy I did, because I love both the field and the field work! I’ve gained a huge amount of knowledge about how to conduct field research and set up experiments. I feel confident that I will be able to go into the field anywhere and be a good researcher, because I now have a really solid set of baseline skills set up, thanks to all the training that I’ve received from FPI.