Monkey Forest Tales: News from the field, babies season is here!!

I’m writing today’s post, sitting at one of farm house in which we stay during our field trips, while refreshing myself after coming back of my third day of this year babies season. It is always exciting when I visit these fragments to count how many new babies the Colombian squirrel monkeys have and it is even more exciting when we found out that not only squirrel monkeys have babies this year during this month but also the dusty titi monkeys. In the past days we also saw three month old howler babies and six month old black-capped capuchin babies.
This year we had been lucky enough to see also babies from the squirrel monkey group near to town, that we are able only few times to see it at the beginning of the year. So up to now baby monkeys season has been successful, let’s hope those babies can reach the adulthood. Unfortunately our data from past years had showed a high mortality of juveniles, especially in squirrel monkeys.
Up to now, one of the three squirrel monkeys that we check every year had babies. The other two groups have pregnant females, which we continue monitoring in February and March, the whole birth season for this species in the area. All these groups had at least two infants from last year still alive and at least one group of bachelor males has been observed this month.
Monkeys are not the only beautiful surprises that these forest fragments give us in this trip, we also had seen coatis, squirrels, guan’s, toucans and a giant ant eater. Scarlet ibis are arriving, as well as migratory ducks.
This year seems to be more wet than years before and the stream had more water than in previous years during this same month. Usually this region have few rain during January, however this year rain have been more frequent than usual. It is always difficult to predict how long the dry season will last and how strong it will be as the rainy pattern in the area had changed in the past decade.
© Copyright Disclaimer. All pictures used on this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message on the website. Thank you.

Monkey Forest Tales: Planning 2023

Today’s post is the first one of 2023 and although our fieldwork won’t start until next week, is still that time of the year when you plan for the whole year activities, so that is part of what we are doing at the moment in Zocay Project. So, for now I just give you a few updates of our plans for this new year and some preliminary news on our wildlife use of water sources.
This new project of wildlife use of water sources, we started our first round of camera pictures revision and again we observed ocelots, as well as we had observed tayras in the area, which means we still have some carnivorous in the area. We also get some pictures of new birds and rodents that we didn’t see before, and we are excited to continue discovering what our cameras are capturing close to the water sources.
An additional discovery in our cameras is that an elusive but common carnivorous, crab-eating racoon, seems to be more common than we thought in the area, and it appears in several of the cameras, including some cameras near to artificial lakes in the middle of pastures. So, even with all the transformation of this landscape, we still have an incredible amount of biodiversity that make these cattle ranching landscapes

Monkey Forest Tales: Our last post of 2022, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2023!!!

In today’s post, our last post of 2022. As I sit in my desk thinking about this year that is ending and the new year that starts in almost a week from now. This past year, we didn’t have as many fieldtrips as we expected, but we still were able to see squirrel monkeys having their babies in February, capuchin monkeys playing with their babies in April and rediscovering the nest of a Brumback’s night monkeys.

We also started a new project to find out if native wildlife use water sources used to supply water for cattle’s, we will give you more news of this collaborative study with Onca Foundation in the following post of 2023, for now let’s just say that as always, this incredible, transformed landscape give us more surprises than we will expect, some of which are just unbelievable!!!! More soon…

This year also make me wonder of what much we still don’t know about productive systems that seems to still conserve a high diversity even though it is evident they have a high impact on biodiversity. How much we really know about species movement and what make that a place has certain animals for some years and then without no apparent reason new animals arrives…

I guess this is one of the reasons why I had persisted so long in the same area, because there are always more questions than answers, despite of being a productive system with all the impact that productive activities have on wildlife. Let’s hope the new year bring some answers and if you are interested in support, help, or participate in any of the research activities we do in the next year, please don’t hesitate to send a message to xcarretero@gmail.com

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you who have read my blog over this year, hope to see you visiting and sharing more Zocay Project stories with you in 2023…

© Copyright Disclaimer. All pictures used on this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message on the website. Thank you

Monkey Forest Tales: Lessons learned in 2022

In today’s post we are starting our reflections on 2022 lessons, which are not only personal but also part of our growth in Zocay Project. This year started with some surprises that once again teach me that patience and persistence are the best skills if you want to continue doing what you love to do, especially if that implies fieldwork and monkeys!!!
This year started with a bit of a bump; I got sick, however that sickness gave me the opportunity to share with people who I always admire but didn’t have the opportunity before to talk for several days and those conversations lead to new opportunities for me and Zocay Project.
Those opportunities also teach me about the things I still enjoy and don’t enjoy about teaching and how I can take advantage of that knowledge for my future endeavors and may be for new paths and opportunities for Zocay Project.
It also teaches me about how lucky I am of being able to continue looking at the same groups of monkeys after 18 years, and how grateful I feel of the people (professors, students, volunteers, and landowners) who had enrich my career and help me to continue putting a little grain to see those monkeys surviving in a very transformed area. How lucky I am of witness the persistence of those incredible animals that make my life unique every day.
This year also teach me about resilience and the importance of family. How important is to be able to be there when it is need it…But also that not always is easy to be there and you have to be flexible with yourself if that happens and not blame yourself if you can’t.
It also showed that Zocay Project was the right decision for my life and how grateful I am with all the people who had helped me over the years to make this project a reality and to all the people helping me now to continue with this project. I also realized how many skills I learned over the years and specially during my PhD. So, at this point of the year when we make a balance and reflect on the lessons life have teach us during this year I thankful for the people, monkeys and life that I’m able to live and share with others (humans and no humans)…
© Copyright Disclaimer. All pictures used on this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message on the website. Thank you

Monkey Forest Tales: Why is important to include some kind of biodiversity monitoring in long-term primate projects

In today’s post we are going to talk about why is important to include some kind of biodiversity monitoring in long-term primate projects, understanding long- term as projects with a duration of more than 3 years.
When I started Zocay Project my main goal was to calculate monkeys densities, basically counting each monkey species that I found in each fragment, for a 6 months period. But when the project expanded and because I was teach to register basically everything I saw, my database have information about other mammals apart from monkeys as well as some big birds.
Biodiversity monitoring is an important part of biological science; however, it is debated to what extent you should do monitoring and when to start doing mitigation or conservation actions. The answer to this is not always the same. In animals with long life spans such as primates monitoring can implies several decades. In some areas where census are done for primates, it is also common during those census to find other mammals and big birds like guans. So long term primate projects have the potential to also serve as biodiversity monitoring projects where general patterns of other species ocurrence can be detected and used to understand the functioning of the habitats in which those monkeys are living and the quality of those habitats. As well as the effects on some general conservation actions done at the beginning of those long term primate projects.
For our study area one of those patterns had been the use of regenerated areas in front of the farm house by monkeys and other mammals such squirrels and coaties. As well as the return of the colombian chachalaca to some of the farm forest fragments. This monitoring didn’t represent more finantial expenses for Zocay project and it is providing more support about the benefits to this fragmented areas of mitigation actions we implemented over 15 years ago. Therefore is and important aspect to consider while you are looking at monkey’s population trends in your study areas.
© Copyright Disclaimer. All pictures used on this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message on the website. Thank you

Monkey Forest Tales: How to evaluate threats for primates living close to humans? Some challenges

When working with primates in close proximity to humans, you constantly saw conflict and animals getting kill due to human activities. How to measure those threats when the observations are rare, and data is difficult to get requires that you combine methods and work in close proximity with local people. In today’s post we are going to talk about the challenges of evaluating threats for primates living close to humans.

Probably the first and more challenging part is to detect those threats, unless it is evident that roads are close to forest or that electric cables are close to forest fragments, observations of primate’s deaths by electrocution and car collisions are difficult to quantify. Unless you combine direct observations with surveys in which people report those events. A combination of different data sources is usually the most productive way to understand how primates, and in general other native fauna, are impacted by human activities such as electrocutions and car collisions. 

Working with local people had its own challenges in terms of language use and techniques to make right questions and get comprehensive information about rare events. Additional spatial information obtained from satellite images and land cover map can add important understanding on possible solutions and places where can be more effective to implement mitigation actions such a canopy bridges and other artificial structures that helps safe animal movements in highly transformed landscape. However, we still need to be aware of challenges in information interpretation and learn tools of conflict negotiation to reach agreement with local people on those areas uses.

An additional challenge is how to improve electricity companies’ installation of safe cables as well as how to educate drivers to reduce speed at critical fauna crossing as a complement to infrastructure (canopy bridges or fauna overpass) for fauna crossing on rails and roads. Although there isn’t a unique way to evaluate primate’s threats in human transformed landscapes, an open mind and collaboration with other disciplines can improve our understanding to get better solutions. A lesson we are still learning at Zocay Project…

 © Copyright Disclaimer. All pictures used on this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message on the website. Thank you

Monkey Forest Tales: Thinking about my beginnings and why I still enjoy studying primates

Over the past weeks while giving a field course, I have found myself thinking again why I still enjoy so much studying primates. In today’s post we revisit together some of those thoughts and impression that still motivates me after 27 years from my first time in a forest looking at wild monkeys.

Teaching had a particular way of make you evaluate the good’s and bad’s of research life. Not only because is challenging to explain to others the concepts and theory behind what you do in the field but also because it can show you the things you don’t enjoy at the same time it shows you what you love.

Most of my professional and academic life had been in the field with few periods of time teaching at classrooms or more commonly in the field. Teaching in the field is what I prefer, for me it give the most rewards when you see a student develop their own research project and present their results. You saw them grow as researchers but also as persons.

However, it is when I’m alone in the forest looking for monkeys or just observing their behavior when I felt the happiest and luckiest person in the world. It is at those moments that I found my motivation to continue doing research, finding time to teach and searching for options to make my research and action more valuable for monkeys’ conservation.  

I had forgotten how many times I asked myself why I still do research with monkeys and why I go too far places to see them and study them. Maybe the answer is still the same I once told my grandmother when preparing to go to the forest for my second trip to Tinigua National Park, because I love them and want to spend my life helping them to survive.

Sometimes that last part of help them to survive seems too far, however it is the example of others smarter and more successful than me that give me the energy to continue. But most importantly are all those small moments I share with wild primates what give me the motivation to continue. It is on those quiet moments where it seems that they completely accept me in their groups that I found the strength to continue with the life I choose…

© Copyright Disclaimer. All pictures used on this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message on the website. Thank you

Monkey Forest Tales: Some reflections about rejection and failure

In today’s post we are going to talk about some reflections about rejection and failure. Academia is full of rejection, it is common that your paper, grant, or fellowship is rejected than accepted. This means you need to be able to process failure in a way that you convert that “failure” in an opportunity to improve and growth instead of feed feelings of worthless or increase your impostor syndrome. The best way to see any rejection is as an opportunity.
Also, rejections may make you wonder if what you are doing is the right thing to do. If it is really your life path. If you are passionate about what you do, the answer is yes, it is your life path. Life is not always easy, but if you love what you do, then be persistent, most of the best things in life take time to get them.
But, how to overcome that feeling you have after a rejection…I found that sometimes you need to take time off after your initial read to process any comments you get back. Then, read critically any comment reviewers give you about your paper, think carefully if the reviewer’s comment makes a point you overlook in your paper or if they pointed a piece of evidence, you didn’t think it was relevant before.
When it is a grant or fellowship, remember competition in science is high, but that doesn’t mean you are a bad researcher. It just means, you need to try again. Some grants give you feedback, take advantage of those comments and use those comments to improve your next application.
Rejections and failures are always opportunities for you to be better, to reflect about your decisions and to improve and look at a problem from different angles. Next application always will be better
© Copyright Disclaimer. All pictures used on this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message on the website. Thank you.

Monkeys Forest Tales: Working in field sites outside of your own country: challenges

In today’s post we are going to talk abut working in field sites outside of your own country, especially some of the challenges of working in a different culture and in a different language…

Fieldwork is always challenging, even when you are in your country and speaking in your own language. Why is that? May be because it usually means that you leave the comfort of your house, sometimes for camping, or to live in a place far from all the things and people you are used to.

When doing fieldwork outside of your own country those challenges increase if you go to places where another language is spoken. Some of those challenges are related with the language, but also with the culture in which you are working, additional to the challenges of the terrain in which you work, weather conditions and the specific challenges of the species or group of species that you are studying.

So, one of the things that usually helps is to be flexible and open minded to face uncertainties and to adapt yourself to the conditions surrounding you. But probably the most important skill you will need to develop is to be patience, with others but especially with yourself…Things probably never will be as you planned, there is always something that goes wrong, or slower than you expected. So be patience, have one or two back up plans, try to learn the local language and culture, be respectful of local people believes and try to have fun.

Fieldwork should be fun as well as hard work, enjoy the animals and all the opportunities that travelling and visiting other cultures offers you. Be aware of the risk you can face due to different believes, especially if you are a woman. Be safe and careful and enjoy all the opportunities that life is giving you just for being in the field, surrounded by nature and in a country that is not yours. You are lucky, that is something not all people can do or have the opportunity to do…

© Copyright Disclaimer. All pictures used on this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message on the website. Thank you.

Monkey Forest Tales: What means to be a good supervisor?

On past days I came across a twitter that make me thing about supervisors and how influential they are in our lives during and after we finish working with them. This twitter said: “It’s very important for grad students and postdocs to work with advisors who know when to say: that’s enough for today. Be sure to take time for yourself. Research is endless, but our lives are not. Sleep, exercise, cook a good meal, have some down time”. In all my time in academia, I only have one supervisor telling me similar words on our weekly meetings. He always asks me to socialize more and to participate not only on social activities in the lab but also to spent time with friends. To have time off. He even takes time off and sometimes didn’t went to conferences or academic events to put his family first… something that at that time I wasn’t sure I understood well, but that today I see as one of his best qualities as a human and a supervisor. So Jonathan thank you for had been my supervisor and an excellent person while I was learning…

I was formed by different supervisors from undergrad to postdoc, all of them from different countries, cultures, ages and ways to see life. From all of them I learned something (good and/or bad), and they all impacted the way I perceive and feel academia life. On the way I also interacted with other supervisors that even if they were not directly connected with my work, take time to talk about life and balance while doing research. However, it was only until I met a really bad supervisor that I start to understand what really means to have a supervisor that put you first as a person and really help you grow as a person and a researcher. Unfortunately good supervisors seems to not be that common, something that seems to be incentivized by a system that prioritize egos and publications over human quality and collaboration.

Although today I don’t supervise many students as I used to. I always try to stop myself when I push too hard students that show a real effort on keep their lives while doing a good job. I had tried to be as honest as possible about my own experiences with my students so they can learn from my experiences as well as from their own. Not so sure how successful I had been on that but there is always space for improvement…  

© Copyright Disclaimer. All pictures used on this web page are protected with copyrights to Xyomara Carretero-Pinzón. If you want to use any of these pictures, please leave a message on the website. Thank you.