Monkey Forest Tales: What Zocay Project had teach me personally?

Today’s post is again a personal one. When you are coordinating a research project there are many personal lesson learned not only from the animals/ ecosystems/ landscapes you study, but also from the students/ volunteers/ interns/ colleagues and local people with who you work with…
You not only learn about how to solve logistical and funding problems, you also learn what are your limits, became more flexible and tolerant with yourself and others. As Zocay Project is located on private farms, you also need to learn how to communicate with local people, farm workers and landowners, who not always have all the same education and shared interest.
Students, volunteers and interns teach you about your own limits, how to teach one to one, something that now I found more rewarding from a personal perspective, and how to deal with different personalities. It also teach you what past experiences you had are more important for your personal and professional growth and which of those you will like your students experience and which ones you can advise them to avoid, when they hear your advice.
Probably one the more challenging learnings of having a field research, and one that you learn when you design, implement and executes a research project in the field and/ or in a laboratory, is to manage the logistics and funding of your project.
A field research implies coordinating food, accommodations, transport (international, national, regional and/ or local), health insurance (at least for yourself), and in some cases permits and visa for you and your team. All that logistics is time consuming and sometimes undervalued when you are designing and implementing your research. So you also learn skills like time, money, staff and organization management, even if you are not aware that you are learning how to do this. This are some skills that you can transfer later if you don’t follow the academia path and you prefer to go for an industry, NGO or government job.
Although designing and implementing your own long-term research project is not for all and it is not easy to do, it is rewarding and an amazing learning process. So if you will like to do it, just remember to be patient, especially with yourself, and keep going despite the challenges and sometimes problems…
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Monkey Forest Tales: For how long is Zocay Project going to last?

In today’s post I’m going to be more personal to talk about a question I get from so many people over the years, including family, friends and landowners…For how long is Zocay Project going to last?
As many answers in life, the answer will depend on many factors. For sure I will be looking for monkeys and visiting places to see monkeys until my body and health allow me to do it. Zocay Project on the other hand, will depends in some ways on the wiliness of the landowners and their families to allow me to visit their farms and see the monkeys found in their forests.
While preparing a talk last week for the Woman and Girls in Science Day, I looked at my past experiences finding resources to study and to get Zocay Project running and although I never get a big funding for the project, I did have some funding for small parts of this project, as well as funding for my studies.
Keeping a long term project means a lot of money, effort and sometimes long hours of brainstorming not only for project ideas that can keep the funding running but also time to spend with landowners explaining those ideas and finding common grounds and topics that can be useful for them as well as the project, and more important finding solutions to conflicts that can occur because of the close proximity in which monkeys are living with human activities.
So, one of the things I realize while preparing that talk was that not only I had spent a lot of resources and energy putting this project as a priority in my life, but I also had spent a lot of time. For a couple of years I had been thinking about some kind of retirement for me and although I know for sure I will never going to stop looking for places to see monkeys, sometimes I wonder if it is time to close this part of my life that Zocay Project started almost 16 years ago… But then, a question rises of what else can I do? I cannot imagine my live without monkeys in it and all the question that they always generate on my mind…So, for now Zocay project will continue at least for this year and hopefully I will find the energy to continue for more years to come
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Monkeys Forest Tales: Celebrating Woman and Girls Day in Science!

Yesterday we celebrate Woman and Girls Day in Science worldwide and to celebrate this day we want to remember, celebrate and recognize the effort and great work of all the wonderful women who had been part of this project over the years. Although not all of them continue doing science today without their effort to finish their internships, undergraduate projects and friendship this project wouldn’t last more than a few years, so THAK YOU!
Being a woman in science is a challenge, one that usually includes many sacrifices: long hours in the field and in front of our computers, discomfort by mosquitoes, mites and ticks biting our bodies, several months and sometimes years far from our families, and sometimes bullying and sexual harassment. However, it is rewarding, every time we saw one of our women students graduate as well as every time that we have the opportunity to share and witness some of the rare behaviors monkeys do in their habitats, we felt rewarded by all those long hours and discomfort.
Over the years, we had the opportunity to work with many great women and learn from them. We also had the opportunity to share with many girls from the study area, most of them only can study up to high school, but their passion and interest for nature and life inspire us every day. To all of them thank you for your inspiration, friendship, support and great work towards monkey conservation.
In my personal professional path, I mostly had man supervisors, a pattern that I only discover a few years ago probably because in my country most of the professors I had during my career were man. However, during this journey of being a woman in science, I had the opportunity to work, collaborate and share with many amazing women of several cultures working towards the conservation of many species around the world. To all of them thank you for sharing your experiences with me as those experiences make me a better person and scientist today.
It is part of our purpose in Zocay Project to continue supporting in any way possible women and girls who are interested in working in science and of course with monkeys, so if you are a girl or woman interested on working with monkeys in Colombia, especially in the Llanos, please contact us and we for sure try to guide you as much as possible. Happy Woman and Girls in Science Day!!

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Forest Monkey Tales: Notes from the field: baby’s season

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It is the beginning of the year again and with it a new baby’s season for Colombian squirrel monkeys and dusky titi monkeys. Counting all new babies during the first months every year has become one of our happiest times in the field. And this year is not an exception.
Dry season this year in the study area continue and the stream continue drying. There are still some ponds were birds and mammals met. The forest floor is covered with dry leaves and the wind blows all day making the monkeys sightings more difficult. Yellow, green, and brown colors from leaves are combined with yellow and purple colors of Jacaranda and Bototo flowers. A few fruits cover the forest canopies.
This year, we counted less babies from both species than last year although it can be that births are just a bit delayed this year. Some of our observations of trees with fruits over the past months have showed a delayed pattern in fruit production for some trees used by monkeys. This delayed pattern can be related with slight changes on rain amount from past year. However, it is always exciting to see new babies and to confirm that some of last year babies are still alive and growing.
Our monitoring of monkeys use of water reservoirs used for cattle have shown that at least the Colombian squirrel monkey use those water reservoirs to drink water during the dry months, despite of some water ponds still present on the stream crossing the forest.
Probably one of the surprising findings of other mammals using and crossing the life fence where the water resources we are monitoring are located is the presence of the cryptic crab-eating racoon (Procyon cancrivorous) as well as ocelot (Felis pardalis). Those water sources are also used by some yellow-headed and crested caracara and Spin’x guans.
As the dry season progress, we continue to monitor water reservoirs and monkeys’ groups. A couple of black-capped capuchin babies had grown and seems to progress with good health. Red howler monkeys continues with some botflies although this seem to not had affected their health.
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