Monkey Forest Tales: What is the difference of working with monkeys in the field and laboratory

Another question that sometimes students ask me is how different is to work with monkeys in the field and in laboratories. In this matter my experience is more limited as most of my experience is with monkeys in the field. However, I have done research in which we collected samples in the field from wild monkeys to analyzed in the laboratory. So I will talk about this can of projects on this post.

When you combine fieldwork and laboratory to answer questions about nutrition or genetics, you have to be prepare to work in the field collecting samples, unless you have other people collecting those samples for you, and you also have to prepare and have access to the equipment and supplies for your laboratory analysis. Both implies to be aware of the logistics for both environments as well as to check you have all the materials you need to collect and process the samples.

In the project I worked that involved both field and laboratory work, most of the differences were related to the environment conditions for both places. During fieldwork we needed to be aware of weather conditions as I was working in a temperate zone with high seasonal changes in temperature, as well as be aware of having with me all the materials we need to collect the samples and preserve them until they reach the laboratory.

Collecting the samples were challenging due to the rough terrain an it requires a close observation of the monkeys as we were collecting fecal samples. So we need to be patience, observe careful and be ready to collect the samples. As we were collecting samples from japanese macaque, samples were mostly on the ground, but people collecting samples from other primates that move mostly on canopy’s trees have to be more creative and observant to be able to collect those samples. For the purpose of that project we need samples freeze until processing the samples, therefore we have to make sure we have a freeze available in the field site or to have ice to maintain the samples in the correct temperature until it reached the laboratory.

Laboratory work also requires to pay attention to different steps in detail to have access to equipment and supplies for all the analysis. As I was working on a different country and in a different language, most of the challenges from that project rise from cultural and language barriers.

So as you see working in different environments requires that you became adaptable to those environments but also to be patience and persistent.

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