Monkey Forest Tales: How to star to start samplings in a new field site?

Finca El Silencio, Cumaral, Meta, Colombia

During the last week I was talking with the owners in a new farm (El Silencio, for more info here) to start doing some new samplings focus on Brumback’s night monkeys. While there some students approach me and ask about what it is need it to start samplings in a new field site.

A lot of the logistics depends on the type of question you will try to answer, the animals of study, amount of time you require to answer your question and the type of field site you are going to sample. For example, places with continuous forest inside of national parks, will require several months of permit arrangements as well as travel arrangements as most of these areas are far from central areas or near to cities, at least most national parks in Colombia.

Areas like the Zocay Project where samplings are in private farms, also requires some planning in terms of logistics for traveling, accommodation and food. But mainly it will require a previous visit to know the place and see if it is suitable for your study as well as to know and personally talk with the landowner and sometimes farms workers, depending on the question.

But, probably the most important part, especially if you want to sample for long term is to talk with the landowners about the objectives of your project as well as talk about the expectations that they may have about you work and how that can benefit them and their farm. Additionally, to be honest about your project aims and how you are going to use the information, it is important that you build trust with the landowner, workers and local people in general. Trust can be challenging to build depending on the are and the history of that area, but if you go constantly to the area, talk and listen to the people and treat them with the same respect that you want to be treat it, you not only will build trust but a long time friendship that benefit both.

It is important to understand from the beginning the kind of project you want to do. In the case of Zocay Project as the main objective is to monitor monkey populations in the long term, it means for several years, and as monkeys usually live more than 20 years, you have to have this time frame in mind if that is the purpose of your project. Initially Zocay project was conceived as a short- term density project of 6 months, but the interest and willingness of the landowners and the trust we built together had allowed this project to last 16 years in the farm in which it was start it

Zocay Project had included different farms in different years depending on the willingness of landowners and resources with some years in which we have survey new farms for short periods of time while other had been surveys for several years. Both cases had produced important data used to understand the monkeys population dynamics in fragmented areas of the piedmont of Colombian Llanos.

So, if you want to include a new field site in  you project or just start a project in a new area, the most important part is to build trust with the people you are going to work nearby and be aware of the logistic, history of the area and questions you want to answer and a lot of patience…

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