Monkey Forest Tales: Lessons from collaborating and sharing with people in the study area

Over the years at the study site, I had the opportunity to share and collaborate with many researchers, visitors, students and volunteers. These interactions had always left some lessons for me, the project and my way of supervising students. In today’s post I will like to share some of those lessons to people thinking to start a new project.
Working with people have multiple stages and factor influencing. On one hand you have your interactions with local people, which is dynamic and changes over time, depending on cultural believes and sometimes your gender. With students, colleagues, visitors and volunteers your interactions are also dynamic and sometimes challenging. Although I had in general very good students, some of them have been more challenging than others, not only because of their different priorities in life, but also because is not easy for all to write an undergraduate thesis. We all have different strengths and weakness…
Collaborations are also complex, especially if you don’t establish clear roles and responsibilities from the beginning, this is particularly difficult at the beginning of any project when you are not sure for how long the project will last and how much you can actually do. Visitors and volunteers interactions are also dynamic due to different backgrounds and cultures, especially when you receive foreigners.
From all these interactions over the years and other experiences I had working with other projects and institutions, there are some lessons that I want to share, especially with hose of you who want or are starting a new project in the field:
• Probably the most important lesson I learned and this applied with everyone, is to establish clear rules from the beginning, not only about the behavior in the study area and treatment with the local people (especially if you need to have some security issues in mind). But also, about the data collection, data analysis and data publishing (especially with students and colleagues) so you won’t have any problems later. Make clear rules and define as clearer as possible all responsibilities, roles and how to solve any disagreements to avoid problems.
• Listen and share your experiences. This not only enrich your live but also change any preconceptions you may have about how people from other backgrounds and cultures are.
• Be flexible. Although it is not always possible in certain situations. Being flexible with you and others working with you always will make our life easier, especially in the field.
• Be patience. This is a skill that I continuously try to cultivate as it is not in my nature, but it is extremely important when working with monkeys and people. You also need to exercise this skill with yourself as not always you will have the time and resources to do all that you want to do for your project.
• Be persistent. There will always be problems to solve and challenges to overcome. And sometimes you could think that you have no more energy to continue your project, but as with everything in life the things that are important to us are the one in which we need to persist to make them happen.
Hope these lessons can help you in your future projects and if you ever want to share or talk about those challenges, please feel free to contact me. I found that usually sharing those struggles help us found the energy and solutions that are elusive to us…
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