Monkey Forest Tales: Celebrating Biodiversity!!!

In today’s post I wanted to celebrate again Biodiversity Day, which we celebrate each year on May 22nd. Biodiversity is defined as the variety of life we have in the planet and Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Despite this our biodiversity is facing several problems and many threats coming from most of the activities we do in our daily lives.

Every decision we made daily, affects in some way the biodiversity of the places where we live and even the biodiversity of places farther, depending on where those products are produced. So, every time we buy our food, or decide to do any action (travel, use electricity or water in our houses, etc.), we are impacting the biodiversity of the areas where those goods are produced. If you are concern about those effects, one small action you can do is to think and research what kind of practices are used to produce those good. It is not always possible to find out and sometimes there is not way to change the way some of those products are produced, but at least you can decide how much impact you want your actions to have by buying or not those products.

Let also celebrate biodiversity by appreciating all the services it gives us, clean air and water, incredible animals to observe, delicious fruits, a variety of crops, etc. Let’s teach our children to appreciate and take care of that diversity by not incentive the use of guns to kill birds or throwing rocks to animals in the streets. Let’s be more rational about the products we use and how we dispose them, so they don’t end up killing wildlife.

An to celebrate I leave you some pictures of the biodiversity in the study area of this project

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Monkey Forest Tales: Why I leave academy to focus only on research at a local scale?

After doing a doctorate most of us choose a path in academy, usually as a professor in a university. For many years that was also my career path. When I was in the middle of my career as a biology, I had the incredible experience of doing a field semester studying monkeys in Tinigua National Park. It was there that I choose how my future live would look…a university professor with a research project focus in monkeys at my country, Colombia.

Over the years I worker towards that goal, made a master and a doctorate and was lucky enough to start a small research project that growth with time and have allow me to learn about monkey living in a fragmented landscape surrounded by several human activities…

After finishing my doctorate, as well as so many others, I apply for jobs and post doc position that could lead me towards my goal of became a university professor. It was while doing my first and only post doc that I realized that academy wasn’t for me. Pressure and unethical practices of publishing as well as living in a culture that was completely different than mine and in a language that take years to master, lead to make think on my priorities in life and what I wanted for my future. Although it is different for everyone and it’s a decision that only you can make for your own life. Academy system and culture had led many good researchers and me to look for better options outside of universities.

Although I still teach one on one undergraduate students, while I supervise their undergraduate thesis, as well as publishing from time to time. I do not have the pressure of “publish or perish” that academy system promotes so much. And from time to time I saw post doc offers that make think about going back to academy. But the true is that I enjoy helping student without the pressure and publishing only when I want to not because I must. I also can go to the field to see monkeys anytime I want without a schedule and just enjoy the forest and monkeys by what they really are not what they can give me as research subjects. I must admit I miss the dynamic discussion with peers that universities give you…

So, although most of the time Zocay Project runs with limited funds I like the work at a small scale with few farmers and creating small impact on the wildlife in the study area. It becomes challenging and lonely sometimes, but it has been rewarding especially over the past few year when I saw the impact the project had on some of the local people behaviors. So, despite all the changes in my career and the challenges those changes had brought, leaving academy was a good decision for me and my project. So, if you are in a point in your life when you need to make a decision that affect your career path, just make sure you think about what make you happy as well as what kind of impact you want your life make. Good luck!

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Monkey Forest Tales: How to choose a journal for publishing your data?

In our last post we talk about the challenges of analyzing and writing from our data. The next step is to decide where are you going to publish your findings. Although this step usually you need to start thinking about it before your actually write your paper. Because the way you write depends on the audience you want to address and that matters when you choose the journal too.

Most journal audiences are driven to a certain journal depending on the scope and sometimes specificity of the journal. I used to think that because I was working with primates the only journals I will be able to publish on were primatological journals, but that is not true. It all depends on the way you write, the audience you want to reach and the applicability of your research to other fields.

So if you are starting on this publishing path of academy, one of the things you need to start thinking when you are choosing in which journal you want to publish your data is to define the type of audience you are publishing for. Is your data only applicable to primates or can be something that applies to other group of animals?

Also, is your data applied for a specialized type of audience or can be for a wider audience. What is your preference for a journal?  In which language you want to publish? The language is an important consideration, especially for those of us who doesn’t have English as our native language. It can imply an additional cost to publishing your results if you need to use a translator or a proof editor before you submit your paper.

Another consideration that a lot of us doesn’t think about much is the cost of publishing. A lot of journals in science have a fee that need to be paid if you want to publish a paper in those journals. Also some journal have fees for figures in color and if your figure is important to be publish it in color, taht is a cost you have to consider. This is usually a constraint for most researchers in developing countries which not only make research with limited funds, but also never have money allocated to publishing papers.

As you see, there are many considerations when you are choosing were to publish your paper. With time you get better at writing for different audiences, although I found it is usually challenging to do so. Also, with time you get better at writing in English as your second or third language. As usual my better advice is to be patience, ask yourself or your advisor about the audience of the journal you want to publish on and be persistent during the process that usually is long and sometimes requires more time than you expected. Good luck with your future publications.

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Monkey Forest Tales: What is next after fieldwork: analysis and writing

One of the topics that, in my experience, most of the undergraduate students are afraid of and enjoy less is what we all need to do as scientist after a nice and sometimes long fieldwork…analysis and writing of those field data. I must confess than even for me is one of the parts of doing science that I find more challenging.

After sometimes a long fieldwork collecting interesting data on monkeys, in my case, one tedious part that follows is to put all that information in a spreadsheet which facilitate its analysis. Over the years each of us develop our own method to tabulate and introduce that information, however, is not easy to learn how to do it and because we all think differently each one develops their own method. In my case I found that is easier for me if I have only one spreadsheet with multiple columns that later I can filter to extract the specific information I want to analyze for answering a specific question. For others is just introducing only the information to answer that specific question and letting the other information stay in the field notebooks.

My primatological education is old school, this means I was taught to write down almost everything that happened in the field when following monkeys. Therefore, data tabulation means a lot of detailed data. Most of the researchers today just collect data related to their specific question without paying much attention to other information and behaviors that sometimes are rare and only occasionally seen.

After tabulation of all the field data follows the analysis of that data, another challenging part of the process that is not always easy for students and in the past also for me. My analytical skills only improved over time and still learning new ways of analyzing my data. So, if you are starting don’t worry you will improve with time, a lot of reading and practice.

Writing is the last part of the scientific process, to present and explain your findings. This is also another challenging part, especially if you are doing it not in your native language. Again, this is a skill you improve with time, a lot of reading and practice. Same as for novelist writers the best advice you can receive to improve your writing is to read, read a lot and don’t be afraid to show your writing to others before you submit your article. Sometimes when you are too focus on your science you forget how to explain to others in a clear and concise language.

For all those students and early career researcher like me, the only advice I can give is to be patience with your self and as some very wise researcher once told me it will never be perfect by 80 % is always better than nothing. Keep researching and keep writing. It is a continuous learning process for all of us in science.

© 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.