Monkeys Forest Tales: Some thoughs about work – life balance

Today’s post is again a personal one. Today we are going to talk about a bit about work-life balance in science. We will talk about why it is so important to get a work – life balance not only in science, but in any discipline, you work in and a bit of my life experience with trying to get that work- life balance that is so important for our health and well-being.

Life has its own way of showing you when you are not living a life that is in balance. Usually, your body give you signs in ways of fatigue, headaches or pain in other parts of your body, lack of sleep and other kind of signs that you should pay attention. But, when you are young, you usually don’t pay any attention…

When I was studying biology, work-life balance wasn’t something we talk about, actually, my days were longer than 12 hours, reading and making essays and reports…I didn’t realize the importance of having a work- life balance until I was doing my master. At that moment, I was studying and working at the same time and didn’t have much of a life. My days pass with a strict routine and a lot of work stress, until my body started to give me alarms. My stress levels were too high that my body collapsed, and I get my first notice…and I finished in a hospital…

Usually, for me to get balance in my life, I need forest and especially monkeys. It seems that combination is my perfect energy recharger. It gives me so much energy that I sometimes forget that I must be careful to not overwork. When you are a scientist and you are pursuing a career in academy, is common and even reinforced that to be successful, you need to overwork all the time, you need to work longer hours and not get holiday or free time. It is a wide culture that it is promoted by the system. Except by some smart people…

While I was doing my doctorate, I had the fortune to have an adviser who is also a great human being, who take the time to talk to you not only about work, but also about how to enjoy live and who usually, motivate you do social activities at the same time that you were doing your work. He tried to teach me a lot about work – life balance, I didn’t always listen to him, but I learned to appreciate what we did for me at the time.

Although I was aware of the importance of work- life balance, I did have another notice from my body during that time. This time wasn’t that bad, and I didn’t go to the hospital, thanks to my support system of friends and my supervisor. However, life has its own way to make us forget that you need to have other things apart from work, things like hobbies, family, sports, pets, etc. that help you relax and enjoy simple things of life… Now, my body is giving me another notice, still don’t know how bad it is this time, but make me wonder of how much I really have learned about work – life balance and if I had been smart enough to teach my own students to have that work – life balance in their lives.

So, the message I want to give you with this post is to really stop to think about how balanced your life is now and don’t wait until life and your body teach you that lesson. Spend time with your families and friends, take time to learn new things and have hobbies. Be active and practice any sport if that motivates you. Yes, work is important and making a good job is important, but don’t overwork, don’t burn out yourself with work, that will never give you back the time that you can spend with the people you love and the things you love to do…

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Monkeys Forest Tales:  Celebrating Biodiversity Day!!

In today’s post we are going to talk about biodiversity day that was celebrated this week around the world. It is a day to celebrate how diverse is the natural world and for a country like Colombia, which has one of the highest biodiversity in the world is also a day to raise awareness of the biodiversity crisis we are living right now.

Over the past decades more animals and plants have been disappearing because of the effect that our activities do on the environment. One of the things we usually don’t think about is how everything we do in our daily activities affect the environment around us. For example, every morning when we take a shower, think about the amount of water you are using, and it is not about having or not the money for paying the water bill, is about to think of where that water come from. It is about not throw out any garbage near to the rivers, streams, lakes and ocean. It’s also about be aware of what we buy and where those things come from.

Biodiversity day celebration is also about enjoy how diverse live is and how that diversity gives us so many benefits. For example, the fact that there are many species of bee means that there are many different bees pollinizing the flowers from the plants we get our food from. Also, how much we can benefit and enjoy the diversity of birds, butterflies, frogs, and mammals we have near to our homes.

In a country like Colombia, which is one of the most biodiversity countries in the world, it is also a celebration of what we have and why we should protect it for future generations. We are after all the most diverse country in birds and one of the most diverse in palms, frogs, orchids, trees, butterflies, reptiles and mammals. So let’s remember and celebrate the high diversity we have and make everything we can to protect it and to teach our kids to protect it for the future…

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Monkey Forest Tales: What is a threatened species and what is the Threatened Species Day?

In today’s post we are going to talk about a threatened species, it’s meaning for us as humans and what is the threatened species day. Let’s start with some general information about threatened species.

What it means that a species in threatened? This basically means that the species number and usually it’s distribution (i.e., where is possible to found it) is so low that it’s probabilities to disappear from the planet is moderate to high. In science there is a series of categories to classify how threatened a particular species is. These categories are used to raised awareness, get funding to study and conserve those species and as a way to keep track on how well our actions are helping them or not to recover. There three categories are: critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable, depending on how high the probability is for those species to disappear in the near future.

Zocay project includes two vulnerable species and one vulnerable subspecies, all of which had a reduced and restricted distribution in Colombia: dusky titi monkey, which is only found in Meta department and a small part of Cundinamarca department; Brumback nigh monkey, which in found in the piedmont of Meta, Casanare, y Arauca, and possibly in Vichada. Lastly the Colombian squirrel monkey which is found in the piedmont of Meta, Casanare, and Arauca.

But what it means for us that a species was threatened, it means that the species is going to disappear in the near future. But why is important that we don’t loss species. All species of fauna and flora are important for the good functioning of all the ecosystems. We couldn’t have forest and water without all the animals and plants that made our environment healthy and enjoyable, even if the water and the forest in not next to you.

I first her of the Threatened Species Day when I was studying in Australia, it is an important day there as it is used to create awareness in the general public about all the species that are threatened and have a probability to disappear, especially in the next generation. It is also celebrated the day the last Tasmanian tiger disappear from earth, one of the last marsupial carnivorous who disappear because of human actions. Now it is celebrated in other countries too, as a way to raise awareness of all the species of plants and animals that are at risk of disappear around the world.

Why is this important, not only because all the species have their own right to life in this planet, but also because we all have the responsibility to preserve life in any form for the future… so let’s not forget that we all can do something to conserve the species that lives around us but also a responsibility with the future generations…

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Monkey Forest Tales: Celebrating International Primate Day!!!

This week in September 1srt, we celebrated International Primate Day, a day to raise awareness about these amazing, diverse and charismatic animals that help us to grow forest and protect water through their function as seed dispersers. In today’s post we highlight their function and remember what we have learned from the monkey species present in our study area.

Monkeys are important for forest conservation because they disperse seeds from all the fruits they consume, they are also important in controlling some herbivorous caterpillars. They consume a wide range of arthropods, including spiders, moths, grasshoppers, and other insects. They also transformed the microhabitats inside the forest by breaking branches and moving stones, branches, and dead leaves on the ground in search for arthropods to eat.

Over the years, during our work in Zocay Project we have also learned that they use not only the forest, but also the living fences, isolated trees and small fragments to move in the highly fragmented landscape in which they live, all five species in the study area used these structures with different frequencies. They even use pastures and wire fences to move between patches if they have to reach some fruit trees.

Recently, we also learned that during, strong and long dry seasons, they can also use the water reservoirs used by cattle ranchers to maintain water for their cattle when streams are completely dry. It is widely, known that monkeys can also exploit human crops when they don’t have fruits in the forest, causing strong conflicts with human populations living nearby.

But how can you protect them, is easier than you can imagine. Some small practices that you can implement if you are living close to wild monkeys are:

  • Preserve any natural habitat around your area, especially those around streams and water sources. FOREST MEANS LIFE
  • DO NOT FEED WILD MONKEYS!!, instead plant fruit trees in the areas you know they live
  • If you have a crop near to a forest fragment where you know there are primates. DO NOT PLANT YOUR CROP NEXT TO THE FOREST EDGE. Leave at least 50 meters between the forest edge and your crop, this will reduce your crop loss. Although you will probably need to implement additional strategies if some species live in the area.
  • DO NOT LEAVE ANY PACKAGES OR PESTICIDE RESIDUALS CLOSE TO THE FOREST EDGES OR NEAR TO THE WATER. This will pollute water and soil nearby.
  • Promote living fences that allows connectivity between forest fragments as well as isolated trees in pastures. This not only will give your livestock shadow but also allows monkeys and other native fauna to move between forest patches
  • Reduce speed in roads where forest cover will allow monkeys and other fauna to move. If you see a wild animal (monkey or other) crossing a road, STOP, DON’T KILL THEM
  • Enjoy wild animals in their natural habitat. DO NOT KEEP THEM AS PETS. They are not good pets; most species grow and became aggressive or develop repetitive behavior because of their isolations from other members of their species. They are social animals as we are.

If you have questions or want to know what to do to protect and conserve monkeys in your area. Please don’t hesitate to write at xcarretero@zocayproyect.com. You can leave your questions in English, Spanish or Portuguese.

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