Monkeys Forest Tales: Working in field sites outside of your own country: challenges

In today’s post we are going to talk abut working in field sites outside of your own country, especially some of the challenges of working in a different culture and in a different language…

Fieldwork is always challenging, even when you are in your country and speaking in your own language. Why is that? May be because it usually means that you leave the comfort of your house, sometimes for camping, or to live in a place far from all the things and people you are used to.

When doing fieldwork outside of your own country those challenges increase if you go to places where another language is spoken. Some of those challenges are related with the language, but also with the culture in which you are working, additional to the challenges of the terrain in which you work, weather conditions and the specific challenges of the species or group of species that you are studying.

So, one of the things that usually helps is to be flexible and open minded to face uncertainties and to adapt yourself to the conditions surrounding you. But probably the most important skill you will need to develop is to be patience, with others but especially with yourself…Things probably never will be as you planned, there is always something that goes wrong, or slower than you expected. So be patience, have one or two back up plans, try to learn the local language and culture, be respectful of local people believes and try to have fun.

Fieldwork should be fun as well as hard work, enjoy the animals and all the opportunities that travelling and visiting other cultures offers you. Be aware of the risk you can face due to different believes, especially if you are a woman. Be safe and careful and enjoy all the opportunities that life is giving you just for being in the field, surrounded by nature and in a country that is not yours. You are lucky, that is something not all people can do or have the opportunity to do…

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Monkey Forest Tales: What means to be a good supervisor?

On past days I came across a twitter that make me thing about supervisors and how influential they are in our lives during and after we finish working with them. This twitter said: “It’s very important for grad students and postdocs to work with advisors who know when to say: that’s enough for today. Be sure to take time for yourself. Research is endless, but our lives are not. Sleep, exercise, cook a good meal, have some down time”. In all my time in academia, I only have one supervisor telling me similar words on our weekly meetings. He always asks me to socialize more and to participate not only on social activities in the lab but also to spent time with friends. To have time off. He even takes time off and sometimes didn’t went to conferences or academic events to put his family first… something that at that time I wasn’t sure I understood well, but that today I see as one of his best qualities as a human and a supervisor. So Jonathan thank you for had been my supervisor and an excellent person while I was learning…

I was formed by different supervisors from undergrad to postdoc, all of them from different countries, cultures, ages and ways to see life. From all of them I learned something (good and/or bad), and they all impacted the way I perceive and feel academia life. On the way I also interacted with other supervisors that even if they were not directly connected with my work, take time to talk about life and balance while doing research. However, it was only until I met a really bad supervisor that I start to understand what really means to have a supervisor that put you first as a person and really help you grow as a person and a researcher. Unfortunately good supervisors seems to not be that common, something that seems to be incentivized by a system that prioritize egos and publications over human quality and collaboration.

Although today I don’t supervise many students as I used to. I always try to stop myself when I push too hard students that show a real effort on keep their lives while doing a good job. I had tried to be as honest as possible about my own experiences with my students so they can learn from my experiences as well as from their own. Not so sure how successful I had been on that but there is always space for improvement…  

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Monkey Forest tales: Celebrating World Primate Day!!!

Yesterday was a special day for all of us that love primates. It was World Primate Day!! Every year we celebrate a special day dedicated to all primate (monkeys, apes, lemurs and loris) species around the world. It is a day to raise awareness about primates, their threats, threat to their habitats and the importance of primates in their habitats.

Over 75 % of primate species around the world are threatened by human activities which make their habitats (temperate forest, tropical forest, woodlands, mangroves, and savannas). Many species adapt themselves to live so close to people that they enter in conflict with human communities, riding crops and robbing food from houses. However, one thing we used to forget is that they were on those places before us, so the ones who invade their habitats are us not them and it is with a bit of respect that we should see the situations in which we enter in conflict with them.

Also, we should remember that we are primates like them. They are our closest relatives in the animal world and their beauty and smartness reflect us even when we continue forgetting that we can be as smart as they are.

They care for their babies is the same that we have for ours and they spent the same amount of energy and love to care for their babies as we do with ours. So, let’s celebrate their amazing beauty, how smart they are and do our best to protect them and their homes (habitats)… At least that’s what we try to do in Zocay Project with the species we work with every day

© 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.