Yesterday, Jan 26 was Environmental Education Day a day to celebrate all the people who work-s education kids and adults about the importance of biodiversity and our relationship with the environment in which we live. Today’s post is to talk about the importance of environmental education on research projects.
Although not always easy, education activities and programs are an important part of doing fieldwork in many places where we study monkeys. Especially in areas where monkeys and people are living in the same areas. Most of us who study biology didn’t get proper training in education tools and started many education activities without thinking to much or planning to much each of those activities.
With time and after talking with many people and learning from many experienced educators, I learned that each education activity needs an evaluation at the beginning and end of each activity or workshop. Why? Because you need to see with data that your participants (audience) learned and understand the information you gave them. This is also important to show your sponsors that your activities are having an impact in the people that you work with.
An additional lesson we learned over the years was to be creative and adaptable while giving your education activities. Not all the audiences are the same and some are more challenging than others, especially when in the same group you have people from different backgrounds and education levels. So sometimes you need to be flexible and incorporate new methodologies during your activities.
Something that had worked for us in many contexts are the implementation of oral evaluations (oral questions with multiple answers, where participants doesn’t need to write in a piece of paper their answers). This is especially useful with small kids and adults who doesn’t write or who are too shy.
Interactive activities as well as activities of short duration involving different short and clear messages also have worked for us in many contexts and people had a better perception of the whole activity than just one long talk full of slides.
So, today let’s celebrate the great job of so many educators around the world that dedicate their lives to teach other about our important relationship with nature. Thank you for all your efforts!!!
First I want to apologize with you for not writing last week, as for all of us pandemic and life also make things complicated for me for a few days. However, I want to talk about more positive things in today’s post such as Zocay Project plans for this new year.
As every year since the last 17 years we are planning to continue with monkeys population monitoring as we still have questions about how abundance and density change over time in a fragmented landscape. We also still need to monitor if Chela, the squirrel monkey female who seems to stop reproducing, have a baby this year or not and how many new babies we have for this year.
Also we want to measure the frequency of wildlife use of cattle water sources of different types in our study are to see if there is any other way in which we can help wildlife to overcome water scarcity during dry season in cattle ranching areas. This year we will try to get data on road killings and at least some information on feral dog’s impact on wildlife in the area.
Hopefully our collaborations with local people and organizations in Villavicencio and Cumaral will continue and we gather more information about monkeys in these areas. As well as expand our search for distribution limits for the endemic dusky titi monkey. Let’s just hope this pandemic let’s us do all the work we want to do.
Today’s post is my usual balance of Zocay Project for 2021, although this year was as challenging as 2020, there were something we were able to achieve and others that still scape our reach.
As we proposed we continue our long-term wildlife monitoring in the study area, we were able to verify the birth of infants for all primate species. We also observed infants of giant anteaters and coatis during this year. We also were able to continue monitoring a couple of groups in Villavicencio city. As well as a successful campaign of citizen science reporting primate species in several towns of the Colombian Llanos.
We also were able to update the distribution of dusky titi monkey with the help of local people from some of the areas in which researchers are not able to get access, something that is still very common in Colombia. This year we also were able to collect some additional data on other native fauna in the region and their use of water sources used by cattle.
Finally, we were able to expand our collaborations in the region working with Cumaral Biodiversa, a local organization in Cumaral town. Our work with them is focus on Brumback night monkey distribution with very interesting data we hope to publish in the new year, as it is need it because of the lack of data in this interesting species.
However, we still don’t have a clear idea and a good data set for the effects of road killing on primates and other fauna in the urban and rural areas of the region. Or about the economic cost of crop-raiding by black-capped capuchins on perennial crops in the region and the monitoring of threats for native fauna in the region
Let’s hope the new year bring us more collaborations and that we will be able to continue studying and monitoring all the monkey species in the study area. Happy New Year to all! We wish you all a 2022 full of health, love, collaborations and monkeys!!!
Today’s post will be a short one, we just want to wish you a Merry Christmas to all of you from Zocay Project. From Zocay project family, especially the monkeys in this project, to your family. We hope you can enjoy the happiness of the season despite the troubles of covid-19 and the new variant.
We are near to the end of the 2021 and it is time again to celebrate monkeys. Every year on December 14th, we celebrate monkeys’ diversity and use this day to raise awareness on the threat they and their habitats face.
So, in today’s post I want to talk about the monkeys in Zocay Project. As you know by now, we work with five species of monkeys. Monkeys that live in large and small groups, are big and small, have few or lots of babies. Use trees all the time or sometimes go to the ground. But all have long tails and play on the branches of big trees. They eat fruits, flowers, and different kinds of animals.
Today’s post is also to celebrate the high diversity of primates we have in Colombia. With 38 species and subspecies of monkeys living in forest of different sizes from sea level to the mountains. They help to growth the forest and create new homes for small spiders and insects.
But how can we take care of them? Protecting the forest in which they live and planting fruit trees from their region in the areas close to the forest in which they live. Not buying small baby monkeys, just because they look cute. Monkey babies need their groups and moms in the same way we need our moms and families, so don’t buy them!!!!
Over the past week we made a couple of education/ informative activities about our project in the town with kids and adults. Usually after this kind of activities, I ask myself how I can improve the impact of Zocay project in the area. Also, people ask me how to evaluate if the information we give is accepted and probably implemented by participants.
Generally, education activities that are well planned implies a measure of evaluation in terms of evaluations done before and after each education activity. How well participants respond to those questions after the activity compared with their answers before the activity give you a measure of how much they understand and “incorporate”.
For this kind of evaluations, you must have in mind the audience you have and education. Did they write and read? How old are they? This will help you to implement strategies to make possible to really evaluate your activity. For example, with small kids or adults that don’t write and read, a strategy that worked for me in different contexts is to use multiple choice question and ask verbally to choose an answer and count the number of participants who choose each option for both evaluations (before and after activity).
When giving a more informative activity, for example a talk to local authorities, how can you measure if they listen to your talk. You can also implement a few questions at the beginning and end of your talk to evaluate the impact of your talk or use the questions they do after the talk to measure how clear you deliver the information, how clear was your message and if you need to make a follow up activity that can increase your impact on that specific audience.
So, the message I will like you to take from this post is that before delivering any informative or education activity, stop to think how to evaluate that activity you are going to give so you can plan to increase your impact. Adjust your questions to your audience and the topics of your talk. Have a clear message that is easy to understand for you audience background and don’t forget to evaluate it.
This week we celebrate Jaguar, a day to raise awareness for one of the three biggest wild cats in the world, after tiger and lions. And the biggest cat in South America. I had the fortune of had seen this wonderful animal two times in two different areas of Colombia: transition area between Orinoquia and Amazonian region and in the Amazon basin. At Las Pampas landscape, in the study area, we only had been able to find tracks and footprints, but not sightings of this impressive animal.
My first time was the more impressive and memorable time. In the following section I will describe this encounter and my feelings and perceptions of that encounter:
“It was a cold morning, I woke up early as I had done for the last month or so, I was ready to follow the group of red howler monkeys. It was like any other morning in the jungle. I woke up around 5 am and dress up in my long black pants, rubber boots and long sleeve shirt that belonged to my father. Prepare my coffee and my cup of cereal. Last night I made part of my lunch ready, white rice. I added some tuna with small pieces of fresh tomato. It was one of my favorites. It was rare to have fresh tomato, but the vegetables had arrived just a few days before and there were still fresh.
After taking my breakfast and packing my lunch and water, I was ready to go and find the red howler group that I was studying. The day before, the group went to sleep in a dense vine area around 500 m from the camp towards south. The trail goes from the campsite up to a hill and then down to a small stream valley.
I started to walk, that hill always take me some time, I always had respiratory problems and that hill always make me wonder why I choose to follow monkeys in a hilly area of the jungle. Well, maybe it was because of the challenge. I had always liked to challenge my own limits, especially my body limits and every hill was that, a challenge, a test to my weak lungs.
Once on the top of the hill, I stopped to recover my breath, when I saw a dark shadow walking towards me, I wasn’t sure at first what was I looking at. Then very slowly I realized it was a Jaguar, a big one, with his wide head, strong legs and soft fur. I couldn’t believe what I was looking. The jaguar didn’t stop walking towards me, he didn’t notice me staring at him, just a few meters ahead. Suddenly, he stops, look at me and start moving his tail from one side to the other. It was like a pendulum.
My mind was hypnotized by his tail movement, I was thinking how it will feel to touch him, his soft fur seems to be like a hypnotic element to her. Part of my brain, the rational one, make me stop that idea. He was just looking deep into my eyes. I felt naked, but not the naked feeling of not having your cloths on, not that one. A naked feeling deep in your soul, as if some kind of X ray were passing through me and were showing him every part of my body and soul, both at the same time. It was a mesmerizing moment.
I didn’t know how long this encounter last it, but it was profound, and it has a huge impact in my life and my day. After what it looks like ten minutes, maybe less, that magic connection just broke. The jaguar jumps to my right side and disappear into the jungle. I took a couple of minutes to process what just happen and continue my walk towards the place where I found my group of monkeys. I followed the group taking notes of the babies and their mothers’ behavior without thinking too much on my morning encounter.
At some points during the day, I felt as if someone was looking at me, the group has been hiding in a dense vine area for days, sleeping long hours and eating mostly leaves. I wondered if the jaguar had followed me. If he did, he had an advantage I was in a place difficult to get out, surrounded by vines with thorns.
Despite my feeling of being observed the whole day, nothing happens, and I finished my day around 5 pm, leaving my study group next to the stream in some Guadua trees. I started my way back to the camp site and when I was close to the camp, I hear the howlers, my group, vocalizing. I thought again about the jaguar and my feeling of being observed the whole day but try not to be afraid for the monkeys.”
My second time lasted less time and it felt like looking to a fast-moving film, with a couple of shadows moving some meters in front of me and the indigenous guide who was with me.
Jaguar presence in Zocay Project study area had been confirmed only in the biggest forest fragments of the whole area in Las Pampas landscape. There are a few reports of cattle attacked by Jaguar and Cougar in the area. However it seems despite of the fragmentation in the area they are still able to survive, at least in parts of the area where there is native preys available.
In today’s post we talk about another challenge of working in urban versus rural areas. We are going to talk about the differences in the type of questions that these different systems can address as well as some challenges to answer those questions.
Rural and urban areas represent different kind of threats for wildlife, and even if threats are the same (e.g. road killing) frequency and severity of those threat are not necessarily the same in urban versus rural areas. Therefore, questions varies and the way to measure those threats also varies.
For example, is common to use camera traps located in wildlife crossing to measure road killing and the use of wildlife crossing measures (e.g. canopy bridges). In urban areas, one of the challenges is to avoid people to destroyed, rob or vandalized camera traps. Because these camera traps are usually located in a more populated areas, more visible and usually area where several illegal activities occur, it is more common that we lose our equipment, or it is vandalized. Although this can also happen in rural areas where illegal hunting occurs, it is more common in urban areas.
Something that usually helps is to socialize your activities with the people living nearby to the areas where you will put your camera traps. Involving local people and then sharing pictures you take of all the animals living close to them, sometimes helps to avoid issues of vandalizing equipment as they help you to take care of that equipment.
Another challenge of working in urban areas is robbery of your equipment while doing observations. We usually use cameras, binocular and GPS to collect specific data when doing behavioral and ecological studies with monkeys. In urban areas, especially close to forest remanent is common to be robed. Those are places that sometimes are isolated or with few public lights, therefore is easy to be robbed. Although not as precise as a GPS, phone apps to collect GPS locations can help. I don’t recommend going with cameras and use cameras in your phone to take specific pictures to illustrate your work and always work in pair to reduce some risks of working in urban areas. Not all urban areas represent the same risk and I’m especially referring to conditions of working in Colombian cities.
Over the years Zocay Project had different sources of funding, a few small grants, support from some farms and funding form my personal projects as well as my own personal funds to cover field work (last four years). However pandemic and economic situation in Colombia is making more difficult to continue supporting this project through my personal funds, so in today’s post I am asking you to help us continue with our fieldwork.
How can you do it? I made a webpage in Fine Art America where you can buy prints and other products using my wildlife pictures (https://fineartamerica.com/art/xyomara+carretero). Think about giving a Christmas present that also support the work that we do in the places where wildlife live. All pictures were taken by me over the past 10 years of field work in Colombian Orinoquia and Amazonian forest. All pictures are from animals whose distribution include the Zocay Project study area.
What activities will you support? Mainly you will support our cost to go to field sites in San Martín area (Meta), Villanueva area (Casanare) and some places in Villavicencio (Meta) to count monkeys next year. All these places are in Colombian Llanos and are part of our continuous field sites (Villavicencio and Villanueva were included in 2019).
This work is especially important during January to April as well as during June to August and a final season in October and November. During the first months of the year is important for us to visit as much sites as possible as it is Colombian squirrel monkey and dusky titi monkeys birth season. During midyear months we are monitoring the Colombian squirrel monkey mating season as well as trying to identify the reason for an aggregation of black-capped capuchin groups that seems to occur every year during June or July but not seems to be related to any fruiting pattern that we had identified yet. Last months of the year sampling help us monitor the birth season from all the other monkey species in the are that doesn’t have a seasonal pattern.
What kind of expenses will you support? Most of the expenses we cover during our fieldwork includes food, transport, and materials at the study sites from students and me working in the field, and in a few places, some support for logging, although most farms in which we work we don’t have to pay for this item. In a few places also you will help us cover field assistant salaries.
We appreciate any support you can give us to continue our work for the conservation of monkey species in Colombian Llanos. If you want support us in any other form, please don’t hesitate to send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Over the past two years. Zocay Project had included a small monitoring of primate populations in urban areas additional to its initial monitoring in rural areas dedicated to cattle ranching. In today’s post I want to mention some challenges to working at both areas, some considerations that you may need to think about while planning.
Working in rural areas implies logistic planning that need to incorporate accommodation, transport, landowners permit to enter to the field sites and in some cases additional permits from local actors. Additionally, people working at rural areas usually come from other regions or countries, which means you also need to plan and understand how to deal with cultural differences.
Working in urban areas also implies some of those same challenges and requires logistic planning. Depending on the researcher knowledge of the city, some cultural adjustments are also necessary.
Although, security issues should be considered in both cases, how you deal with and how much risk you can have from robbery is different and you need to plan accordingly. It seems this is not always considered while planning urban projects, especially in countries like Colombia.
In our case, there are areas in the city where we work that we can just not sample, even if access seems feasible, because it represents an additional risk of robbery and in some cases, even a risk to our lives.
So, if you are planning an urban survey, additional to the usual considerations about accommodation, transport and permits that you consider for your rural projects. You also need to consult with people living in the city you are going to work in about security issues related to robbery. For example, which areas are dangerous if you carry equipment like cameras, binoculars, SPS. Which neighborhoods needs special considerations in terms of transport access and council information to allow you to work there. Finally, don’t assume that if you live in that city, you won’t need to plan your survey schedules and consider additional local help, just because you are in a city. Plan in advance financially and logistically.