Tropical Field Biology and Primatology


Short-Course in Tropical Field Biology and Primatology

December 27, 2013 – January 10, 2014

Los Amigos Biological Field Station

(Centro de Investigación y Capacitación Río Los Amigos)

Madre de Dios Department, Perú

DEADLINE NOW PASSED : November 27, 2013

View complete catalog of participation opportunities


Course Objectives:

This course will provide an introduction to tropical field biology, with a particular focus on imparting practical knowledge on working in rainforest.  The main objectives of the course are to teach participants to:

  • Get accustomed to the look, feel and sound of the rainforest, and work in it with minimal impact on the forest
  • Work on and off the trail system, by learning orientation skills and navigation using GPS and a compass
  • Recognize and appreciate a wide range of flora and fauna, and gain an understanding of the ecology and interconnectedness of these species within this ecosystem
  • Monitor the biodiversity of a variety of plant and animal groups through the use of camera traps, line transects, and invertebrate cataloguing
  • Track identified animals or animal groups via radio telemetry and vocalisations, using our radio-collared tamarin population as a reference
  • Observe and record animal behavior, from that of eusocial insects to larger primates
  • Non-invasively collect biological samples and conduct basic processing in the forest laboratory for a variety of uses – endocrinology, parasitology, and genetics

Course Organization:

The course will be conducted in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, at the Los Amigos Biological Field Station;  more information is available on travel requirements here. It will be organized into multiple modules that include short lectures and practica, on a variety of topics, including:

Rainforest Well-being

The most important thing to learn in the rainforest is how to be safe, and how not to impact the well-being of the rainforest around you. We will go through several exercises that demonstrate how you can learn from the rainforest and its inhabitants non-invasively.

Working On and Off-Trail

We will demonstrate how to use a trail system in the rainforest, which does not remain static as the forest around it changes. The rainforest appears homogenous to most newcomers, and thus, being disoriented is a common sensation. In this module we will learn how to use a compass and a GPS to navigate from any length off-trail, back to a trail or camp. We will also demonstrate how it is possible to discern natural markers in the forest despite this apparent homogeneity, and recognize variation in habitat types. Participants will become proficient at using handheld GPS devices not only for navigation, but to track animal movements, including recording tracks by distance or time, and taking waypoints for important landmarks. We will then demonstrate the importance of collecting such spatial data by analyzing it using software.

Rainforest Ornithology, Mammals and Amazonian Plants

Participants will learn the basic bird groups and common bird vocalisations and flight patterns. They will also learn the different mammal species present at this site, including primates and felines. Participants will identify tropical plants, by working with common species found in terrace and swamp habitats, with a focus on fruiting trees.

Biodiversity Monitoring

After learning the basic ecology and variation found in the different plant and animal groups at the station, our next goal is to use a variety of methods to monitor this biodiversity.  For the larger mammals and ground-dwelling birds we will use camera-traps and line transects.  We will catalogue invertebrate variation using pit-traps and Shannon traps. We will monitor basic phenology plots and focus on documenting fruiting trees in the wet season when this course takes place. We will also examine pug-marks to learn how to track animals by their footprints, casts of which participants can take home with them. Finally, we will tag relevant trees, both physically and with a GPS, and take morphometric data on them that can be subsequently used to identify them.

Tracking Primates and other Arboreal Mammals

Participants will work with radio collared primates at this site to learn how to use radio telemetry to find and monitor primate groups. These skills are applicable to any other tagged animal.  We will also learn how to track arboreal mammals that do not have radio collars, working with both nocturnal and diurnal species. For these animals, we will emphasize the use of visual and auditory cues, while understanding the habitats in which different mammals are found.

Animal Behavior

Participants will learn different techniques of recording behavior, and then choose the appropriate ones to conduct behavioral analyses on everything from ants to monkeys.  The goal of this module is to use stopwatches appropriately to record observational data, and to become familiar using binoculars to track arboreal fauna. At the end, we will be able to recognize the ease with which this data can become biased by an observer’s skill level and then we will implement methods to control for such biases.

Sampling Techniques

We will collect samples non-invasively, under the umbrella of the tamarin project, and then demonstrate sterile techniques (which are quite different in the wild than in a laboratory), sample storage, and basic sample processing in the laboratory on site.

Other Course Activities:

Along the way, participants will undergo a variety of experiences: river wildlife monitoring, exploration of ox-bow lakes, lifting prints from pug-marks, and night hikes, a visit to a mammal clay lick, mapping streams, and possible interaction with local children through a program called Sábado Científico or Scientific Saturdays.  All of these activities, and the modules above, are subject to the weather disturbances.

View the catalog


There are a few simple requirements to determine eligibility for this course:

  1. You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the course.
  2. You must have medical insurance, and provide proof of such insurance to us to complete your reservation.
  3. We have no citizenship requirements. Anyone is welcome to apply. You must obtain visas independently if necessary.
  4. You do not need any training in biology or primatology – our course is structured to accommodate people from a variety of backgrounds.
  5. Courses have a maximum capacity of 20 participants. If you are concerned that you will lose your spot, please contact us to confirm how many spots we have left.


  1. This is a remote field site, only accessible by boat, with basic accommodation.  Make sure that you are aware of the lifestyle changes you need to make when living in the rainforest.
  2. All participants must sign standard liability waivers for our program and for the field station.
  3. If a minimum course enrollment is not reached by the registration deadline, PrimatesPeru reserves the right to cancel the course.
  4. Please read our cancellation policy carefully, as no exceptions can be made after the deadlines mentioned.
  5. Since most activities are conducted outdoors, our exact schedule is weather dependent.
  6. We do not offer this course for credit; however, we have supervised the work of participants who can obtain credit through their own universities. We are committed to helping these students, so please don’t hesitate to ask.



  • The cost for the course is $1800.
  • All prices are listed in USD.
  • Once your application is received, you will receive an invoice for the first payment installment of $400.
  • Once paid, this will reserve your place in the course.
  • Subsequently, you will be invoiced for the remaining amount ($1400), which must be paid by the EXTENDED registration deadline of November 27, 2013
  • Of the first installment of  $400, $100 is a nonrefundable registration fee, while the rest counts towards the course tuition.


The course fee covers the following:

  • An airport pickup on December 27, 2013 in Puerto Maldonado, and a drop-off on January 10th, 2013
  • Accommodation in Puerto Maldonado for one night at the beginning and the end of the course (includes breakfast)
  • Transportation to and from the field station once per participant
  • Lodging and meals at the field station
  • Training and activities related to the course provided by experienced instructors
  • Access to the internet while at the field station, although it is slow and dependent on the weather


The course fee does not cover the following:

  • Travel from your home to Puerto Maldonado in Perú
  • Medical insurance, which is a requirement for the course
  • Food in Puerto Maldonado
  • Costs related to exigent circumstances under which a participant requires an early departure from the field station
  • Medical costs of any kind
  • Binoculars – each participant should try to bring their own pair of binoculars
  • Field boots, headlamp/flashlight and other personal effects required for the course


  • The registration fee of $100 is nonrefundable under any circumstances.
  • If you cancel on or before the registration deadline of November 20, 2013, we will refund all course fees paid in full (except for the registration fee of $100).
  • If you cancel your reservation after the registration deadline, you will be refunded 40% of your course fee.
  • Course fees cannot be refunded for cancellations made after December 7, 2013.
  • If PrimatesPeru cancels this course due to mitigating reasons, a full refund of all fees paid, including the registration fee, will be made available to any participant.

The Registration Process:

Registering to participate in a course is a simple process. Follow the steps below and contact us if you have any difficulties.

  1. Fill out this application form
  2. You will receive an electronic invoice for $400, which you will have 5 days to pay.
  3. Upon payment of your first installment, you will receive an invoice for the remaining fee. This  payment is due no later than the NEW EXTENDED registration deadline of November 27, 2013.
  4. You may pay electronically or send in a check; the details will be provided along with the invoice.

Thank you for your interest! Got questions? Contact us.

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