Funded ERI Project: Jorden Schreeder interning at the Owl Monkey Project in Formosa, Argentina

I spent this summer as a field research intern for the Owl Monkey Project (Proyect Mirikiná) in the Gran Chaco Ecoregion of Formosa, Argentina. I, along with 3 other interns, assisted Emily Briggs and Alba Garcia on their Ph.D. fieldwork, while also collecting data for the Owl Monkey Project’s behavioral and genetic research. The experience was demanding, exciting, and incredibly rewarding! Whether we were collecting behavioral data on the monkeys, making seed traps, doing lab work, running playback experiments, making phenology reports, setting up camera traps, or conducting plot scans for fruit and feces (the poop jokes are endless), every day was a unique set of surprises. 

We spent our weekends at Casa 100, the project’s house, where we would do lab work and grocery shop for the field, where we spent most of our time. Pitching our tents along the river, our home base was about a 20 minute walk through grassland to the entrance of the gallery forest. The incredibly diverse and beautiful environment was perfectly suited for a wide range of research questions. I quickly became accustomed to living and sharing my new home with the creatures around us.

On sunny days, the giant caimans would beach themselves along the river near our tents (sometimes a little too close), while the capybaras roamed the grasslands nearby. In the forest, we would often run into packs of peccary, and if we were lucky, we might have spotted a tapir or coati. Once, a young fox followed us for hours as we collected feces samples. We named it Felix, since we found so many poops! The diversity of the environment constantly left me in a state of awe.

Because of my love for primates, and my hope of gaining a Ph.D. doing field work with monkeys, I most looked forward to spending time with the owl monkeys and howler monkeys (although spotting toucans and the rare giant anteaters always gave me life). Since some monkey groups were incredibly difficult to find, I learned a new level of patience and dedication. After long hours in the field, we sat around the campfire discussing everything from how successful or unsuccessful the research was going, to theoretical and tangible discussions about our struggling Earth, to whether or not we were able to go to the bathroom without getting any new bug bites. We bonded quickly over the temperamental and unpredictability of our surroundings. Working so closely with Emily and Alba, I learned first-hand what it takes to reach my goals. I soaked up their invaluable advice; they became amazing mentors and role models. Beyond the beautiful place I was able to live, I felt most lucky to have made connections with such inspiring and hardworking people. 


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