MAMMAL RESEARCH TEAM

jaguars. peccaries. monkeys. deer. dogs. rodents. marsupials. armadillos. tapir. tayra. coati. anteaters.

Volunteering, Internships and Training Courses
* Contribute to wildlife conservation in the tropics *
Understanding the diversity, distribution, population dynamics, and optimal conservation strategies for forest-dwelling mammals in Amazonian Peru
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Mammal Team Objectives

The Mammal Research Team, headquartered in the city of Puerto Maldonado, is tasked with developing baseline datasets on the diversity and abundance of 45 species of non-volant mammals at numerous field sites across the Madre de Dios region of Amazonian Peru, and to monitor changes in these variables over timescales ranging from months to decades. By undertaking sampling throughout the year, in dry and wet seasons; across various habitat types, including floodplain and terra firme forest; and in contrasting land-use categories, such as reserves and national parks, native community forests, ecotourism concessions, Brazil nut forests, timber extraction zones, bushmeat extraction areas, and forests associated with agriculture and cattle ranching; and also by collating climate data at each study site, the team is able to determine the relative importance of each variable, understand the patterns and trends in diversity and abundance in time and space, and ultimately predict the current and future conservation status of mammals across the entire landscape.

Lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) crossing a river

Photo: Tom Ambrose

Mammals - Patrick Collins checking track

Mammal team coordinator - Patrick Collins - identifying tracks. Photo: Patrick Collins

Common Paca Tracks seen during Fauna Forever Mammal Survey

Measuring the stride length of Common paca (Cuniculus paca) tracks. Photo: Chris Kirkby.

Methods Used

The sampling methods that the team uses to study mammal populations, and which are led by one or two mammal team coordinators, include unbounded line transects, camera traps, track traps, GPS-enabled species encounters mapping, and to a limited degree pitfall traplines for small rodents. The latter method (pitfall traps) is achieved in collaboration with the herpetofauna team. Each field site has 4-8 line transects (totalling 8-24 km in length) which are sampled in the early morning, late afternoon, and at night; 10-20 camera traps operating 24 hrs a day; 8-16 pitfall traps (site-dependent and managed by the Herpetofauna team); 15-30 track traps (site and season dependent); and the team is also equipped with 2-3 handheld GPS receivers to collect precise geographic coordinate data of mammal encounters and the location of key feeding trees in the case of focal primate group follows. Each week, sampling is undertaken on 4-6 mornings depending on weather conditions, alternating between line transects and primate follows, and similarly on 3-5 afternoons or evenings. Morning sampling begins at or just after dawn (5:30-6 am); afternoon sampling begins at 3:30 pm once the air temperature has dropped and diurnal mammal species activity levels increase; and the evening or nocturnal sampling begins at 8 pm. Sampling periods last anywhere between 3-5 hours depending on the method. While conducting an unbounded line transect, the team uses all their senses (visual, acoustic, smell) to locate and identify the presence of terrestrial and arboreal mammals on either side of the transect. Close scrutiny of the ground is also required in order to observe tracks, scats and other species-specific sign. When track traps are located on a transect, a couple of minutes are spent inspecting these too. All encounter and presence data is recorded in relation to its distance along a transect and frequently involves the use of a GPS. Straight-line and perpendicular distances between observers and animals are carefully measured to the nearest metre and recorded in the datasheets. When undertaking primate group follows, the team employs both continuous sampling (specifically of the geographic location of the primate group) as well as scan sampling, the latter of which is undertaken at 10-minute intervals to record the behaviour of each individual in the primate group. The continuous GPS data is used to map primate group home range size and shape, using GIS software. When a primate group begins feeding in a tree (on fruit or flowers), the team also records the location of this tree and takes fruit and flower samples back to camp to aid its identification. Understanding the diversity of food sources is important when planning primate conservation programs. Dung samples from primates and other mammal species may also be collected. Data analysis and visualisation programs that we use and teach, include R, SPSS, Distance, Mark, Estimates, and QGIS.

Summary of a Typical Day on the Mammal Team

Research days are split into a mixture of morning, afternoon, and nocturnal sampling sessions. On each research day, two sessions are usually completed, totalling 6-7 hrs of active field time and data input activities. On most mornings, sampling begins at or just after dawn (5:30-6 am), having already eaten a very early breakfast. Box breakfasts are also taken if the team is expected to take more than 1 hour to get to sample location. Line transect sampling and primate follows take between 3-5 hours. Upon completion, the team may check pitfall traps for rodents (alongside herpetofauna team members) and/or change out memory cards and batteries on one or more camera traps before heading back to the research station. On returning to camp, data from the session is entered into the laptop computers and the team shares and discusses any interesting encounters or behaviours observed in order to better understand the ecology of the species involved. Lunch is served at 1 pm, after which team members relax for a couple of hours during the hottest part of the day. At 3:30 pm, the late afternoon sampling session begins, lasting until sundown at 6 pm. This session may consist of line transects and track traps, downloading imagery from camera traps and/or relocating these, habitat monitoring within 0.05-ha modified Gentry plots. At some sites, afternoon sessions are also used to clean and mark transects, especially during the first few days of a visit to a new field site. The evening or nocturnal sessions, which are focused on line transect sampling, begin either at 6 pm or 8 pm and last last 2-3 hours, with team members using headlamps, powerful spotlights, and sometimes even sound recording equipment to sample nocturnal mammals as they move through the rainforest in total darkness.

Join the Mammal Team!

Five ways to volunteer or intern
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Since 1997, the mammal team has been welcoming volunteers, interns and thesis students to the Peruvian Amazon from across the world - people who are interested in learning the field methods we use, assisting us with day-to-day biodiversity research and conservation activities, and undertaking their own mammal-focused thesis or dissertation projects with the help of our expertise and professional supervision. Opportunities are available for short or extended periods of time throughout the year in Peru and for people with a variety of research skill levels, financial constraints, and time considerations. Some volunteer and internship options are also free depending on the applicant, their proven level of experience, the season, and the status of our discretionary scholarship funds. However, the majority of successful applicants (90%) are asked to pay a fee to help cover the cost of their stay with us, as our central project funding is limited. These fees cover all costs associated with the program, such as local transfers, food, lodging, and certain items of equipment that volunteers and interns use frequently. The fees do not cover personal expenses such as snacks, bottled beverages, clothes, rubber boots, toothpaste, medical expenses, etc.

Field Course Internship

This option is for those people interested in learning or improving research techniques and related field skills for studying terrestrial and arboreal mammals in tropical habitats. We offer Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced and Master-level course segments in line transect sampling, camera trapping, track traps, species identification (especially via auditory cues, tracks, scats and other sign) and datasheet and database management methods. Each course segment lasts two weeks, and interns can opt to combine several segments into a course that best suits their training needs with respect to non-volant mammals. Each course segment is led by one or two mammal experts, each with years of experience to share, and include both theoretical and practical classes. Participants who successfully complete the full course (i.e. all four segments, Beginner to Master, lasting 8 weeks) or the three most advanced segments (i.e. Intermediate to Master, 6 weeks) can gain direct access to the Skilled Research Internship program going forward, as their level of expertise will have reached a sufficiently high level that they would be able to assist the mammal team coordinators with all aspects of their work in a professional and semi-independent manner. Fees apply for each course segment. For general background information about the Field Course Internship Program, please click here

A Bolivian squirrel monkey (Saimiri boliviensis) having a scratch

Photo: Alex Markham

Mouse opossum observed on a nocturnal transect. 

Photo: Alex Markham

Mammal team coordinator - Holly O'Donnell - carefully searching for primates along a line transect in the forest. Photo: Holly O'Donnell

A mature Mayna fruit commonly eaten by primates. Photo: Chris Kirkby

A mouse opossum about to be released back into the forest. Photo: Holly O'Donnell

A friendly Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus).

Emperor tamarin eating a Rollinia fruit.

Photo: Alice Poirier

Squirrel Monkey seen during Fauna Forever Primate Survey
Mouse Opossum see during Fauna Forever mammal transect
Fruit found during a Fauna Forever Primate Survey
Fauna Forever Coordinator conducitng a primate survey in the Amazon
Saddleback Tamarins seen during a Fauna Forever primate survey
A mouse opossum found during Fauna Forever mammal surveys

A pair of Saddleback tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis) scanning the foliage for insect prey. Photo: Jason Kopp

Emperor Tamarin seen during a Fauna Forever primate survey
Nine-banded Armadillo found during a Fauna Forever mammal survey

5. Course Segment Combinations - Neotropical Non-volant Mammals

Beginner + Intermediate (4 weeks)

Intermediate + Advanced (4 weeks) 

Advanced + Master (4 weeks) 

Beginner + Intermediate + Advanced (6 weeks) 

Intermediate + Advanced + Master (6 weeks) 

Beginner + Intermediate + Advanced + Master (8 weeks) 

US$ 1,890 *

US$ 1,890 *

US$ 1,890 *

US$ 2,460 *

US$ 2,460 *

US$ 3,025 *

* Course fees in each case are per person and include (i) Puerto Maldonado airport pick-up and drop off; (ii) transfers to and from the active field site using cars and boats; (iii) accommodation at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado (shared rooms); (iv) main meals at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado (vegetarian options are available); (v) research permits (if the site requires them); (vi) personalised training in the techniques and skills for each course (theoretical and practical); (vii) opportunities to accompany the bird team during all research activities; and (viii) non-research birding trips (walking and boat-based excursions) to observe and learn about as many of the local bird species as possible. The fee does not include (i) flights; (ii) travel and health insurance; (iii) personal expenses like between-meal snacks (chocolates, biscuits, etc.) and bottled beverages; (iv) medical expenses; (v) laundry costs (research station or lodge staff can be paid to wash clothes); (vi) un-scheduled transport between the active field site and Puerto Maldonado; (vii) wifi or internet access at sites where this is available. Note: Extra fees may be applicable for a private room.

4. Master Course Segment - Neotropical Non-volant Mammals

Duration: 2 weeks

Description: Participants will improve all aspects of the knowledge and skills taught in earlier courses (see above) reaching a high degree of professionalism allowing them the ability to independently undertake all tasks related to the mammal research protocols with only very little supervision from our mammal team coordinators (with supervision focused only on health and safety, species identification, and data entry and checking processes). This course will also include a formal evaluation of theoretical knowledge and practical skills towards the end of the segment. Thus, participants who successfully complete this course will possess the skills necessary to be able to establish and develop their own mammal population monitoring projects in a variety of environments around the world. Graduates of this segment are also eligible to join our team as Skilled Research Interns.

Certificate: Yes.

Fee: US$ 1,040 *

3. Advanced Course Segment - Neotropical Non-volant Mammals

Duration: 2 weeks

Description: Participants will learn (i) to more accurately identify mammal species while in the forest, with a large emphasis on acoustic cues, tracks, scats, smells, hair, foraging scrapings, and scratches on tree trunks; (ii) to manage all aspects of bounded and un-bounded line transect surveys; (iii) to manage all aspects of camera trap-based studies, including identifying species with 90% accuracy, and professionally using digital databases (e.g. CameraBase) for automatic analysis of collected imagery; (iv) to safely handle all rodent species captured in pitfall trap lines and to record all of the morphological characteristics of captured rodents and how best to analyse this data; (v) to manage all aspects of track trap surveys for all seasons and soil characteristics, and to identify tracks with an accuracy of at least 75%; (vi) to use all options available on handheld GPS equipment to follow focal primate groups through the forest in a safe and professional manner, with supervision; (vii) to recognise the different primate behavioural traits that we monitor with 90% accuracy, and to identify individual animals (especially alpha males) with ease; (viii) to recognise the 30 or so main tree species that primates and other mammal species relly on; (ix) to enter data from each method into laptop computers, under close supervision, including data review techniques to catch errors and to increase the quality of the dataset; (x) to analyse transect data using the Distance software to estimate species dansity and community structure; and (xi) to manage the collection of habitat data in modified Gentry plots, including more techniques to analyse this information. Time spent on theoretical themes (20%) and time spent in the forest actively learning and practising skills (80%).

Certificate: Yes.

Fee: US$ 1,040 *

2. Intermediate Course Segment - Neotropical Non-volant Mammals

Duration: 2 weeks

Description: Participants will learn (i) to more accurately identify mammal species while in the forest, with a large emphasis on acoustic cues and tracks; (ii) to begin collecting accurate perpendicular distance and straight line observer-animal distances during encounters with mammals along line transects; (iii) to set up their own camera traps, download imagery and video, and identify animals with a degree of accuracy of at least 50%; (iv) to efficiently set up a pitfall trap line that uses four large 70-litre buckets and 30 metres of durable plastic fencing, and how to safely extract and properly hold rodents (while using gloves); (v) to record some of the morphological characteristics of captured rodents; (vi) to set up a wet season and dry season track trap, and effectively monitor it and identify species with at least 30% accuracy; (vii) to use handheld GPS equipment and use it to follow a focal primate group; (viii) to recognise the different primate behavioural traits that we monitor, such as grooming, aggression, alarm, feeding and so forth; (ix) to recognise the main tree species that primates and other mammal species relly on, especially palms and figs; (x) to enter data from each method into laptop computers, under close supervision, including data review techniques to catch errors and to increase the quality of the dataset; and (xi) to practise setting up vegetation plots and collecting habitat variable data, including techniques to analyse this information. Time spent on theoretical themes (40%) and time spent in the forest actively learning and practising skills (60%).

Certificate: Yes.

Fee: US$ 1,040 *

1. Beginner Course Segment - Neotropical Non-volant Mammals

Duration: 2 weeks

Description: Participants will learn the basics of (i) how to set up and sample bounded and un-bounded line transects, and the theory behind distance sampling in general; (ii) how to set up and manage a camera trap array; (iii) how to set up and manage an array of track traps for both wet and dry season conditions; (iv) how to set up and manage pitfall trap lines for small rodents, including safe handling techniques and the morphological data to collect (e.g. weight); (v) techniques and resources for identifying mammal species, including vocalisations, smells, tracks, scats and other sign; (vi) efficient management of datasheets and digital databases; (vii) the basics of the main data analysis techniques used to assess mammal diversity, density and community structure; and (viii) the theory and practice behind the habitat variables that we collect in and around each line transect and other sampling stations (i.e. modified Gentry plots). Time spent on theoretical themes (60%) and time spent in the forest actively learning (40%).

Certificate: Yes.

Fee: US$ 1,040 *

Skilled Research Internship

​If you already possess advanced fieldwork skills that would be directly useful to the bat research team, without requiring specific training in mist-netting, bat handling and extraction, and acoustic survey techniques, and you have at least 2 weeks to dedicate to the team, then this option is for you. Skilled Research interns assist us with all aspects of the field research protocols and work alongside the team coordinators ensuring bats are sampled safely and that high levels of data quality are maintained. Such interns require very little direct supervision from our coordinators, and can accomplish most tasks on their own if required. Participants who complete the Master Course on Bat Mist-Netting and Acoustic Sampling (see below) are also regarded as Skilled Research Interns. During the application process, applicants for Skilled Research Intern positions will be required to send us a CV, reference letters and copies of any documentation that can back up their level of experience (e.g. banding license, certificate from a specialised course). More information about the Skilled Research Internship Program can be found here.

 

Fee: US$ 0-55 per night

(depending on experience, length of stay,

season and available scholarship funding)

 

Fees (if applicable) are per person and include (i) airport pick-up and drop off; (ii) transfers to and from the active field site using cars and boats; (iii) accommodation at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado if necessary (shared rooms); (iv) main meals at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado if necessary (vegetarian options are available); (v) research permits (if the site requires them); (vi) opportunities to accompany all bird research activities as part of the bird team; and (vii) non-research birding trips (walking and boat-based excursions to observe as many local bird species as possible). The fee does not include (i) flights; (ii) travel and health insurance; (iii) personal expenses like between-meal snacks (chocolate, biscuits, etc.) and bottled beverages; (iv) medical expenses; (v) laundry costs (research station or lodge staff can be paid to wash clothes); (vi)  un-scheduled transport between the active field site and Puerto Maldonado; (vii) wifi or internet access at sites where this is available. Note: Extra fees may be applicable for a private room and if the person requires specific training to bring them up to the standard required (see courses below).

Camera Traps used during a Fauna Forever mammal survey

A camera trap - Bushnell Trophy Cam

Photo: Mas Mong Mo

Data collection during a Fauna Forever primate survey

Collecting mammal data during a line transect survey. Photo: Holly O'Donnell

canstockphoto10263767%20(peccary)%20tran

Thesis Project Internship

If you are a student looking to undertake an official thesis or dissertation project on Neotropical bats in the Peruvian Amazon and would like to benefit from our expertise and know-how, then this option is for you. We are able to help guide students along the path from project design, implementation and data analysis, with close supervision provided by our team of research coordinators and PhD-level scientists. We have even identified some potential research questions that could be developed into thesis projects, although we are also open to ideas and questions from student applicants. Undergraduate level projects should ideally be planned to be undertaken over a minimum 6-week period. Any shorter and there is no guarantee, in our experience, that sufficient quality data would be collected. Our management team can also provide official supervision and reporting as may be required by colleges and universities. More about Thesis Project Internship Program here.

Certificate: Yes.

Fee:      6 weeks    =  US$ 2,460 

             8 weeks    =  US$ 3,025

           12 weeks    =  US$ 4,150

Fees are per person and include (i) airport pick-up and drop off; (ii) transfers to and from the active field site using cars and boats; (iii) accommodation at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado (shared rooms); (iv) main meals at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado (vegetarian options are available); (v) research permits (if the site requires them); (vi) assistance and supervision during the planning and execution of the project, including any personalised field training required; (vii) opportunities to accompany the bird team during all research activities; and (viii) opportunities to accompany the team on non-research birding trips (walking and boat-based excursions) to observe and learn about as many of the local bird species as possible. The fee does not include (i) flights; (ii) travel and health insurance; (iii) personal expenses like between-meal snacks (chocolates, biscuits, etc.) and bottled beverages; (iv) medical expenses; (v) laundry costs (research station or lodge staff can be paid to wash clothes); (vi) un-scheduled transport between the active field site and Puerto Maldonado; (vii) wifi or internet access at sites where this is available. Note: Extra fees may be applicable for a private room.

Mammal interns collecting data during a Fauna Forever mammal survey

Two thesis project interns from the UK studying mammal tracks. Photo: Chris Kirkby

White-lipped Peccaries seen during a Fauna Forever mammal survey

A herd of White-lipped peccaries (Tayassu pecari)

Photo: Tom Ambrise

Citizen Science Volunteer

If you are passionate about wildlife and nature conservation and want to get involved with our bat research and conservation activities in a Peruvian rainforest setting, but you do not have much time (i.e. only days, rather than weeks or months), then this is the volunteering option for you. Citizen science volunteers can accompany the bat team on all of its outings and can witness first hand how mist nets are set up; how bats are extracted from nets; how bats are safely handled, weighed, measured, and subsequently released; how acoustic surveys are conducted; and how we manage and analyse the data we collect. There will also be opportunities to join other research teams and visit other sites including potentially a visit to a canopy platform. Learn more about the Citizen Science Volunteer Program here

 

Fees:   

3 days 2 nights    =  US$   460

5 days 4 nights    =  US$   680

7 days 6 nights    =  US$   840

10 days 9 nights  =  US$   990

Fees are per person and include (i) airport pick-up and drop off; (ii) transfers to and from the active field site using cars and boats; (iii) accommodation at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado if necessary (shared rooms); (iv) main meals at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado if necessary (vegetarian options are available); (v) research permits (if the site requires them); (vi) opportunities to accompany all bird research activities as part of the bird team; and (vii) non-research birding trips (walking and boat-based excursions to observe as many local bird species as possible). The fee does not include (i) flights; (ii) travel and health insurance; (iii) personal expenses like between-meal snacks (chocolate, biscuits, etc.) and bottled beverages; (iv) medical expenses; (v) laundry costs (research station or lodge staff can be paid to wash clothes); (vi)  un-scheduled transport between the active field site and Puerto Maldonado; (vii) wifi or internet access at sites where this is available. Note: Extra fees may be applicable for a private room.

Fauna Forever Interns and Volunteers visiting a Peruvian native community

Interns and Citizen science volunteers. 

Photo: Chris Kirkby

Early morning in the Peruvian Amazon

Admiring the view across the Tambopata River

Photo: Emily McParland

Camp Volunteer

If you are passionate about nature and conservation, yet you lack any specific wildlife research skills but would still like to contribute as much as possible to our fieldwork without having to invest in an intensive field methods course, then becoming a camp volunteer may be for you. Some bat-related activities (approximately 10% of your time) should be expected, but your time will also be taken up with assisting any Fauna Forever staff member with virtually any task, including perhaps helping out in the kitchen, pumping water, fetching and carrying supplies to and from the boat, tree planting, tending to any fruit crops, trail clearing, trail signage making, general equipment maintenance tasks, showing new volunteer and intern recruits around the field site, and so forth.  More about Camp Volunteer Program here.

Fee: US$ 0-45 per night

Fees (if applicable) are per person and include (i) airport pick-up and drop off; (ii) transfers to and from the active field site using cars and boats; (iii) accommodation at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado if necessary (shared rooms); (iv) main meals at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado (vegetarian options are available); (v) research permits (if the site requires them); and (vi) opportunities to accompany research activities when requested by the team coordinators. The fee does not include (i) flights; (ii) travel and health insurance; (iii) personal expenses like between-meal snacks (chocolate, biscuits, etc.) and bottled beverages; (iv) medical expenses; (v) laundry costs (research station or lodge staff can be paid to wash clothes); (vi)  un-scheduled transport between the active field site and Puerto Maldonado; (vii) wifi or internet access at sites where this is available. Note: Extra fees may be applicable for a private room.

Fauna Forever research interns and volunteers

Volunteers at the El Gato field site in Tambopata, Peru 

Photo: Chris Kirkby

Bird watching in the Peruvian Amazon with Fauna Forever

Wildlife spotting from a boat

Photo: Chris Kirkby

 
 
 
 
 

A female Red brocket deer (Mazama americana) caught on a camera trap deep in the Peruvian Amazon (Video: Fauna Forever)

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Recommended Reading

Field Guides

Book - Neotropical Rainforest Mammals.jp

Published Articles

Peres (1997) Primate community structure at twenty Western Amazonian flooded and unflooded forests. Journal of Tropical Ecology 13(3), 381-405.

Tobler et al. (2008) An evaluation of camera traps for inventorying large-and medium-sized terrestrial rainforest mammals. Animal Conservation 11: 169-178.

Marques (2009) Distance sampling: estimating animal density. Significance 2009: 136-137

Endo et al. (2010) Game vertebrate densities in hunted and nonhunted forest

sites in Manu National Park, Peru. Biotropica 42(2): 251-261.

Salvador et al. (2010) Large mammal species richness and habitat use in an

upper Amazonian forest used for ecotourism. Mammalian Biology 76(2), 115-

123. 

Kjimji et al. (2013) Are rainforest owl monkeys cathemeral? Diurnal activity of

Black-headed owl monkeys, Aotus nigriceps, at Manu Biosphere Reserve,

Peru. Primates.

Tobler et al. (2013) High jaguar densities and large population sizes in the core habitat of the southwestern Amazon. Biological Conservation 159: 375-381.

Neotropical Rainforest Mammals

A Field Guide (2nd edition)

L. Emmons & F. Feer

© Jaguar image in header courtesy of Amanda Guercio

Agouti, Brown1
Squirrel, Bolivian
Cat, Margay (Leopardus wiedii) (Eugenio
Giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensi
Mammals - Hoffmans two toed sloth (Mark
Anteater, Tamandua1
Mammals - White-lipped peccaries (Tom Am
White-lipped peccary (Ian Markham)
Mammals - Squirrel Monkey (Alex Markham)
Tayra (Carly Voight)
Squirrel monkey (Ian Markham)
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