Assist our Mammal Research Team as a volunteer (1-3 weeks) or intern (1-4 months) and learn to undertake camera trap, line transect, track-based, and home range studies of terrestrial and arboreal mammals, including the techniques we use to identify the 50 species of medium- to large-sized mammals that we are interested in monitoring, and the skills required to process, analyse, map and interpret the field data collected. Interns also have the chance to lead their own mini research project on mammals, for dissertation, thesis or personal publication purposes. Successful volunteer and intern applicants must donate towards their in-country costs. Header image: Jaguar (Panthera onca). Photo: Tom Ambrose.
Fauna Forever’s mammal team is tasked with establishing detailed baselines of information on the diversity and abundance of species at field sites using robust sampling methods; and then to periodically monitor these variables in conjunction with the environmental and human-related factors that can help explain the patterns in diversity and abundance observed over time within and between sites. These factors include habitat characteristics, climate, human activities (with an emphasis on threats), and the status of predators, prey, and parasites.
The mammal sampling methods that you will learn and implement as a volunteer or intern alongside other team members, include unbounded line transects, camera trap grids, georeferenced animal follows to estimate home range size, and focal animal studies to determine the behavioural characteristics of ecologically important species. During unbounded line transects you will walk pre-marked trails in the habitats of interest, each 1-4 km in length, at a speed of no more than 1 km per hour.
On encountering a mammal (or signs of mammal, such as tracks), it is quickly identified, the number of individuals counted, as well as perpendicular distances to individuals measured, and behaviour assessed. During designated days each week, your team will set up or monitor a set of camera traps placed in a grid format across the habitats of interest, changing batteries and SD memory cards, the latter of which are checked back at the station for images and video of mammals. Some days you will assist in the finding and subsequent following of primate family groups, whose route through the forest will be carefully monitored and recorded using handheld GPS equipment, and at intervals the behavior of focal individuals will be assessed and the location of feeding trees recorded. The GPS-based route information will subsequently be downloaded and used with similar data collected previously for that particular family group and used to estimate the home range size and shape of the group.
Mammal data has been collected in this way since 1997 at 59 locations, including 52 in the lowland rainforests of the Madre de Dios region and 7 in the cloud forest and high Puna grasslands of the Cusco region of Peru. See the map below for a detailed geographical representation.
A typical day sampling unbounded line transects begins at 5:00 am, when the mammal team gets up, grabs a quick breakfast, and having liaised with the bird team (so as not to sample the same areas in the forest) heads out to the starting point of one of 4-6 transects established at each site. Once everyone is ready and concentrating, and start-data has been recorded on the datasheet, then your team will begin walking slowly and as silently as possible along the centre-line of the trail, stopping every 20 m or so to listen carefully for the presence of mammals in the nearby trees and undergrowth. On spotting a mammal (either solitary or part of a group), you will use the techniques taught to you earlier to quickly identify it, before helping to collecting further information such as the number and age class of each individual observed, the geographic location of the animals (using a GPS), the perpendicular distance from the transect to the individuals observed, the straight line distance between the observer and the first animal detected, as well as information on the animal’s behavior and the amount of time it was visually observed for. The perpendicular distance information will later be used to calculate the density of each species using software such as DISTANCE. Between 1-2 transects are sampled each morning in this way, for a period of 1-4 hours, with some afternoons (4-6 pm) and nights (8-10 pm) also set aside for transect sampling. Some mornings are dedicated to camera trap work, during which your team could walk in excess of 12 km in a day to reach each of the camera trap stations, with the aim of replacing batteries and SD cards. The mammal team coordinator will also designate at least one day each week to primate group follows, which also start in the early morning, during which you will first locate and then carefully follow a family group of wild monkeys (such as Brown capuchins, Bolivian squirrel monkeys, and Saddleback tamarins), having previously been taught how to use the team’s GPS equipment. Without getting hung up on the thorns of trees and lianas, without stepping into ant nets, without walking into huge spider webs, you will follow a primate group at a discrete distance, and every 20 minutes (using your binoculars) record the behavior of each individual. If monkeys are observed consuming the fruit or flowers of a plant, then all efforts will be made to collect samples of the fruit and flowers in order to identify them back at the station, as part of our primate diet studies. In the afternoon, after lunch, you will help review and input data into the team’s laptop computer, and help identify any fruit that monkeys were observed consuming in the morning. If transects need cleaning, because say a tree has fallen across one of them, then this task will also be undertaken in the afternoon. During very rainy days when no mammal sampling is possible, you will attend talks and presentation by your team coordinator relating to mammal ecology, data analysis, and so forth. At other times, you will be free to explore the forest trails accompanied by others, help the chef with cooking meals, help keep the station clean and tidy, or indeed assist other teams with their work if you are interested.
1 Week (07 Days 06 Nights) - US$930
2 Weeks (14 Days 13 Nights) - US$1,450
3 Weeks (21 Days 20 Nights) - US$1,750
1 Month (30 Days 29 Nights) - US$2,345
2 Months (60 Days 59 Nights) - US$3,955
3 Months (90 Days 89 Nights) - US$5,130
4 Months (120 Days 119 Nights) - US$6,120
5 Months (150 Days 149 Nights) - US$7,500
More than 5 months - US$50 per day
These costs (which we treat as a donation to the non-profit organisation) include airport transfers (on arrival and departure); accommodation (in shared rooms); main meals (including vegetarian options); clean drinking water (always); local road and river transport to/from field sites (scheduled dates only); sheets, pillow case, and mosquito nets; access to our office wifi (where available); access to our library and equipment pool (e.g. GPS); orientation, field training and supervision from our staff; participation certificate and future reference letters (as required).
They do not include any flights; travel/health insurance (which is compulsory for all participants); taxis in Puerto Maldonado or Cusco (other than those used for scheduled trips to restaurants for meals); between meal snacks (cookies, sweets, etc.); and bottled beverages (Coca cola, Sprite, Fanta, etc.).
Discounts are possible for groups of 4 people or more, that have the same start
and end dates. Please contact us if this is your case.
In 2017 and 2018, applicants for volunteer and intern positions will be free to choose the start and end dates that are most convenient for them, although we'd prefer start dates to coincide with a week day (Mon-Fri) if at all possible. On applying, please use the calendar to select these dates.
The cost breakdown detailed below is based on an average stay of 6 weeks.
Local transport (cars, boats) - 19%
Accommodation in the city - 4%
Accommodation in the field - 24%
Meals in the city - 3%
Meals in the field - 14%
Equipment and maintenance - 8%
Communication - 4%
Training, Supervision and Administration - 18%
Other (health, third party services, donations) - 6%
Profits - 0%
We recommend you bring a copy of this guide book:
1. Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide by Louise Emmons