Santa Clara University

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The Faculty-Staff Newsletter, e-mail edition
Santa Clara University, October 15, 2007, Vol. 8, No. 3

A walk in the forest

Though the students could drink in the beauty of the native flora and fauna daily, the rigorous course was not just a walk in the rainforest. In the first two weeks, students learned observation techniques, different sampling methods, vegetation analysis, mapping and GPS skills. Each evening, they had a lecture course on primate behavior. Students devoted the last two weeks to completing independent research projects, complete with data collection and analysis. They wrote research papers onsite, including an introduction, methods, results, and discussion.

Some of the projects included studies of seed dispersal, prehensile tail use in spider monkeys, juvenile play behavior in capuchins, and the social structure and food patch size in spider monkeys.

Senior Jessica Reimer, a double major in combined sciences and environmental studies, never anticipated that her college career would entail chasing monkeys around and searching their feces for seeds, “but it ends up, it was fun. I learned a lot,” she said. “I found out that monkeys do aid in the dispersal of seeds.”

In addition to the fieldwork, she enjoyed getting to know the people of Costa Rica. “I learned a lot about the country and primatology. It was just a great experience.”