Field Courses

My Field Teaching History and Philosophy

Back in 1989 I attended a one-month course organized by Dr. Rudy Rudran as part of his Wildlife Conservation and Management Training Program at the National Zoo; set in Hato Masaguaral, Venezuela, this course showed me the value of ‘learning in the field’ and sparked my interest in organizing similar courses in the future.

I participated in multiple other field courses, assisting in a course at the Conservation Biology Institute of the National Zoological Park in the USA and co-teaching several years later with Rudy in Namibia during his 100th(!) Wildlife Conservation and Management Training Course.

Incorporating that same excitement from my first field course experience in Venezuela, I now feel that providing students with the opportunity for hands-on learning is vital to an education in research biology.

Using my field site as a base for these interactive courses, I have recently been involved in the organization and teaching of conservation biology, wildlife management and environmental education training courses in Argentina. These courses have been sponsored and arranged by numerous organizations: the Fundación ECO of Formosa, the University of Pennsylvania, the Zoological Society of San Diego and the Wildlife Conservation and Management Training Program of the Smithsonian Institution.

These courses in Primate Conservation Biology train students in demographic, behavioral, and ecological data collection. Students have opportunities to learn capturing, sampling and radio-collaring of individuals, radio-tracking, molecular methods for studying wild primate populations, data summary and analysis, and grant proposal writing. Courses also address conservation strategies and tactics adequate for addressing the most prominent threats to primates in the Gran Chaco and elsewhere in Latin America.

These field courses have taken place at the University of Pennsylvania; at the Universidad Nacional de Quilmes in Buenos Aires; in Miami, Florida at the Dumond Conservancy for Tropical Forests and Primates; in Formosa, Argentina in the Guaycolec Ranch; and in Ecuador at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station.

Each field course aims to demonstrate the value of hands-on learning that I experienced as a student in that first course, many years ago in Venezuela.

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Course Descriptions

Primate Behavior and Ecology (Anth 507)
University of Pennsylvania and Dumond Conservancy for Primates and Tropical Forests
Location: Miami
, Florida

This is a field course that discusses methodological aspects of conducting field research on non-human primates. The course is two-part: theoretical and discussion-based learning of field-techniques and behavioral ecology are followed by field experience working with non-human primates. Students spend one week during the spring semester conducting research on non-human primates at the Dumond Conservancy for Primates and Tropical Forests in Miami.  Selected individuals from this course follow the course with a summer experience in either Argentina or Ecuador.  A follow-up course (Anth 515) to the field experience engages students in skills of data management and analysis.

Biological Clocks and Rhythms
University of Pennsylvania, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, University of Washington
Location: Buenos Aires & Formosa, Argentina
June – July 2011

This course focuses on theory and current research topics in the field of circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are biological oscillations with a period of approximately 24 hours that are present in virtually all living organisms on Earth. Circadian rhythmicity relies on the existence of one or more biological clocks or oscillators. These oscillators act as pacemakers driving the rhythmicity of biological variables that range from biochemical processes in unicellular organisms, through the synthesis and release of hormones, to complex behavioral states like the sleep-wake cycle in mammals.

The first offering of this two-week course was taught by faculty from the Universidad Nacional de Quilmes in Buenos Aires, University of Pennsylvania and University of Washington.
Additional course information 

Latin American Primate Conservation Biology Field Courses
Fundación ECO
Formosa, Argentina
2003 and 2004

In 2003 and 2004, then a CRES Millennium Postdoctoral Fellow, I taught the first and second Latin American Primate Conservation Biology Field Courses in collaboration with CRES Scientist Dr. Pascal Gagneux, and New York University anthropology professor Dr. Tony Di Fiore. Students from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and the USA participated in these three-week courses, held in Formosa, Northern Argentina. Each year the course included lectures (in Spanish) on primatology, ecology, physiology, genetics, and molecular biology. During the three weeks, students learned a variety of techniques crucially important for the study of wild primates. To name a few: behavioral data collection on wild owl and howler monkeys; radio telemetry; canopy access techniques; DNA extraction from various. As part of the courses each student developed a grant proposal for a project and was coached in how to approach funding agencies, which fund research and in situ conservation.

The Gran Chaco Wildlife Conservation and Management Training Course
Fundación ECO
Formosa, Argentina
June 3-12, 2005

The Gran Chaco Wildlife Conservation and Management Training Course was organized by Fundación ECO in collaboration with the National Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation and Management Program (WCMTP). It was developed at the request of Argentine government and university officials to address the training needs of young government professionals and academics. This follow up course aimed to provide course participants with hands-on experience in the management of natural resources; to  introduce young professionals working in governmental offices to conservation biology science and research; to facilitate communication between scientists conducting research on natural resources and officials regulating the use of these resources; and to develop a working relationship between Fundacion ECO and the local sponsors in order to strengthen future collaboration on conservation-oriented projects