With much regret, I will be leaving Costa Rica earlier than expected due to personal reasons. Unfortunately, this means I will not be able to perform my original research project I had intended to do on the mantled howler monkey, or Alouatta palliata.
Fortunately, in my time here in Costa Rica and at La Suerte Biological Field Station, I’ve learned how to start to become a real primatologist. I’ve learned to perform map and compass readings, data collection techniques for plant phenology, feeding ecology, and other methods necessary for primatologists. I’ve met people that are wonderful and I was extremely lucky to have an excellent professor and teaching assistant for the course.
I’m still in love with primatology, as well! A lot of girls (my class had only girls) so far have confessed they have no interest in primatology after this–and good on them; I wish them luck for everything else and I hope they find something that works better for them.
I’ll confess this: I’m not against field work; I’d like to do it again, in fact. However, I don’t think Latin America is the area for me. Instead, I think I’d like to work in Asia. Specifically, China or Japan. I’m not against Africa either. I will also admit that it was extremely difficult for me to actually just see what I was looking at, so maybe next time I’ll focus on a species that’s more terrestrial.
Since I’m not going to be performing a research project in the field, I will probably be doing something in a zoo. I’m all right with this since I can apply what I’ve learned from La Suerte into a project, but I am a little worried for what it calls for. If anyone has any experience for protocols for these sorts of things, or even just experience, I’d really love to hear it.
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience. I’d be lying if I said it was easy or it wasn’t hard; it sucked to be so hot that you would sweat through your clothes, to be literally in nowhere, to be divebombed by beetles, mosquitoes, cicadas, and other bugs while you were trying to take a shower or go to the bathroom, or (lucky me) waking up with a dead bat in your bed. And I realize, for a field station–mine is incredibly well-provisioned with working toilets and other “luxuries” which are rampant in the U.S., but there was so much more in all that too–I’ll never get an experience like that where I can just walk outside and get an alarm call by mantled howler monkeys, take a few steps in and see bowl-shaped fungi that had a little miniature ecosystem within itself, to see birds that I could only see in zoos back at home.
It was amazing and rewarding; there’s no place even remotely as a natural beauty as Costa Rica–but there’s no place like home either.