Primate Conservation and Behavioral Ecology

Course Syllabus
This syllabus is an example from a previous class taught at El Zota.  Current course syllabi may differ with respect to dates, times and specific lecture topics, but are expected to be similar to that below.  For a copy of the current course syllabus, please contact the instructor for the session that you plan to enroll in.

El Zota Biological Field Station, Costa Rica


Grading: You will receive 2 grades for this course. The first grade is for FIELD TECHNIQUES IN BIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY. This part of the course involves supervised participation in data collecting techniques, methods, and procedures discussed and practiced under actual field conditions. The course provides instruction and experience in the following field techniques:
1. methods of data collection on the behavioral ecology of free-ranging primates
2. methods of census and demography, including mapping techniques
3. methods of collecting data on food availability in a tropical forest
4. methods of sampling forest structure in a tropical forest.
Your grade will be based on:
Field techniques ~ 4 written assignments/group projects ~ 10 points each (40%)
Oral presentation on scientific article ~ 20 points (20%)
Written exam ~ primate behavior and ecology ~ 40 points (40%)
The second grade is for RESEARCH DESIGN AND DATA ANALYSIS: interpretation, evaluation, and organization of field data; preparation of written reports on research. The course requirements include:
1. writing a research proposal
2. collecting data for a research project
3. analyzing results of research project and writing final report
4. oral presentation of research results
Your grade will be based on:
Research proposal ~ 25%
Data collection ~ 20%
Analyses and report ~ 30%
Oral presentation ~ 25%


PARTICIPATION IN ALL LECTURES, PRESENTATIONS, AND DISCUSSIONS IS REQUIRED.
Primate Course Assignments:
Article presentations ~ 10 minute oral presentation of scientific research article on any aspect of primate behavior and ecology. Please get an OK on your article from Dr. Pruetz before you prepare your presentation. One or two presentations per night, following lectures. Emphasize, in your presentation, a critique of methods, interpretation of results, and conclusion.
Written examination ~ 2-hour (max) essay exam on lecture material.
Research proposal ~ 5-page written proposal indicating OBJECTIVES AND SIGNIFICANCE, BACKGROUND, HYPOTHESES, METHODS, and SUMMARY. Sample data sheet and ethogram should be included as appendices.
Data collection ~ you will receive detailed instruction and assistance from your teaching staff regarding data collection for your independent project but:

1. 6-8 hours of field time per day are required once you begin data collection (at least 7 days of data collection are scheduled). This includes both search time, contact time with your study group, and actual time spent collecting data.

2. a good effort is required! The best way to collect reliable data is to be able to follow your subjects to and from their sleeping sites. You are not expected to stay out 12 hours per day but plan on heading out to the forest EARLY.

3. you must always be with a partner in the forest.

Data analyses and final report ~ an approximately 10-page, single-spaced handwritten paper, including charts, graphs, and figures. Written in scientific format: ABSTRACT, INTRODUCTION, METHODS, RESULTS, DISCUSSION, CONCLUSION, REFERENCES CITED, TABLES, GRAPHS, and FIGURES.
Final presentation of independent project ~ oral presentation. 15 minutes with a 10-15 minute question and discussion period following.


Required texts:
Primate Behavioral Ecology by Karen B. Strier, Publishers: Allyn and
    Bacon, Boston (2000) 392 pp.
Primate Behavior: An Exercise Workbook by J.D. Paterson,
    Waveland Press Inc., Illinois (1992) 105 pp.


Primate Course Schedule:
Day 1 ~ arrive at El Zota, settle in; orientation talk after dinner
Day 2 ~ first day in forests~ become familiar with trail systems, learn to use compass
Days 3-8 field techniques (4 different exercises)
Days 9-10 prepare proposals for independent projects
Days 11-13 trip to other sites in Costa Rica (optional)
Days 14-22 collect and analyze data for independent research projects. Data should be summarized each evening.
Days 22-24 data analyses and write-up. Prepare for presentations.
Days 25-26 oral presentations of research projects
Day 27 ~ leave El Zota


Lecture topics
1 ~ course introduction & lecture by Dr. Pruetz on her work in Africa and Central America
2~ 3 Introduction to primates. Primate traits
4 ~ primate evolution
5~ 6 taxonomy ~ prosimians, OW monkeys and apes, NW monkeys
7~ 8 Primate species at El Zota & their behavioral ecology; competition, niche separation
9 feeding ecology ~ nutrition, dietary specializations, effects of body size, etc.
10 ~ predation
11 ~ role of primates in tropical forests
12-13 primate socioecology ~ factors affecting group size, ecology and social structure
14 ~ infanticide and sociobiology
15 - primate conservation


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