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This summer I had the unique opportunity to study the Aotus azarai population in the Province of Formosa, northern Argentina. This small monkey is strictly monogamous and there are no differences in physical appearance between males and females. The monkeys live in groups consisting of a breeding pair and a few young. I lived in the forest for about five days a week with a team of six to eight researchers, and visited the city on the weekends to download data and restock living supplies. In the forest, the team of researchers woke up every morning before sunrise to begin observing the monkeys during their morning bout of activity. We then monitored the monkeys until sunset.
The objective of my research is to construct the testosterone profiles of free-ranging adult male Aotus azarai, and compare testosterone levels during mating and non-mating seasons. My study consisted of five adult male Aotus azarai who inhabited the forests of Guaycolec Ranch. In order to analyze testosterone levels, fecal samples need to be collected. Fecal samples were collected weekly for each male monkey, once during the morning bout of activity and once during the evening bout of activity, for a total of 2 samples per male per week. A total of 70 fecal samples were collected over a seven-week period from the beginning of July through the middle of August.
Not only did I collect fecal samples for my project, but I also collected behavioral observations, and helped in the Howler Monkey Census project. In my classes such as animal behavior and animal cognition, I read multiple scholarly articles describing field research. I am a Biological Basis of Behavior major; therefore I have studied the chemical basis of many behaviors. However, this summer I was able to observe behaviors and hopefully in the future I will learn about associated chemical processes. I took a field study course, in which we studied primates in captivity, and this past semester I worked in the lab examining estrogen in the wild owl monkey population. This summer gave me the opportunity to integrate my classroom studies, lab work, and field research to understand the complete process of research. I plan to complete my senior’s honors thesis this year based on the data I collected this summer.