November 13, 2011

Monkey Tales

I have been woefully remiss in updating my blog! So now, for your monkey pleasure, here is some recent drama from Pelon group, with whom I have spent most of this month.

Love: There's a female named Brava who has had an epic romance with Jorge for years (he's subordinate to the alpha male Oden, who is supposed to get all the matings as an alpha. Reproductive skew is about 95% in capuchins). A couple days ago, Brava and Jorge disappeared for the whole morning! The whole group spazzed out when they showed up again. They spent the rest of the day grooming each other (and males hardly ever groom females), and Brava's son Bedlam was always near them. It was so freaking adorable. Except when there was stepdad-stepson tension, and Jorge threatened Bedlam. Whom would Brava choose??? Apparently she is conflicted, because she would switch back and forth between supporting her lover and her son. Confusing for everyone involved.

War: Yesterday I was with Pelon group when they had a triple intergroup! They ran into both Cupi's and Abby's groups and spazzed out. They sprinted back through a patch of bamboo and I lost the group. Then I heard them intergrouping again in the middle of the impenetrable bamboo area. Teresa, the other researcher I was with, had been with the fighting males but ran into Amiens, an ANCIENT female from the group. Amiens is basically senile and deaf at this point. Teresa stayed with Amiens for 2 hours, as she got more and more lost. She made nonstop lost calls (horrible screechy brays) and ran around in circles. Eventually Teresa dropped her to help me search for the rest of Pelon group. I found them about 3 hours later after searching through the jungle. We were kind of nervous about Amiens, because she's so old and we left her about 2 km away from where I found Pelon. At around 4:30 we start hearing distant lost calls. They got closer and closer, until Amiens finally appears! She immediately starts eyeball poking with her buddy Tamora, the second oldest female in the group. Tamora and Amiens sit with blissed out expressions, fingers in eyes, for about 5 minutes. Old lady love.

October 19, 2011



October 13, 2011


Goal 1: I passed all of my speed tests! I am now considered completely competent to take data in the field, which makes me a true monero! I am obviously still learning and in training for other things, but this makes it so that my data counts. I am part of science!

Goal 2: I have passed 2 more monkey groups! Newman's and Rafiki's groups are now totally recognizable to me. This means I can correctly identify every single monkey in either of those groups :)

Now I just need to pass one more group and I will have accomplished all of my month's goals.

Future Goal: Have the best vacation ever! I'm going to a remote island off the Caribbean side of Nicaragua for scuba diving. It's a place called Little Corn Island and it's supposed to be the best value diving in Central America. I'm going with 3 other moneros- Teresa, Amy, and Chelsea- for this end of the month vacation. I can't wait.

October 1, 2011


It's a new month! And I am on my (newly working again) internet to give a tiny taste of the new things in my life. First, I passed my speed typing test so I can start the month one step closer to being a real researcher! Basically, I can type recordings of old monkey follows on my handheld computer very quickly whilst sitting in a comfy chair at home, and now I need to prove that I can write down everything the spotter says during a follow while I'm in the field chasing after our monkey. More challenging but my goal is to pass this next stage by the end of October, which would make me into a full-fledged monero, except for recognizing all the vocalizations (which can take around 6 months). My other goal is to pass 3 more monkey groups this month!

Another new thing in my life is my new room! It's my old room, but without my roommate! Not that I don't love Chelsea, but it's great to have my own space. So I started decorating and completely revamped it.

Here is my shelf space, complete with some pictures (that I'll rotate out as the humidity destroys them)

I've put up a map of Costa Rica on the door to my bathroom, and I'm marking all of the places I visit.

My new bed! This is my old mattress with a new foam pad underneath and without mosquito netting. It was too annoying to keep and I don't think it saved me all that many bug bites. I also constructed a bedside table out of 2 cinderblocks and an old cabinet front. Recycling at its finest :)

And now! The BEST part of my new room! The lounge! I took another old mattress foam pad and folded it 3-ways to create a comfy chair, covered it with this pretty blue sheet from storage, and draped a lovely yellow storage sheet behind it to soften the room.

September 21, 2011


We found a scorpion in the house today! Specifically, hanging out on our stove.

I was skyping with my parents when my roommate Chelsea called me into the kitchen to check it out. We took some pictures and then began our attempts to kill it. Check out this bad boy (it's HUGE!)

Neither one of us wants to get too close because we're afraid of getting stung. We'll get close with an item for smashing and then shriek like little girls when the scorpion threatens. We trap it halfway under the kettle and pause for more pictures.

Big mistake. It frees itself! Now not only is there a scary scorpion around- there is an angry, scary scorpion around. We try to smash it but it races behind the oven. With only its tail and stinger visible, we can't hope to kill it. But I decide to grab a huge knife in an attempt to chop off the dangerous bit of this ravenous beast. I wield my knife like a pro (i.e. frightened 7 year old) and barely knick the tip of the tail as the scorpion rushes farther back behind the stove. Alas.

Teresa and I decided to name the scorpion MC, short for The Scorpion of Monte Cristo. I know that MC is lurking behind the stove, just itching to avenge itself on me at 3 in the morning as I stumble around in the kitchen. Waiting. Lurking. Brooding on its wrongs. Planning a massive sneak attack that will leave me with a painful welt for days. Curse you, MC!

Anyway, that was the most exciting bit of my day today. Stuff with the monkeys continues in much the same way as previous posts. I saw an awesome interaction between an alpha and beta male the other day. It started off as a slow and gentle play wrestle, then the alpha started play biting the beta's head. The beta starts to let out these little half yelps like he's saying, "Ow! This is fun but ow! Also I don't want to piss you off, but ow!"

Finally, beta has enough and runs away. But only for a few feet before he turns and starts sex dancing with alpha (capuchins make duck faces and walk back and forth quickly on a branch, pirouetting, whilst courting). They dance for about a minute, making ridiculous sex squeaks and grunts, before alpha mounts beta. Then all of a sudden they start threatening someone out of view! Mood killer. They freak out a bit and start screaming at the other monkey. Beta runs away.

And we got all of it on dictaphone (recorder), so the data from that will be top notch.

September 13, 2011

Best monkey day yet!

Today was so awesome!!!!!!!!!! I had such an amazing time. Basically everything about it was perfect. I was with Pelon group, which I had seen about 3 weeks ago and not since, so I was pretty much seeing the group for the first time.

The day started off with a river crossing. Which I totally beasted as I hopped from rock to rock and didn't get my feet wet at all! We had an eeriely lovely predawn hike through misty forests and pastures with an almost full moon illuminating everything. It only rained a tiny, tiny bit which cooled down the forest. There were barely any bugs. Sunset was glorious.

Once the monkeys woke up, they behaved themselves all day. They were mainly close to the ground, didn't move too fast, and stayed away from nasty parts of the forest. They played on the ground and did adorable things. They got into big, interesting fights. I saw two very browy, ancient females eyeball-poking each other. I saw two monkeys having sex and the female didn't bother to stop chewing on a stick the whole time. I saw a lovers' tiff between Jorge and Brava. Pitufo, the one-handed male, was his normal badass self- running around, "stumping" things, threatening everyone.

I also had a great day for monkey ids. In order to "pass" a monkey, you have to correctly identify them 5 times, separated by a reasonable amount of time. If you make a mistake, you go back to 0 for that monkey. So far, I've been stoked to pass 6 monkeys in a day when I already had some points for them. Today, starting from 0, I passed 12 monkeys and got a total of 73 id points! It was crazy! It was just "bam! there's a monkey I know" over and over again.

Happy times.

September 10, 2011

A day in my non-monkey life...

A few snapshots of my life outside of the jungle... The first set of pictures takes you on a trip through my town as I run errands.

First, I head down this street to get to Norma's Shop to pick up basic groceries (for fancy things like meat I have to go to SuperCompro). Norma's is a small store run by a woman that Susan (the director of the field site) has grown close to over the years. We have a running tab there and forage behind the counters for whatever we need. I didn't take a picture of the shop itself because I didn't want to feel like a silly gringa. And no, I didn't mess with the colors in this picture- those houses are pink.

Next, on my way to the post office I pass this store. I haven't explored inside yet, but I'm loving the door.

And for those of you who thought you couldn't get quality poutine in Costa Rica... Think again! My town of Bagaces with its 15 streets has Comida Canada! I bet their poutine is better than Montreal's.

And of course, no trip to the post office would be complete without Rawley, the house dog. He follows us everywhere, regardless of how hard we try to lock him inside. Barb wire fences are no obstacle when his moneros are running errands! (Seriously. He crawls through our barb wire fence so that he can walk with us). He's pretty well behaved while you're walking but is impossible to keep out of the stores.


And now here are a couple pictures from my recent trip to Liberia, the main city in this region.

This is a guanacaste tree. And it is awesome.

These are statues outside of an old fort. And they are awesome.


Finally, I leave you with something I see every night. My bootleg mosquito net, repaired with bright purple duct tape.