Spider Monkey Research Assistant Needed

Are you interested in biology? Would you like to gain hands-on field experience in Costa Rica? Then this project might interest you!
  • Age requirement: 18+ years
  • Dates: This project starts in December of 2018 and will continue until September 2019. You can join anywhere from 2 weeks to several months.
  • Working Schedule: 5 days a week for around 6-8 hours a day
  • Language requirement: English
  • Costs: A one week experience costs $449, and add on $149 for each additional week
  • Accommodation: Host family in Puerto Jimenez
  • Food: 3 typical Costa Rican cooked meals prepared for you by the host family
  • Location: Puerto JimenezOsa Peninsula, Southern Costa Rica
  • We provide: 24/7 emergency telephone support
  • Optional: A letter of recommendation and certificate at the end of your volunteer time

The aim of this project is to restore and connect native habitat and reduce the threats to the endangered spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.

The spider monkey is both an umbrella and keystone species, therefore protecting the spider monkey will in turn protect native habitat and the thousands of species that rely upon it. To do this we will use methods from acoustics and machine learning to investigate how the presence of spider monkeys is related to forest cover, land use, hunting, other illegal activities and human activity (roads and houses). We aim to assess dietary and behavioural change across a gradient of anthropogenic threat and land use change providing further evidence regarding the sensitivity of the species to human disturbance and change.

Using this information this project will design landscape management strategies and policy guidance to reduce anthropogenic influences and increase forest cover and connectivity between three national parks in the area, protecting native habitat and the species that rely on it.


  • To assess the presence and land use of A. Geoffroyi
  • To determine the effects of human density (presence of roads and houses) and forest cover on spider monkeys.
  • To determine the distribution of illegal activities in the region and how this relates to spider monkey presence
  • To design landscape management strategies to restore and protect the Osa Peninsula through reducing anthropogenic activity and increasing connectivity.
  • To assess the dietary requirements of A. Geoffroyi and investigate whether there are dietary changes under habitat modification
  • To determine if land use change and reduced forest cover, increased human density and illegal activity leads to behavioural changes in the spider monkey.

Activities on the project include:

  • Collection and analysis of monkey fecal samples
  • Setting up and monitoring of acoustic recorders
  • Analysis of acoustic data for calls and illegal activity
  • GIS Mapping
  • Habitat monitoring
  • Behavioral data collection

What to expect?

The field work will be quite intense, we will be travelling on a daily basis around the field site (it’s quite large so we will spend up to 4 hours driving some days), but I will have a car so this will be quite pleasant, no horrible buses!

At each site we visit we will be placing audio devices around the area in a stratified sampling method across different habitats and taking some habitat measurements of the area. We will also be searching for the sleeping sites of the spider monkeys and collecting any fecal samples.

Although we are not directly looking for the monkeys themselves we will see them on a regular basis and will be looking at their communication patterns when we do see them.

Skills you can expect to gain:

You would be able to gain field skills in acoustics, habitat monitoring, GIS mapping and faecal ID and data collection. Generally you will also learn about how to set up a project like this and sampling design and I am happy to go over any other field techniques as before we decided to use acoustics we tried everything from line transects to drone work! Outside of the fieldwork we will be working on analysis of the audio and habitat data, so you would learn how we analyse acoustic data, machine learning of sound, use of ArcGIS…..

I am co-director and scientific advisor of another organisation out at the project site called the White Hawk Foundation, we are setting up various conservation projects at the moment so you would be able to assist with this if you stayed for longer than a month, this involves much more of the human aspect of conservation, so conservation education, agroforestry systems….. and the organisation also runs a small natural history museum that you could work in.

No skills in particular are needed, educational background is not important, but obviously those with an interest in the science and a willingness to learn can get a lot more out of it. I just need people that aren’t afraid of long days out in the field and working in tough conditions.

Spanish is not required on this project.

You’ll be working closely with Jenna the project supervisor. You’ll be traveling together in her vehicle.
The schedule will vary depending on daily tasks, but generally you’d be leaving in the morning to do field work, and get back in the afternoon.

A normal work week would be Monday – Friday, around 6 – 8 hours a day. You’ll have days off to enjoy what the Osa Peninsula has to offer !


Puerto Jimenez, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

To find out more about Puerto Jimenez click here.

You’ll be living in the town of Puerto Jimenez in a local host family, hand-picked and approved by GLV.

Food will be cooked by your family for you, and served  around 7am (depending on your work schedule), lunch would be served around 12:30-1pm (and also optional you can receive a packed-lunch and eat it at the project site), and dinner is usually served around 6pm.

The costs for this project are:

  • First week’s fee: $ 449
  • Every Additional Week: $ 149 (It does not matter many weeks you choose, this fee stays the same)

FEES EXPLAINED: Our organizational fee of around $249 – $299 is included in the first week’s fee and covers the “behind the scenes costs”, such as staff salaries, office space rental, transaction and bank fees, and more. Our weekly fee for additional weeks covers the costs of your host family or project accommodation and food, the local staff on your project, and a donation to help with the daily running costs of the program you will help on. The weekly fee also includes your transportation on local buses to and from your host family to the project site.

NOT INCLUDED IN THE FEE: First and last night in San Jose in a hostel, travel to and from the international airport (airport shuttles are around 30$ each way to San Jose – We can set this up for you, just ask us during sign-up), travel to the project site (usually by public buses, which are from around 10-16$ one way), national/ International flights, travel insurance, visa costs, any additional food or snacks besides the host family meals, extra-curricular activities.


Would you like to apply for this project?


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