During the summer of 2015 I was a staff member of the awesome mammal team on the Mexican research site from Operation Wallacea (Opwall). Their terrestrial research site is based in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, which is a huge protected area with a beautiful Maya ruin somewhere 60 km in the reserve. During this project we took students into the field to get them familiar with scientific research and/or just to have this ‘jungle experience’.
More info about the project on http://opwall.com/undergrad-research-assistants/locations/mexico/ .
Besides mammals there was also research on bats, birds, reptiles & amphibians, habitat, butterflies, monkeys, … every week we had a school group coming over the experience all these different facets of field biology.
The day of the mammal team started in the morning with searching for some tracks on 2 km transects. Sometimes these tracks were easily visible, but often you had to use different clues. These clues could vary from a twisted leave to scratch marks. We found mostly tracks of brocket deer and peccaries, but also some of the predators like jaguar, puma and ocelot.
During the afternoon session we tend to get the students familiar with an other non-invasive tool to study animals, camera traps. Although with the students we mostly just analysed pictures with the software Timelapse.
A second part of our duty was to put together a road kill study. the government wanted to widen the road in order to get the tourists faster to the ruins… basically we don’t want that to happen because it will interfere with the wildlife and might cut of some species from other parts of there home range. We had a couple of camera traps and in combination with measuring car speed and doing some road kill transects we gathered some great data and the Mexican government decided not to widen the road …
Camp was very basic: water came in with a truck, electricity from solar power and a generator, sleeping in tents or hammocks, … A local family provided us with food every day. It was pretty good, although it contained a lot of beans and rice.