Monkey Research

Imagine being faced with two challenges. In a foreign country, there is a language barrier between you and the people. Secondly, your elderly father is sick while you are over 2800 miles away.

Rose Hores, 28, the first FAU student to study Howler and Capuchin monkeys in Ecuador, had to face those challenges. She graduated on May 5, 2006 with a graduating class of about 2,000 students. Hores received a Master of Arts in Anthropology.

“Not being bilingual in Spanish was definitely very trying,” Hores said. “Granted I learned a lot of Spanish as I was forced into the situation, but not being able to fully communicate my thoughts and emotions was definitely difficult.”

Hores said it was also hard knowing that her father was suffering from a heart attack back in the states while she was so far away.

“They were trying to contact me for days but because I was in the forest with no communication with the outside world, the news was delayed,” she said. “I took an emergency flight back to the states to be with my father.”

Hores was debating on not returning to Ecuador. Her father was doing better, and encouraged her to finish her study, so after two weeks she decided to return. Her study was conducted between May and August of 2005, and was partially supported by a Morrow Research Fellowship she received through FAU’s Department of Anthropology. Hores herself funded the remainder two-thirds of the cost.

“I conducted a census of two primate populations in the mountainous tropical forests of coastal Ecuador (El Pital). I mapped the location of 198 howler monkeys in 15 groups and 20 capuchins in three groups,” she said. “I also collected behavioral data. My data suggested that a previously undocumented type of capuchin may inhabit the particular region of Ecuador.” Besides how habitation was affected, Hores also observed how close the monkeys were to human interaction. She said she lived alone in Rio Blanco and would hike miles into the forests with local men, or “guides”, trying to observe and document the number of monkeys present.

While in the forest, she said she slept in a tent, cooked over fires, and picked fruits for snacks. “Once I decided to focus on biological anthropology, I knew I wanted to specialize in primates,” she said. “Valentina Martinez, from FAU’s department of anthropology actually proposed the idea of studying the monkeys in coastal Ecuador.”

Hores said one of the most rewarding things that came out of this experience was being able to tell her father about it.

“He was an amazing man,” she said. “He promised me he would be there waiting for me to return from the forest after his heart attack and he was. I ventured into a bigger town, about 35 minutes away, every weekend to use the phone and call my parents. He always was so excited to hear about the monkeys.”

Although Hores was able to tell her father all about her adventure in Ecuador, he only got to see her graduate in spirit. Her father died on October 6, 2005 at the age of 86.

“He just always wanted me to succeed and told me to do whatever it takes to make me happy,” she said. “He was proud of me for having the drive to do field work.”

In the future, Hores would like to further her education, and get a PhD. in anthropology. She would like to become a university professor.

“I really want to teach field courses as well, and would love to direct a field school in primatology one day,” she said.