Primate Ecology and Behavior


Mantled howler monkey, Alouatta palliata palliata.


Dr. Alain Houle
Associate Researcher – Harvard University (USA)
Professor of Science – College Jean de la Mennais (Canada)
E-mail: alain.houle

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to give the student a foundation in primate ecology, primate behaviour, field techniques and analytical tools in a tropical setting. The material covered is equivalent to a university upper level course in primate ecology. The course is divided into five distinct components: classroom lectures, classroom presentations by students (based on assigned readings), discussions and exercises in the field, one written exam, and one individual project based on data collection techniques learned in the field and in the classroom.


Night Monkey, Aotus zonalis, peeks out a daytime retreat at the ITEC field station.

There will be lectures on ecological concepts, primate ecology, primate behaviour, field techniques, behavioural sampling techniques, and analytical tools. Readings corresponding to lecture topics will be assigned from selected papers.

Required Textbooks:

  • Karen B. Strier (2010). Primate Behavioral Ecology, 4th edition. Prentice Hall
  • A set of papers derived from articles or book chapters is provided with this syllabi.

Group Field Exercises:

Students will learn the following field techniques, which will assist them in setting up their own independent field projects:

  • Constructing habitat profiles
  • Plant phenology profiles
  • GPS exercise (Garmin 12XL)
  • Behavioural observations (behavioural sampling techniques)
  • Statistics (SPSS)

Individual Research Projects:

White-faced capuchin, Cebus imitator at the ITEC field station.

With the assistance of the instructor, each student will develop and carry out their own field research project on a topic of their choice. Each topic must be approved by the instructor prior to beginning data collection. Each student will be required to write a research proposal, collect and analyse their data, write up their findings, and present their results to the class. A text about the art of publishing is provided.


All assignments must be completed before leaving the field station, so that a final course grade can be assigned. Course grades are proposed to be calculated as follows (the proportion of each section is negotiable, but an agreement must be concluded between the instructor and students before the beginning of the course):

  • Individual Research Project – 40%
  • Written Exam – 30%
  • Classroom Presentation – 20%
  • Participation – 10%

Course Schedule:

The course schedule will be determined on site as a function of student needs and preferences. It might be also weather-dependant.

Download Course Syllabus

Note: Please feel free to contact the instructor for more information.
Also there will be a lot of slogging around in swamp-forests in this course. Expect to get wet and muddy while in the field.

Last Update:29 November, 2012