Research Priorities

Below is a list of research subjects we consider to be of special interest, given the particularities of this ecosystem and project area. We also welcome studies that are not included on this list.

Ongoing Research Priorities
  • Ecuadorian Capuchin and Mantled Howler Monkey Demography and Behavioral Study:

    We are collecting observational data on the demography, range, feeding habits, and animal behavior of the JCR’s Ecuadorian capuchin (Cebus albifrons ssp. aequatorialis) and mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata) populations. Demography is the study of abundance, gender, and age, to show the changing structure of a population. Ranging refers to size of area and specific locations inhabited by the monkeys in the reserve. Observing feeding habits and animal behavior may provide insight into the ecology of each species, allowing us to improve their conservation.

  • Avian Diversity and Nesting Ecology:

    The Jama-Coaque Reserve makes up a large part of Important Bird Area (IBA) EC010, which has the third greatest number of A1 (Threatened) species in all 107 IBA’s in Ecuador. To date IBA EC010 has 260 species of bird recorded, with a majority of those species being found in the Jama-Coaque Reserve and neighboring reserve Bosque Seco Lalo Loor. With a near comprehensive species list already compiled for the Jama-Coaque Reserve, our current focus is the natural history and nesting ecology of native bird species. Many of the species found within the reserve have very little known about their natural history, such as the number of eggs they lay, the number of days before fledging, details of parental care, and food sources. Our studies will utilize diurnal and nocturnal hikes in search for nests, as well as digital camcorders at nesting sites to record nesting behaviors.

  • Herpetofauna Abundance, Distribution, and Diversity:

    Surveys of the amphibians and reptiles of the Jama-Coaque Reserve began in 2009 by partner organization The Biodiversity Group. These baseline studies have discovered 28 species of amphibians and 47 species of reptiles within the reserve, not including a number of species not yet described by science. By conducting ongoing year-round population surveys using Visual Encounter Surveys and distance-based sampling we can track long term trends in populations and determine factors that may be responsible for the observed change (e.g. environmental, climatic, anthropogenic). Current studies will focus on surveying the cloud forests located on the high peaks within the reserve; these peaks represent islands of biodiversity with high rates of endemism where a number of undiscovered and new species reside.

  • Camera Traps for the Study of Mammalian Diversity, Density, and Home Range:

    As human threats continue to impact natural habitats, there is an increasing need to regularly monitor the trends in small, medium, and large vertebrate populations. Camera traps are used as an efficient method to ensure permanent sampling and to work in difficult to access areas. In the Jama-Coaque Reserve we have been running a camera trap study since 2009 in order to inventory the vertebrate species inhabiting the reserve. To date we have cataloged 20 species of mammal within the reserve, including 6 species of feline (e.g. Ocelot, Margay, Jaguarundi), 2 species of monkey (Mantled howler monkey, White-fronted capuchin monkey), and a variety of ground-dwelling ungulates and rodents (e.g. Red Broket Deer, Spotted Paca, Western Agouti). Ongoing studies focus on the  home range and density of feline populations using paired camera traps in the Jama-Coaque Reserve and Bosque Seco Lalo Loor.

Future/Desired Research Priorities
  • Forest successional processes relative to differing degrees of human intervention and in different forest types
  • Tree/plant pathogens in the forest and in the agroforestry demonstration site
  • Fog-foliage interaction and annual precipitation from fog drip (i.e., horizontal precipitation) in the cloud forest, including its relation to atmospheric conditions, climate change, and its effect on stream flow
  • Measuring the impact of regional and global climate change on the vegetation and micro-climates of the Pacific Equatorial Mountains, including a long-term study measuring changes in the elevation that marks the threshold between moist forest and cloud forest (hypothesis: the current threshold of 550 masl will climb higher up the mountain, threatening peak-dwelling species with extirpation or extinction)
  • Inventories of native species with special emphasis on flora and invertebrate diversity.
  • Integrated pest management techniques for leaf cutter ants, the invasive giant African snail, and other insects considered damaging to coastal Ecuadorian agriculture