Ernest Minnema's Research Page

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Welcome to my page!

As an enthusiastic tree climber with a love for tropical biodiversity – why not combine the two in one of the most extensive arboreal camera trapping projects in Central America?

The objective of my research is to describe the spatial and temporal distribution of mammal communities by determining occupancy and activity patterns of a variety of mammal species on the UGA Costa Rica campus. A complete picture of spatial distribution is both horizontal and vertical and therefore the arboreal camera trapping in this project is essential to keep account for the vertical stratification encountered.

Our knowledge of the majority of Neotropical mammals is lacking compared to that of other taxonomic groups such as birds. This is as a result of the fact that many mammalian species are simply more difficult to survey than their avian counterparts. Many tropical mammals are elusive or nocturnal, making them particularly difficult to encounter. Including subjects such as kinkajous and monkeys into a research study, species that can be found well over 25 m above the ground in the canopy, creates an added challenge during the day, and a near impossible feat at night.

White-Nosed Coati after the rain (16m height)

White-Nosed Coati after the rain (16m height)

Tayra - Eira barbara taking a break (7.5m height)

Tayra - Eira barbara taking a break (7.5m height)

There have been several studies of mammals throughout the tropical forests of Costa Rica, including the Monteverde area which is one of the most ecologically studied regions in the country. However, there has been little work on the ecology, distribution, abundance and altitudinal and biogeographic zonification of the majority of medium to large-sized mammals. In order to assess the effectiveness of protected area management to conserve and support these species over time, robust data on the diversity and abundance of wildlife are important to assess the status of populations in our region. As many studies are unable to accurately incorporate patterns of abundance and distribution of arboreal mammals into their assessment, they leave out vitally important information necessary to comprehensively evaluate mammalian communities in their entirety. This study will therefore be able to fill this critical knowledge gap.

By focusing on the vertical stratification in the forest, we will be able to distinguish between obligate and facultative canopy users and therefore determine importance of canopy connection for the conservation of different species. In addition, the project will generate baseline data on the mammalian communities in the area, and interspecific relationships between mammal species. This will contribute valuable information that can be used to monitor population trends of these species into the future.

Up to date, 22 mammal species have been identified in total, excluding species unidentifiable from camera trap footage alone. Of these 22 species, 20 are within the medium to large-sized mammal target range. Patterns of both spatial and temporal partitioning are already starting to show in the data. This is very likely to result in a change of our perspective on canopy use by arboreal mammals.

Olingo - Bassaricyon gabbii with young (22.5m height)

Olingo - Bassaricyon gabbii with young (22.5m height)

Northern Tamandua - Tamandua mexicana with young (ground level)

Northern Tamandua - Tamandua mexicana with young (ground level)

This project is completely self-funded and therefore I am very grateful for the opportunity to use the platform provided by the UGA Costa Rica Campus.

To catch up on updates of the project follow my blog and youtube channel. If you wish to contribute to the projects continued success into the future, please visit my funding page or contact me directly (see below).



Martha Garro Cruz, co-investigator, University of Georgia Costa Rica.

José J. Montero Ramírez, advisor, University of Georgia Costa Rica.

Staff members and volunteers of the University of Georgia Costa Rica.




Contact information:

Ernest Minnema

University of Georgia Costa Rica Campus

Independent Researcher & Resident Naturalist

San Luis de Monteverde


P: (506) 2645-7368 ext. 104

C: (506) 8620-3244