E l l e n    A n d r e s e n ’ s    B i o g r a p h y

After five years of university, I felt it was time to go into the field. Having grown up in Lima, I was used to desert and ocean environments (the coast of Peru, on the Pacific Ocean, is one of the driest places on earth), and I wanted to go somewhere different. Several of my college friends had gone for a few months to Manu National Park, to work as research assistants, and they all told wonderful stories. Manu National Park is a huge protected area in southeastern Peru, and while it encompasses several kinds of ecosystems (like high altitude grassland, elfin forest, cloud forest, etc.), most of it is lowland tropical rainforest.

I wrote many letters to researchers that I knew had at some point worked in Manu, asking them if they needed an assistant for their field season that year. Luckily one researcher needed an assistant that year, and she chose me! I spent two and a half months in Manu, helping her with her work on manakins (small birds). The biological station in Manu National Park is about three days by boat, plus one day by bus, away from the closest city, and so the researchers always stay several months without going out into “civilization”. It was a wonderful experience: sleeping in a tent for over 2 months, bathing every day in a lake that had caimans and piranhas, being surrounded only by field biologists doing all kinds of interesting research! After my time in Manu, I knew for sure that I wanted to be a field biologist.

While at Manu I met another researcher, a professor at Duke University (North Carolina), and decided to go to the United States to do a Master’s. In August of 1991, I started my Master’s at Duke University’s School of the Environment. For my thesis, I went back to Manu, and this time I stayed six months, studying the diets of two species of monkeys, and how they disperse the seeds of the fruits they eat. I also started looking at the effect dung beetles can have as secondary dispersers of seeds, after they have been primarily dispersed by those two species of monkeys.

Ellen’s Interview/Journals Ellen Andresen’s Biography    1     2     3