Advice to Prospective Students


I thoroughly enjoy working with students – both undergraduate and graduate – and seek to build and maintain an active and happy lab. If you are interested in working with me, please take note of my comments below.

UNDERGRADUATES: If you are interested in working with me to get some research experience, please email (joanna.lambert at or drop by my office during my scheduled office hours.  Although I do not have paid research assistant positions at this time, there may be opportunities to work with me in a volunteer capacity or to earn Independent Study or Honors Thesis credit hours.  My office is on the main University of Colorado – Boulder campus – in the Hale Science Building, room 149.

Coursework and preparation
: It is essential that you have a strong background in ecology and evolution. I do not necessarily require a B.S. in biology per se, but I look very favorably upon applicants who have at least a double major (e.g., Biology & Anthropology), a degree in Environmental Sciences, Ecology & Evolution, or a minor in biology, zoology, ecology, etc. If you have an anthropology degree without the complement of a biology minor/major, then I encourage you to include take as many ecology and evolution courses as possible.

Background & field experience: Having training and background in evolutionary theory is a must, as is having lab skills and field experience in animal ecology. I investigate wild species, and thus I need to know that any incoming  student has determined for her/hisself that fieldwork is something that they enjoy. There is only one way to determine this: by going to the field and trying it out for yourself. Its one thing to read about animal ecology and conservation, but another thing altogether to deal with the exigencies of living in a field setting, where it is typically uncomfortable and where your study subjects may take hours – even days – to find. My preference is for students to have had extensive field experience and also to have had the experience of observing animal behavior in natural settings.

I have a couple of suggestions if you are seeking fieldwork experience. It can be difficult to convince a researcher that you would make a good field assistant unless you already have field experience in the first place. This seems somewhat of a catch-22. The good news is that there are several excellent tropical biology field schools that can provide you with training in the field. I suggest that you surf the web and learn more about, for example:

The Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) Field Courses
• Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute – STRI Field Courses
• Earthwatch
• Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (ITEC) Field Courses
• Maderas Rainforest Conservancy (Ometepe & La Suerte) Field Courses
• Sepela Field Programs
• Rutgers University: Primates, Ecology & Conservation in Indonesia

All of these organizations and institutes offer field courses of varying description, focus, and length and can provide you with rigorous training in field methods. Once you have some field methods and experience under your belt you are in an excellent position for competing for coveted tropical field research assistant positions or getting into a graduate program (such as the one at University of Colorado).

Also, for primate-related field opportunities, check out the “Jobs” link on the Primate Information Network, an NIH-funded www-site curated by the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Other considerations: Please make sure that I am actually someone you want to work with! By this, I mean please consider the research I have done and will continue to do. The best way of doing this is to take a look at my publications. Once you have done this, AND you have decided that you are interested in this kind of research, I encourage you to then get in touch with me – email works great. Introduce yourself, and give me a strong sense of what your goals are in contacting me and why you are considering applying to the University of Colorado – Boulder.

Once the application time arrives, please take care in the writing of your graduate statement of intent. I read these very closely. They should not be too broad (e.g., I love Anthropology! I want to study human fossils, primate behavior and forensics) or too narrow (e.g., I only want to work with chimpanzees). A well-written statement spends only a short time explaining past experiences, and instead indicates potential future research areas. Also, once again, it is critical that you indicate why you chose University of Colorado and why you chose me as someone you want to work with.

If you can manage to visit campus sometime just before or after applying, I strongly advise that you do so! It makes a huge difference if the student applicant is a known quantity. Plus, you will get a good sense of whether the program feels like a good fit for you.

Finally: Check out these very useful www-sites:

• The Student Conservation Association – for a list of conservation-related internships – for an annotated guide to looking for  internship and research positions, compiled by Dr. Tom Langen, Associate Professor, Departments of Biology & Psychology, Clarkson University

Good Luck!