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  • Guest Blog: Transcribing Spider Monkeys

    Posted on February 3rd, 2016 Alex No comments

    Did you know you can use InqScribe to transcribe just about any language? Yes, even the language of spider monkeys.

    By: Sandra E. Smith Aguilar, PhD student at the Interdisciplinary Research Center for Regional Development (CIIDIR) Campus Oaxaca, of the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) in Mexico.

    My research focuses on understanding the relationship between spider monkey social structure and space-use. As part of my project, I collected hundreds of hours of behavioral data which I am currently transcribing and processing. I’m specifically studying a wild group of black handed spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) which live in the Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh protected area in Yucatan, Mexico. To conduct my research I spent 20 months living in a nearby village, going in to study the monkeys for 4-8 hours at a time with another PhD student and village experts.

    Each day, I chose one of the 22 monkeys from the group and recorded detailed accounts of its behavior, including interactions with other individuals as well as general information on grouping and movement patterns. Members of a spider monkey group are rarely found all together. Instead, individuals constantly join and leave subgroups on an hourly basis. This means that the identity of the members of any given subgroup is quite unpredictable (except for the infants and juveniles who usually stay together with their mothers). By following particular individuals, I tried to capture information on how social interactions can influence the monkey’s movement decisions and gain insight on the general principles which shape their social organization.

    Once I finished my field work, I ended up with 539 hours of behavioral records. Besides representing an exciting sample of 174 focal follows of all group members, this also meant that a long transcription process was ahead of me.

    What do you think they're saying?

    Initially, I considered using software for animal behavior research. However, the options I looked into did not allow for as many behavioral categories and extra data as I had. Given the narrative style of my recordings and the number of details I included in each entry, I needed something that allowed me to put as much information as I needed without the painful process of looking for the correct cell in a pre-designed giant spread sheet with columns for each piece of information.  At the same time, I needed to export the transcription in a format which allowed me to easily generate, manage, and format a database for further analysis. Both of these features drew me to InqScribe.

    In general, I’ve found the program is really easy to use. I’m particularly grateful for the ability to define personalized snippets and shortcuts, as well as the variety of export options which together have saved me endless hours in front of the computer.

    Thanks Sandra! We’re happy to hear InqScribe makes it easier to conduct your research. Whether you’re researching spider monkeys in the Yucatan or transcribing a simple dialogue, consider trying out InqScribe with our free 14-day trial. If you’d like to learn more, or if you have any questions about InqScribe, feel free to contact us at support@inqscribe.com.

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