Hoots and Howls

The REAL program allowed students from the College of Arts and Sciences to venture into the Costa Rican rainforest in search of the famous howler monkey.

She spent ten weeks in the suspended silence of the Costa Rican rainforest. As she sat on the damp forest floor, the deafening calm all around her was continuously interrupted by the incoherent chatter, warbles and calls of noisy, tree-dwelling primates. But that racket is exactly what drew Lammers-Lewis to Costa Rica in the first place.

There, Eleanore Lammers-Lewis ’20, an anthropology major at Santa Clara University, was in the company of mantled howler monkeys, a primate whose notoriously loud calls are the subject of much investigation. Lammers-Lewis became more interested in the less novel traits of these monkeys.

She then spent her time in Costa Rica eavesdropping on their wide array of vocalizations. She recorded and analyzed their chit-chat, eventually coming to the realization that their encyclopedic lexicon comes as a result of their sedentary behavior. “They call out expressions that you or I would express with our body language,” she said. In the way that you and I may nod our heads or wave goodbye to communicate something, these monkeys have an intricate and varied vocal lexicon to do the same.

The work Lammers-Lewis did was important. Her time was well-used as she delved deeply into an area of study so often ignored by researchers like herself. By uncovering the mystery of these monkeys’ lesser-known behaviors, she pioneers a new field of investigation.

Lammers-Lewis’ work, and a myriad of other student experience, were made possible by a new program on Santa Clara’s campus called the REAL Program. The program provides Santa Clara students with substantial stipends for 10-week research and internship opportunities.

post-image Illustration of Eleanore Lammers-Lewis by Anita Kunz
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