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Volunteer Research Assistants: Primate & Predator Project in South Africa

Hiring Organization:
Durham University

Date Posted:

Position Description:
We are looking for volunteer field assistants to help with ongoing research as part of the Primate & Predator Project based within the Soutpansberg Mountains of South Africa. Our study site has an abundance of all five species of South African primate: chacma baboon (Papio ursinus), vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), samango monkey (Cercopithecus albogularis schwarzi), thick-tailed bushbaby (Otolemur crassicaudatus) and southern lesser bushbaby (Galago moholi). A major objective of our research is to examine the behavioural ecology of predator-prey interactions focussing on diurnal primates and their predators as a model system.

Chacma baboons, vervet monkeys and samango monkeys are all the focus on ongoing research at the site. However, volunteers are mainly involved with work on samangos and vervets. Volunteers will work alongside an experienced team of field biologists and may be involved in the following tasks:
1. Behavioural observations of habituated primates through full day follows and collection of standardized behavioural and demographic data from our study troops.
2. Experimental titrations of predation risk based on giving-up densities or predator detection experiments using predator models.
3. Habituation of new groups, sometimes tracking via VHF receivers to maintain contact.
4. Monitoring of primate groups via GPS collars - you may play an important role in setting and monitoring traps, tracking via VHF receivers, data download, and collar retrieval.
5. Phenological transects and vegetation plots to estimate primate food availability.
6. General data entry.
7. Volunteers may also have the opportunity to work on the predator element of the project and engage in camera trapping.

The precise activities will vary depending on our requirements at the time. Please get in touch if you have specific interests in particular techniques or aspects of our research, since not all activities will be ongoing at all times.

We are looking for volunteer research assistants with the following experience:
1. A background in biology/zoology/ecology or related field and an interest in the behaviour, ecology and conservation of primates and other mammals.
2. Be physically fit, and capable of undertaking fieldwork in a mountainous environment, in hot temperatures at certain times of year. You should be able to comfortably cover 10-15km per day (often more) over rough and often steep terrain and capable of carrying a day pack these distances while collecting data. You will often be doing this alone.
3. Capable of working well as part of a team, under the authority of field research coordinators, and be a valuable team member.
4. Reliable, responsible and motivated when it comes to following research protocols and methodologies, and an ability to work at unsociable hours when necessary.
5. Relevant experience of the project?s field techniques and of working in southern Africa is desirable but not essential.

No salary is provided, and you will need to cover your own food and accommodation costs at the research station. Accommodation costs are currently 4000 Rand a month. All research equipment will be provided. Volunteer research assistants will also be responsible for their own airfare and travel to South Africa and medical/travel insurance.

Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging):
Housing is available at the Lajuma Research Centre which is equipped with hot showers, flush toilets, a gas stove, fridge, tapped water, washing machine, solar power, firewood and electricity (220V). These are often shared rooms with other assistants. Volunteers may join the town trip to Louis Trichardt (Makhado) once a fortnight for shopping, visits to an internet café, landline phone calls, etc. Accommodation fees are paid directly to Lajuma and not the Primate and Predator Project.

Term of Appointment:
Positions start from 17 April 2017. We are looking for volunteers who are able to commit for a minimum of 6 months, although positions may be held for up to 12 months or longer, depending on availability. Priority will be given to those who are able to stay longer. Volunteers able to contribute for a minimum of 6 months may take on additional responsibilities, including data analysis and publication where appropriate.

Application Deadline:
TTo apply, please submit a CV and covering letter to the project email address ( outlining your suitability for the role, relevant experience and duration and timing of your availability. Please also include contact details for two referees. The deadline for applications is the 28 February 2017.

Project related websites:
Primate & Predator Project Facebook page
Primate and Predator Project blog
You can find us on Twitter
Lajuma Research Centre

Contact Information:
Prof Russell Hill
Department of Anthropology, Durham University, Science Site
Durham DH1 3LE
United Kingdom


E-mail Address:

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