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Volunteer Research Assistant: Landscape genetics of wild black howler monkeys in Chiapas, Mexico

Hiring Organization:
Doctoral Candidate, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Date Posted:
2017-10-20

Position Description:
Seeking a volunteer field assistant to assist with data collection on the effects of habitat fragmentation on dispersal and gene flow in black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in the fragmented landscape around Palenque National Park, Chiapas, Mexico. This project will unfold in collaboration with Drs. Alejandro Estrada and Sarie Van Belle of the Institute of Biology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

The assistant will be responsible for contributing to the following:
* Conducting surveys of forest fragments and collecting data on group size and demography
* Tracking group and individual movements with GPS
* Collecting fecal samples for later DNA analysis
* Conducting habitat quality surveys (laying transects, marking trees, measuring tree diameter, and tree height with a laser rangefinder, etc.)
* Collecting behavioral data (feeding, aggression, mating, and proximity)
* Regular data entry and quality control

The assistant will always work with a partner, either with the PI or another field assistant on the team. A commitment of 5-6 months is required. The work is physically demanding, with long days (~10 hours, 4 days a week) in often extreme heat and humidity and/or rain, with a lot of walking, occasionally over steep and very muddy terrain. The assistant must be physically fit and able to deal (both physically and mentally) with the heat as well as with frequent encounters with mosquitoes and various other insects, as well as the occasional snake. The 5th work day is devoted to reviewing data collected during the week.

The field site is located minutes away from the town of Palenque, with easy access to a supermarket, restaurants, laundry, medical services and pharmacies, etc. The field site is located in a beautiful area, minutes away from the famous Mayan archaeological site of Palenque and with numerous options for day trips to waterfalls, other Mayan sites, and national parks. The assistant will live in a house with electricity, internet, hot showers, a kitchen, and 2 bedrooms, which will be shared with other assistants working on research being conducted on the howler monkey population in Palenque National Park under the supervision of Drs. Estrada and Van Belle. In addition to weekends off, the assistant will have additional vacation time during organized project breaks.

Qualifications/Experience:
1. At least 22 years of age
2. SOME KNOWLEDGE of Spanish - a must. FLUENT in both English and Spanish - a huge plus!
3. Bachelor's degree in ecology, zoology, primatology, biology, animal behavior, OR considerable previous experience with this type of fieldwork. Any prior experience with wildlife biology fieldwork is a plus, as is experience living or traveling in Central or South America
4. The ability to contribute to the project both in data collection and data entry, and experience with common data entry programs (mainly Excel)
5. Mature, reliable, trustworthy, flexible and patient individual, capable of working independently as well as part of a team, with the ability to both follow strict protocols and instructions and to make independent decisions when necessary
6. In good physical and mental health and comfortable with spending an extended period of time away from family and friends while engaging in challenging physical work
7. Capable of amicably sharing a living space with others and maintaining reasonable standards of cleanliness
8. Excited about primates and wildlife in general, passionate about conservation, and highly motivated to gain valuable experience in fieldwork that includes a variety of data collection methods
9. Ability to interact respectfully with local landowners, the community in general, and local researchers collaborating on this project, and to represent the project in a professional, positive manner.
10. Able to commit for at least 5 months

Salary/funding:
This is a volunteer position, so no salary is available.

Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging):
The cost of accommodation and local travel expenses (i.e. daily travel to and from the forest fragments) while working will be covered by the PI, and all specialized equipment will also be provided by the PI (e.g. GPS, snake guards, sample collection kits, etc.).

Volunteers would need to cover their own travel expenses to and from Palenque (flight + bus or cab to/from the airport) as well as the costs of medical insurance, vaccinations, visa, basic field gear (e.g. appropriate clothing including rubber boots, poncho/raincoat and hat, digital watch with a lap timer, field backpack; if you already own high-quality binoculars this is a plus!), and living expenses (~150-200 USD/month).

Term of Appointment:
A minimum commitment of 5 months. Start date: January 2018.

Application Deadline:
Dec. 15th 2017

Comments:
Please submit the following via email: (1) a letter of interest, describing your background, experience, and qualifications, and indicate why you are interested in this position specifically; (2) a CV including relevant academic and research experience; (3) contact information for 3 references that can speak to your abilities, research experience, and suitability for this project.

Contact Information:
Keren Klass
19 Russell St.
Toronto, ON M5S 2S2
Canada

Telephone Number:
+52-916-112-0090

E-mail Address:
keren.klass@mail.utoronto.ca

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Questions about a specific job listing should be directed to the contact person listed for that job. Questions and comments about using the Primate-Jobs web site can be directed to Joe Kemnitz at kemnitz@primate.wisc.edu.