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Volunteer Field Assistant for Filoha Hamadryas Project in Awash National Park, Ethiopia

Hiring Organization:
Dept of Anthropology, Queens College - CUNY

Date Posted:

Position Description:
We are seeking volunteer field assistants for a study of hamadryas baboons at the Filoha study site in the lowlands of central Ethiopia (see: Hamadryas baboons are highly social and are characterized by a unique multi-level social system, and Filoha is the only currently operational long-term field site where members of this species are individually identified and habituated. At Filoha, we are studying various aspects of hamadryas baboon social behavior, ecology, genetics, and physiology. See footage of Filoha hamadryas at the beginning the primates episode of the recent BBC documentary Life (

Volunteer positions at Filoha can be short-term or long term, with individual time frames negotiated separately, though we prefer a minimum commitment of six months. Responsibilities include all-day follows of baboons (5-15 km/day), daily census of the study group, collection of behavioral and reproductive data, and collection and field laboratory processing of fecal samples for genetic and hormone analyses. Volunteers would be accompanied in the field by our current field manager, our local field assistant, and/or a local park scout.

The Filoha field site is based at the most northerly outpost of the Awash National Park. The area is hot and dry (averaging 94 degrees F) for most of the year. Living conditions at Filoha are simple and rugged: we sleep in tents, our cook prepares food on a kerosene stove, and we bathe in the local hot springs or carry water from the springs to our shower stall. The area experiences occasional ethnic conflict, during which baboon follows are suspended. Prior to departure, volunteers would need to arrange for their Ethiopian visa, vaccines, any anti-malarial prophylaxis desired, and travel insurance that includes medical evacuation. For more details and photos of the field site, see:

Depending on length of stay, amount and quality of data collected, and intellectual contributions to the project, a field assistant position at Filoha could potentially lead to co-authorship on a publication.

A position at Filoha provides excellent field experience for those interested in pursuing graduate studies in anthropology or biology. Successful volunteers learn a variety of field techniques in behavioral biology and hormone/genetic sample processing. Filoha is a challenging field site and thus a successful stint at Filoha bodes well for success in graduate programs and future field research elsewhere.

Volunteers need to be physically fit (the baboons often travel quickly over rough terrain) and able to collect data under the conditions described above. Due to the remoteness of the field site and the lack of communication infrastructure, volunteers must also be of sound physical and mental health without any pre-existing conditions that might require immediate medical attention. Volunteers must also be able and willing to maintain professional relationships with people of varied cultural backgrounds and cope with disruptions to fieldwork due to possible ethnic conflict and other factors out of one's control.

The ideal candidate for this position must have the following characteristics:
* Ability to withstand - and enjoy! - rugged and remote field conditions.
* International field experience that includes living or traveling in a developing country.
* Ability to adapt to the local cultural milieu and represent the project in a professional manner.
* Excellent physical and mental health.
* A strong interest in animal behavior and conservation!

Bonus characteristics:
* Coursework in (and knowledge of) primate behavior and ecology.
* Experience collecting observational data on behavioral biology or ecology.
* Experience with laboratory research in the biological sciences.
* A desire to learn new languages for maximum ease of communication.
* Emergency medical training, construction and/or car maintenance skills, and the ability to a drive manual transmission vehicle.

In addition to the above, the successful applicant will be flexible, adaptable, patient, emotionally mature, responsible, self-reliant, energetic, and highly motivated. Working in Ethiopia can be highly rewarding, with its rich evolutionary history, beautiful landscape, and varied mix of cultures. If this sounds exciting to you and you feel you possess the characteristics listed in this posting, we encourage you to apply!

This is a volunteer position, so unfortunately no salary is available. Volunteers would need to cover their own travel expenses and pay a US$1000 research fee to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (that could possibly be reimbursed by the project after successful completion of six months of fieldwork, pending project grant funding). In addition, each person should allow $100-200 per month for living expenses while in Ethiopia.

Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging):
Pending availability of project funds, certain expenses within Ethiopia may be reimbursed after successful completion of six months of fieldwork.

Term of Appointment:
We are currently looking for volunteers to start as soon as possible. We require a minimum 6-month commitment and prefer longer, but individual time frames are negotiated separately.

Application Deadline:
Applications will be considered as they are received.

Please submit a letter of application that includes a description of your background and interests, experience, and any questions you may have. Your application should include a current CV and the names and contact information for at least two references, preferably three. Please send your correspondence via email to Dr. Larissa Swedell at

Contact Information:
Dr. Larissa Swedell
Anthropology, Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, NY 11367-1597

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