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ATTENTION: This job expired Dec. 20, 2017 and is no longer linked from the job list. If you are the job poster and would like to renew the listing, please access it through "My Job Listings" (available when logged in only).

Research Assistant for Howler Health, Behaviour, and Gut Microbiome Project, Costa Rica

Hiring Organization:
University of Calgary

Date Posted:

Position Description:
We are seeking 1 field assistant for a project on the behavior, ecology, and gut microbiome of mantled howler monkeys at Sector Santa Rosa, Área de Conservacíon Guanacaste in Costa Rica. The project will be conducted by University of Calgary doctoral student Shasta Webb (project PI) and supervised by Dr. Amanda Melin. We are seeking applicants who can make a 5-month commitment.

The mantled howlers (Alouatta palliata) of Santa Rosa have been studied intermittently for several years. We are planning to expand research from monitoring 2 groups, to monitoring 4 groups (~30 monkeys total). Field assistants will assist in locating monkey groups based on known ranging territory, following monkey groups, and collecting behavioral, biological, and ranging data. Field assistants will be responsible for learning and recognizing individual animals, learning the relevant ethograms for behavioral data collection, and proper fecal sample collection and processing techniques. Field assistants will be trained by the project PI (Shasta Webb), a process that takes ~3 intensive weeks. Learning proper data collection techniques requires self-motivation and perseverance.

Field assistants must be able to work long shifts in the field (approximately 8-10 hours), often getting up before dawn or coming back to the field station after dusk. Assistants will be in the forest up to 4 full days and 2 partial days, for a total of 6 days per week. Work days typically involve intense hiking in a hot and humid climate. Assistants will have 1 to 2 days out of the forest per week. Assistants will also have 2-3 consecutive days off at the end of each month.

The field site is remote and assistants will live in the project field house. The field house is equipped with a full kitchen, bathrooms with showers, and a laundry machine. Applicants must be clean and tidy, responsible, respectful, and have experience living communally with housemates. There are snakes and other wildlife (which makes it fun and interesting!) that you must be able to cope with, and hopefully enjoy. All researchers and assistants wear snake guards in the forest to prevent snake bites, though in the more than 30-year history of the project no one has been bitten. Wasps, large spiders, scorpions, chiggers, and ticks are all common and non-lethal, but stings and bites will happen. Though medical care is available ~60 minutes by car from the entrance to the field site, researchers are often multiple hours from the nearest roadway, and will not have immediate access to a vehicle. For this reason, applicants who have a history of anaphylactic responses to wasp/bee stings must have undergone treatment (e.g. immunotherapy) and allergies must be at a manageable level.

1) High level of focus is required. Howlers are a fairly sedentary primate and can sleep for many hours at a time. The field assistant will be spending a majority of time alone with the howlers and will need to have experience staying focused.
2) High level physical fitness is required. The terrain is rough, and the climate is hot and humid. Researchers are often required to hike through varied terrain while searching for and following monkeys.
3) Extensive fieldwork experience is not required, but applicants who have completed a field school, or have comparable field experience, will be given priority.
4) Standard First Aid and/or Wilderness First Responder certifications are highly recommended.
5) An interest in scientific research and primate behavior is required.
6) A background in biology, anthropology, or a related topic is preferred.
7) Conversational level Spanish language skills are preferred.
8) The ability to live away from close friends and family for an extended period of time is required.

$300 (USD) per month to offset living expenses while assisting on this project

Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging):
Assistants are responsible for paying for:
1) Airfare. Up to $700 will be reimbursed upon completion of the applicant?s term of service (no less than 5 months).
2) Food. Assistants will be responsible for their own food (usually purchased communally and cooked as a house). Depending on dietary preference, food costs between $130 and $180/month.
3) Travel health insurance (usually $30-50/month).
4) Field gear (including a sturdy field clothing, water bottles, hiking boots, a field pack etc.).
5) Visa renewal. Assistants will be in Costa Rica on tourist visas, which are valid for 90 days. Assistants will be responsible for making a ?visa renewal run? to nearby Nicaragua, or the destination of their choice, for 3 days. Necessary costs incurred will include visa renewal (~$30), 3 nights in a hostel (~$10/night), and food (~$3-10/meal). Nicaragua is the cheapest option for this and it?s a good chance to be a tourist and relax in a beach town for a few days.
6) Costa Rica exit fee (~$30). This is a tax that all persons leaving the country are required to pay.

The PI will pay for:
1) Lodging at the field site. The field assistant will share a room with another project assistant.
2) Transportation from the airport to the field site.
3) Transportation for the group to and from the city center of Liberia (~$100) once per month for grocery trips.
4) A Samsung tablet, GPS unit, and binoculars will be provided for data collection.

Term of Appointment:
Applicants must make a 5-month commitment and plan to arrive at the Liberia airport in Costa Rica mid-February 2018 (exact date to be determined) and depart Costa Rica late June 2018.

Application Deadline:
December 20, 2017

To apply, please submit a CV and 1-2 page letter describing:

1) Relevant experience. Please comment on each of the requirements/preferences listed under Qualifications/Experience.
2) Reason for your interest in the position.
3) Qualities that make you a superior applicant.
4) Goals that you have related to the position.

Please provide the names and contact information for 2 references. References should include (1) academic or work-related reference and (1) personal reference.

Please submit all application materials to Shasta Webb via email ( with the subject: SSR Howler Field Assistant. If you have questions about the position, please feel free to send an email.

Contact Information:
Shasta Ellen Webb

Telephone Number:

Fax Number:

E-mail Address:

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