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Positions Available

Field Leader/research assistant

Hiring Organization:
Kakamega Monkey Project (based at Columbia University)

Date Posted:

Position Description:
Field leader needed to participate for ~12.5-13 months in long-term research project on the social behavior of blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis) in a rain forest in western Kenya (Kakamega Forest). Current research focus is on competition and cooperation among adult females with their group-mates, including grooming, feeding tolerance, and joining in territorial defense against neighboring groups, and variation in such behavior, as well as in reproduction, as a function of group size. Field leader has the following duties: (1) collecting behavioral and life history data through observation, (2) conducting daily data entry and quality control in the evenings and possibly at other times, (3) overseeing local staff of ~5, and (4) maintaining effective communication with PI offsite, and on her behalf, with local authorities.

Data collection presumes learning (1) to recognize about 175 individual animals in 7 habituated social groups, (2) the behavioral repertoire of the species, and (3) the coding scheme. Data collection into notebooks or onto data sheets includes ad libitum records, systematic focal animal follows of individual adult females, and all-occurrences sampling of aggressive encounters, both dyadic and between groups. Data entry and management require speed and accuracy in typing, comfortable familiarity with Excel, Word and computers generally, and facility with attending accurately to detail. Ability to speak and write clearly and correctly in fluent English is a must.

Candidate will be trained on site by experienced field personnel and PI, who will be on site during a portion of Summer 2017. This is a teamwork-oriented position, and the ability to work closely with others is critical. Some liaison with a local community conservation groups may also be part of the work.

Great opportunity for someone wishing to gain field research experience in a serious way (you will get your feet wet, both literally and figuratively!), including taking on a position of responsibility. Animals are well habituated, so the monkey watching is excellent for a forested environment. The forest has a very high diversity of birds as well, plus all the other creatures (plants, insects, snakes, etc) that one would expect to find. This project has a long history of working successfully with field assistants, and can provide references. Nearly all prior field assistants have moved on to graduate school or other research positions.

Check out websites at:

Applicants must have completed an undergraduate university degree with focused studies in relevant areas of science.

In addition, two kinds of relevant EXPERIENCE are mandatory: first, some kind of significant foreign travel or living experience, preferably to/in a developing country (and ideally in the tropics), and second, some experience working on a scientific research project (i.e. collecting and working systematically with data), ideally an observational/behavioral project, and even more ideally in the field. Interest in mammalian behavior, and relevant course work (animal behavior, primate behavior) is presumed.

In addition, applicant must have certain QUALITIES: s/he must be energetic, patient, open, responsible, flexible, healthy, able to work independently but also as part of a team, and highly motivated. Applicant must also be hardworking and able to keep going, and cheerfully! Our schedule is demanding and unconventional (mostly 3 days work, 1 day off), up to 9 hrs field time per day (less during rainy season), approximately 1-2 hours per evening (on average) for data collation and processing (even on ?off? days), and 3 weeks off (in 3 chunks, not all at once) over the year. The position is not ideal for someone who needs a lot of personal time, nor for someone who easily feels lonely. The ideal applicant must be comfortable being unplugged and removed from easy communication with the outside world (mobile phones do allow email/texting, but connectivity is spotty), and comfortable with other conditions and risks that are simply part of tropical fieldwork (such as limited healthcare, relatively monotonous diet, rare confrontations with noxious plants or animals). This is very intense work -- if your main goal is not gaining scientific research experience, you will probably not be happy in this position.

Non-smoker preferred. Fluent English and accurate touch-typing (i.e., without having to look at the keys) is mandatory.

Evidence of the above qualifications must be presented as part of application (see below for further details).

3 references will be required. These cannot be from personal friends or family. It is not necessary to provide reference reports as part of initial application, but please include referees' names, contact information, and a brief note as to how they know you.

A modest but adequate monthly stipend will be available to cover living costs. (Stipend for the first 2 months will be reimbursed retroactively after successful completion of this trial period.) Funding is also available to reimburse airfare to Kenya/fieldsite; however, this will not be disbursed until you have completed the full period. Finally, costs of procuring immigration and research clearance documents (about $400) will be covered, but again, only after successful completion of your term.

A successful applicant must have her/his own health insurance, and should plan to bring a year?s supply of anti-malarial drugs. Malaria can be a problem in the area, and willingness to protect oneself chemically and physically (repellant, bednets) is important!

Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging):
Reasonably comfortable free housing will be provided at the field site (small house in forest station village, solar power for lights, laptop, and battery charging, limited running rain water). Binoculars can also be provided if needed.

Term of Appointment:
at least 12.5 but ideally 13 months, beginning around May 15-20, 2018

Application Deadline:
Position will be filled by first suitable candidate on a rolling basis. The position is not filled as long as this notice is still posted.

Interested persons should make contact via email initially. Please send a copy of your application to Your application should consist of ONE single PDF document (attachment) with ALL relevant information (and your last name as the first word in the title, e.g. Smith_2013_field_leader.pdf).

Please include the following information: (1) how you fit the qualifications and duties outlined here (please address the required personal qualities and experiences SPECIFICALLY, using the descriptions in this posting); (2) how this opportunity fits your ambitions/plans in the shorter and longer terms (why do you want to do this, and why at this stage of your life; what?s in it for you? how does the 12-13 month duration fit your plans?); (3) your nationality, current residence (city, country), age, and whether you are a student (or if not, when you last were); (4) your CV or resume, including the names and contact information (ideally email) of at least three referees, and a brief description of how you know them. You may include any other information about yourself that you think might be relevant. We will follow up with a phone interview for the most suitable candidates, or an actual on-site interview (an advantage) if you can get yourself to New York.

Sorry, but please do not apply if you do not have the two types of requisite experience outlined in the Qualifications section above. If you have any doubts whatsoever about the fit of your personal qualities to the demands of this project, it would be best to describe them for future discussion.

Contact Information:
Marina Cords
1200 Amsterdam Avenue, 10th floor
New York, NY 10027

Telephone Number:
212 854 7337

Fax Number:
212 854 8188


E-mail Address:

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