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Volunteer Research Assistant Position for a Study of Primate Behavioral Ecology in Uganda

Hiring Organization:
University of California Santa Barbara

Date Posted:
2018-05-11

Position Description:
A Volunteer Research Assistant (VRA) is needed to help with ongoing studies of the behavioral ecology of monkeys at the Ngogo site in Kibale National Park, Uganda. The VRA is expected to commit to one full year of field work at Ngogo. The position requires working closely with a team of male Ugandan field assistants and camp staff, spending long hours in the forest or in the lab, and living in rustic field conditions. In addition to gaining research skills important for graduate studies in anthropology or ecology, the VRA will be living in a unique tropical rainforest and if so interested, may have the opportunity to co-author a journal article.

The study is led by Dr. Michelle Brown, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara. The goal of the project is to measure energetic variation across red-tailed monkeys (Cercopithecus ascanius), blue monkeys (C. mitis), and grey-cheeked mangabeys (Lophocebus albigena). Responsibilities of the VRA include, but are not limited to, behavioral observations of habituated study groups; collecting and inventorying urine and fecal samples; taking photos of the study subjects; maintaining the digital databases; and communicating with and sending files to Dr. Brown. Additional tasks may be assigned based on the VRA?s interests and abilities. There may also be opportunities to conduct research at other sites in Uganda. The VRA will not be handling finances or managing personnel; these are the responsibilities of the part-time Assistant Project Manager, who resides in the nearby town of Fort Portal.

Life at Ngogo is rustic but comfortable. We sleep in tents under a shelter; use solar power to charge a few electronics (laptop, cell phone); rely on rainwater for drinking, washing, and bathing; and use a pit latrine for ?long calls.? Large, safari-style tents are often used for dorm-style sleeping arrangements but individuals may instead opt to sleep alone in a smaller backpacking tent. We have limited internet access and cell phone connectivity ? enough for emergencies and occasional contact with the outside world, but not for daily calls. The station is in the middle of the national park and its remoteness is both a blessing and curse. It is a 45 min drive to the nearest village, 1.5 hours to the nearest town (Fort Portal), 6 hrs from the capital (Kampala) and 7 hrs from the international airport (Entebbe). English is spoken throughout Uganda.

The tasks expected of the VRA are often challenging and sometimes boring, but the forest and its inhabitants never fail to amaze. The park is buzzing with life ? including baboons, elephants, bushbuck and duikers, pigs, chimpanzees, mongooses, civets, and dozens of bird species ? which makes for an endlessly interesting experience. Like other remote field sites, however, the location is not without its dangers, including malaria (for which the VRA must take preventative medication).

Applications will be accepted until July 1st or the position is filled. Applicants who make it through the first round of screening will be contacted to arrange an interview by Skype, phone, or Facetime.

Applicants should be available for 12 months, beginning in June or July 2018. The applicant who is chosen for this position will undergo a three-month training and probation period with Dr. Brown; successful completion of this period will enable the VRA to remain with the project for the remaining nine months while Dr. Brown is in the US. Each month, the VRA will be expected to focus on the research project continuously for 21 days but will have the remaining 9-10 days for personal endeavors, either at the research site or elsewhere. The VRA will have an extra week of vacation during the December holiday season.

Qualifications/Experience:
Watching monkeys may sound like great fun but the work is often tedious and many people do not have the necessary level of interest and perseverance. In particular, behavioral observations of wild animals requires deep attention to detail, patience, an ability to concentrate for long periods, and a very strong work ethic. In addition to the above qualities, applicants should be willing to work closely with Ugandan field assistants for long hours; be enthusiastic about working outdoors in heat, rain, and other unpleasant conditions; and not be squeamish about insects, snakes, or other wildlife.

Applicants should have some preparation relevant to the fieldwork such as a bachelor?s or master?s degree in an appropriate field (e.g., animal behavior, ecology, biology, biological anthropology, or evolutionary psychology) or previous employment. However, the more important qualification is a passion for animals and outdoor environments.

The VRA will ideally know how to drive a vehicle with manual transmission but this is not a deal-breaker.

Salary/funding:
This is an unpaid position but does entail a few financial benefits. In particular, a monthly food stipend will be provided, along with funds to cover the monthly fees imposed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority for the VRA?s presence at the field site. Equipment required for data collection (binoculars, backpack, boots, and rain gear) will be provided. The VRA is expected to pay for their own medical travel insurance, vaccinations, and any necessary prescriptions; transport to/from Uganda; toiletries and personal supplies; and communications expenses, such as airtime, internet bundles, cell phone or laptop. If the VRA has completed the entire 12 month period in good standing, the cost of their roundtrip international airfare will be refunded if a copy of the receipt is sent to Dr. Brown.

Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging):
(see above)

Term of Appointment:
12 months

Application Deadline:
July 1

Contact Information:
Michelle Brown
552 University Rd, Dept of Anthropology
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3210
USA

Telephone Number:
8058934269

E-mail Address:
mbrown@anth.ucsb.edu

Questions and Comments

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.