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Positions Available

Field assistant/intern volunteer

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

Date Posted:

Position Description:
Volunteer field assistant/intern will participate for ca. 6 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, aggressive interference, 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 assistant's main duties are to: (1) collect behavioral and life history data through observation, (2) conduct daily data entry and quality control in the evenings and possibly at other times, (3) occasionally oversee local staff of ~5, and (4) assist with project-related tasks as they come up.

Data collection presumes learning (1) to recognize about 70 individual animals in 2-3 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 touch typing, comfortable familiarity with Excel, Word and (Mac) computers generally, and facility with attending accurately to detail.

Candidate will be trained on-site by experienced field personnel and (for those starting June-July 2019, also by PI, who will be on site during a portion of Summer 2019). This is a teamwork-oriented position, and the ability to work closely with others is critical.

Great opportunity for someone wishing to gain significant field research experience (you will get your feet wet, both literally and figuratively!). 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 most of the other creatures (plants, insects, snakes, etc) that one would expect to find (no large cats). This project has a long history of working successfully with field assistants, and can provide references to serious candidates. 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 biological 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 in computer files), 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 (usually 3 days work, 1 day off, occasional 2-day breaks), up to 9 hrs field time per day (somewhat less during rainy season), approximately 1-2 hours per evening (on average) for data collation and processing (even on 'off' days), and 2 weeks off over a 6 mo period. The position is not ideal for someone who needs a lot of personal time. The ideal applicant must be comfortable being unplugged and far away from easy communication with the 'outside world' (mobile phone and modem-based email possible, but sometimes things just don't work!), 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, unexpectedly changed plans). 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 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 about how they know you.

This is a volunteer position. Self-covered costs include travel (cost depends on where you live), board and personal expenses (about $150 per mo), and permit/visa fees (ca. $500, some support may be possible to help out here). Also, applicant must have her/his own health insurance, and should plan to bring anti-malarial drugs to cover the full stay. (Malaria does occur in the area, and willingness to protect oneself chemically and physically (repellant, bed-nets) 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, but no major appliances, limited running rain water). Binoculars can also be provided if needed. All materials for data collection will be provided.

Term of Appointment:
Two open terms at present: (1) start ca. June-July 2019, ideally thru early Jan 2020; (2) start early Jan 2020-June 2020. Please indicate which you are interested in, if there's a preference.

Application Deadline:

Interested persons should make contact via email initially. Please send a copy of your application to, and use "YOURLASTNAME Field Intern 2019" in the subject line. Your application should consist of ONE single document (attachment) with ALL relevant information. PDF documents preferred.

Please include the following information: (1) how you fit the qualifications and duties outlined here (please address each of the required personal qualities and experiences SPECIFICALLY); (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 6 month duration fit your plans? would you want to stay longer?); (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 Skype interview for the most suitable candidates, or an actual on-site interview (an advantage) if possible.

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.

As long as this notice is posted, the positions have not been filled.

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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