Position: Volunteer Research Assistant
Supervisor: Resident Researcher, Lomako Conservation Science Center (African Wildlife Foundation)
Location: Iyemba, Lomako Yokokale Faunal Reserve (RFLY), Democratic Republic of Congo
Duration: 6-12 months
Start date: July, 2010
Position Summary: I am looking for a field assistant to collect behavioral data and fecal + urine samples (for hormonal analysis) on a group of wild bonobos living in Lomako Forest, DRC. We are in the process of re-habituating the animals, so participation in the habituation process is also an expectation for anyone joining the team.
The specific objectives of this project are:
1- to understand the behavior, ranging patterns, eating habits and population dynamics of these bonobos;
2- to more fully understand the expression of seasonality in their physical environment, particularly as it affects their social composition and behavior.
The camp site, Iyemba is situated aprox. 9km from a main river (the Lomako) and 15km from the more well known research site in the area, most commonly referred to as “Lomako”. Housing consists of a tent, under a thatched roof- I will provide the tent, if you can carry it with you in your luggage. A cook on site is responsible for preparing food, doing dishes, and washing clothes. Meals are mainly local variations on fish and stewed vegetable dishes. For vegetarians who will not eat fish, this can be extremely challenging (culturally and energetically).
The camp site is very remote, and communications are currently limited to one satellite phone restricted for routine check-ins with a base-camp and emergencies only. I have two solar panels with a car-battery to charge electronic materials, but generally this is prioritized for work-related functions (charging computers for data entry, GPS’s and running fluorescent light-bulbs at night, for processing of the day’s fecal and urine samples). Twice a month, there is an opportunity to walk to the main camp to check and send emails for 2 days.
Access to the camp site:
Travel to the Lomako area can easily take a week from point A to point Z, if not longer. It involves international and domestic flights, a multi-day boat trip up the Maringa and Lomako rivers (aprox. 150 miles) and a 9-15km hike.
You will be asked to assist with a variety of tasks, including (but not limited to) regular phenological data collection, all-day focal follows, meticulous collection of feces and urine and assistance in preserving those samples after behavioral follows are finished (e.g. after dinner). Some days will start at 4am and end at 10pm, other days might go from 6am to 4pm. No one works on Sundays.
Anyone can apply, but I am specifically looking for candidates with some course-work in animal behavior, some prior field experience, some French skills, and above average fitness. I am most concerned with your ability to demonstrate that you have experienced the kinds of pressures that occur regularly at a field site such as Iyemba, where social contact is limited and conditions are regularly challenging both physically and emotionally. This is not a field site that is suited to first-time field workers! Your attitude and your purpose for wanting to work here are of paramount importance.
Please send an email including
a) letter of interest, which describes you informally and personally.
b) CV, including relevant coursework, but also anything else that you think is representative of you as a person.
c) email contacts for references
You are expected to provide your own medical insurance, and pay for your own visa (aprox. $80/month). International plane tickets from the US to Kinshasa usually cost $2500-$3000 round-trip if the trip is under six months (SN and AirFrance) although cheaper tickets can be found via Ethiopian Airways. Domestic flights cost about $900, round-trip (including estimated costs for excess baggage).
Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging):
I will pay for living expenses (e.g. food, lodging at camp) and will provide a tent if you can carry it to Lomako.
Term of Appointment:
Minimum 6 month commitment.
Sooner the better.
I am in the forest with limited access to email, but check periodically. Allow a few weeks for me to review your email.
Lomako Conservation Science Center