mercredi 20 avril 2011

Volunteer Field Assistant for a Lemur Diet Study in Madagascar

Hiring Organization:
PhD student, University of Southern California

Date Posted:

Position Description:
I am searching for a volunteer field assistant to work on a study of the diet of wild lemurs. This project, which is a part of my doctoral research, will study the effect of diet on the gut bacteria in two species of wild lemurs: the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) and Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi). Specifically, I will be investigating the effect of ingested plant chemical defenses on the lemurs’ gut bacteria. The field assistant will be involved in observations of the lemurs, identifying plant species, recording their feeding behavior, as well as collecting samples of the plants they consume. The field assistant will also help collect fecal samples from the lemurs, which will be preserved for later analysis of the bacteria present. The assistant will be trained in all relevant data collection and archiving methods. This position provides an excellent opportunity to gain serious experience in fieldwork, animal behavior research, and behavioral ecology methods.

The work days will be long, heading into the forest around 7am and finishing around 6pm. We will come back to camp for a brief lunch around mid-day. Additional time entering the day’s data may be required in the evening. We will work 6 days a week, with 1 day off to take care of laundry, relax, and read. Fieldwork will be from September 2011 through February 2012.

The field site, Beza Mahafaly special reserve, is a tropical dry forest in southwest Madagascar. The terrain is flat, but the wet season (approximately November through February) will be hot and humid, with brief rain daily. There is a grid system of trails through the forest (making it difficult to be lost for long), but we will often go off-trail to find and follow the lemurs. There are many plants with thorns and spikes in the forest, but there are few lethal creatures (you will definitely encounter some wasps and spiders). There are many groups of both lemur species in the forest and most individuals have been collared and tagged for easy identification. Two other species of lemur (the grey-brown mouse lemur and the white-footed sportive lemur), Indian civets, feral cats, tortoises, as well as many bird and insect species also live in the forest. Accommodations at the field site are rustic but adequate (tents, pit toilet, solar showers, well water, little solar electricity for charging electronics). A local cook will cook all of our meals (mostly rice and beans). Communication is limited at the field site. There is no internet and some cellphone reception can be gained by a 20-minute walk from camp. I am hoping to have a satellite phone for emergencies. There are several villages nearby, but the closest town with services is a 6-hour walk or cart ride.

Intended for undergraduates or early graduate level students specializing in Biology, Animal Behavior, or Anthropology. Other areas of specialization will be considered. This job presents the ideal opportunity for individuals with a Bachelor’s or Masters degree that are hoping to go on into postgraduate research but require field-experience. Existing fieldwork experience is therefore not required, but experience working in tropical forests, working with animals, and/or working in the outdoors will be beneficial. Successful applicants will have an excellent level of physical fitness and be able to work independently under isolated and demanding conditions (10 hour days, 6 days a week) in a hot and humid environment. The position is not ideal for someone who needs a lot of personal time, or for someone who easily feels lonely.

The ideal applicant will:
• Have a strong interest in animal behavior or ecology;
• Have experience working on a scientific research project, collecting and working systematically with data, ideally an observational/behavioral project and will understand the scientific method;
• Be hardworking and motivated;
• Be comfortable being unplugged and a distance from easy communication with the outside world (limited phone and no internet access);
• Feel comfortable being far away from family and friends for an extended period of time;
• Have above average resistance to social/psychological stress with a tolerance towards local customs and beliefs and be comfortable with other conditions and risks that are simply part of tropical fieldwork, such as limited healthcare, monotonous diet, and rare confrontations with noxious plants or animals;
• Be responsible, reliable, a team player able to work out any issues civilly, and able to follow field procedures carefully;
• Have previous experience with animal behavior in general, or primates in specific;
• Have experience traveling or living in a foreign country, preferably in developing countries;
• Have experience camping and living outdoors in a tent;
• Be fluent in English;
• Know some French;
• Not be afraid of snakes, spiders, and bugs.

This is a volunteer position and as such no wage or stipend is currently available. You are expected to provide your own airfare and pay for your own entry visa. Roundtrip airfare from the US can cost $2500-$3500. You will be required to have a pre-travel medical consultation, be up-to-date on vaccinations, and to maintain health and travel insurance while in the field. You will need to provide your own tent, medical supplies, all field clothing, and adequate walking boots. You are responsible for covering the costs of your accommodations and food when not at the field site and a monthly ($50) Madagascar National Parks fee. Please note that if pending grant applications are successful, the project will cover your Madagascar National Parks fees.

Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging):
Research permits, in country transportation to and from the field site (when travelling with me), camp fees, and on-site food costs will be covered.

Term of Appointment:
September 1, 2011 – February 28, 2012. A commitment of at least 5 months is required, though preference will be given to applicants able to participate for the full 6 months.

Application Deadline:
June 1, 2011

To apply, email the following to
• A cover letter explaining your qualifications and why you are interested in this position, listing all relevant travel and field experience details. This cover letter should also describe you informally and personally. What are you like? What should I know about you that your CV doesn’t tell me? I'm interested in qualified candidates, but I'm also concerned with whether or not I want to live with you for 6 months in close quarters.
• Your current CV.
• Contact information (email and phone) of at least 2 references. Your references should preferably be people who have worked closely with you in a field/research capacity and able to vouch for your experience, skills, and your suitability for fieldwork.

Contact Information:
Andy Fogel
3616 Trousdale Pkwy, AHF 107
Los Angeles, CA 90007

E-mail Address: