mardi 8 novembre 2016

PhD position: Information Transfer in a Community of Human and Non-Human Rain Forest Foragers

Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology unites scientists with various backgrounds (natural sciences and humanities) whose aim is to investigate the history of humankind from an interdisciplinary perspective with the help of comparative analyses of genes, cultures, cognitive abilities, languages and social systems of past and present human populations as well as those of primates closely related to human beings.
We are seeking a PhD candidate who is interested in studying the evolution of language by quantifying the costs and benefits of, and conditions for, sharing information about food locations in a community of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) and human foragers (Mbendjele Yaka) in a tropical rain forest. The candidate will be directly supervised by postdoctoral researcher Dr. Karline Janmaat and Prof. Dr. Christophe Boesch, who have collected behavioural and ecological data in both communities. The project aims to gain insight in how information transfer can increase foraging efficiency in a tropical forest, by comparing food patch size, group composition and travel behaviour between food patches in human and chimpanzee foragers that both live in a fission-fusion society and feed on the same food species (e.g. Panda nuts). The candidate will make use of existing data on chimpanzees and newly collected data on Mbendjele foragers.  The project further aims to quantify information transfer opportunities by measuring the extent of the ranging area of one community of Mbendjele foragers, inter-individual overlap in ranging routes and encounter rates, by use of remote Global Positioning Systems (GPS), wrist accelerometers and handheld cameras. To gain further insight in the evolution of language, the project aims to quantify and describe how and with whom Mbendjele women share and do not share information on food source locations by use of language or behavioural guidance.
The field work will consist of collecting behavioural data on Mbendjele mother-daughter pairs, learning the language, overhearing conversations and conducting observational data collection on individual women when they enter the forest on their daily foraging trips using GPS and audio-recording devices. In addition, transects will be walked to measure food availability and phenology of important food sources, such as caterpillar trees. Data analyses will consist of state of the art statistical modelling techniques. The scope of the project is interdisciplinary, including the use of bio-logging technologies and spatial analyses, and the testing of game-theory models on information sharing, in collaboration with Dr. Judy Shamoun-Baranes and Dr. Martijn Egas at the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, the University of Amsterdam.
During the data collection period the successful applicant will be living in a camp together with a Mbendjele family, for a minimum of two periods of 6 months in the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville. Data analyses will take place at the department of Primatology of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, as well as the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam.
Essential requirements are: (1) having a Master’s degree in Biology, Anthropology or Psychology, (2) being experienced in behavioural data collection (e.g. focal sampling) and analyses, (3) proficient in French or Lingala and quick at learning languages, (4) highly sociable and having no problems with a lack of privacy for weeks at a time, (5)  having field experience in a tropical or remote area (e.g. being able to live without running water, limited electricity and internet), (6) above average physical fitness, and (7) above average resistance to social/psychological stress. People who also have (8) practical and technical skills required to navigate in remote areas, (9) experience in handling GPS or GIS data, and (10) experience in collecting phenological data will be considered stronger applicants. Candidates must be able to work independently and as part of a team, must have a high degree of flexibility, and tolerance to local customs and practices. Due to the nature of the work (the study subjects are Mbendjele women) we especially encourage female students to apply.
SALARY: 1,300 Euro/month for a period of 1 year. Additional funding needs to be applied for in collaboration with Dr. Karline Janmaat, who has experience with obtaining PhD grant money.
TERM OF APPOINTMENT: February 2017 – February 2018, with potential extension of 4 years. Deadline application: 20th of December 2016.
TERM OF REFERENCE: Within one year you are required to write and submit a research proposal to obtain four/five years of funding for your own PhD project on the topic of Information Transfer (as described above). In addition, you need to help with the analyses of existing data on Mbendjele and chimpanzee foraging behaviour and are expected to publish the results in a scientific paper, (that can be included in your PhD thesis). Lastly, you have the opportunity to conduct a three months pilot study with the Mbendjele people in Congo (all travel expenses will be covered).
Interested applicants should send their CV along with details for at least two references via email to Dr. Karline Janmaat (karline_janmaat@[>>> Please remove the text! <<<]
The Max Planck Society is committed to equal opportunities and to employing individuals with disabilities and explicitly encourages them to apply. We look forward to receiving your completed application.