Date Posted: 2017-07-05
Position Description: We are seeking an independent, conscientious and highly motivated student to embark on a four-year Ph.D. program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Lethbridge, starting either in January or September 2018, under the supervision of Dr. Jean-Baptiste Leca.
The Ph.D. student will investigate the proximate and ultimate links between object play and tool use in macaques. More specifically, the research project will consist of testing the hypothesis that object play – or any other type of object-related manipulation which does not seem to be immediately instrumental or rewarded in a tangible way, including object exploration – facilitates the development, expression, and evolution of tool-assisted actions that are directly beneficial. Proximate causes will include developmental, motivational, cognitive, and cultural processes. Ultimate considerations will include the functional significance of, and cross-species differences in, object-oriented behavioral propensities.
To address these questions, observational and experimental data will be collected and analyzed from several macaque species, with different manipulative tendencies (e.g., Japanese macaques, long-tailed macaques, lion-tailed macaques, and bonnet macaques).
As part of the Ph.D. program, the successful applicant will do field work in three countries, namely Japan, Indonesia (Bali), and India, with the help of several field research assistants. The Ph.D. student may also use a large existing video-recorded data set on object play, extractive foraging, and tool use behaviors in Japanese macaques and Balinese long-tailed macaques, already collected by our research team members. If the Ph.D. student is interested, he/she could also participate in a study that will be conducted in parallel in our lab: a replication of some observations and experiments on object play and tool use in human children.
During the Ph.D. program, the successful applicant will benefit from already established collaborations between Dr. Leca and other researchers in various fields (e.g., Neuroscience, Kinesiology, Anthropology, and Ecology).
Qualifications/Experience: Required – Applicants should:
have, or be working toward a Master’s degree in biology, ecology, psychology, or anthropology, with an emphasis on animal/human behavior (e.g., ethology, behavioral ecology, cognitive science);
have excellent GPA and some research achievements (e.g., publications or conference presentations) to be eligible and competitive for internal awards, scholarships, fellowships offered by the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Lethbridge;
have a previous field research experience collecting behavioral data from large groups of individually recognized free-ranging animals (preferably primates);
have a detailed knowledge of, and hands-on experience in, behavioral data collection methods (e.g., focal and scan sampling techniques);
show a positive attitude in the face of long and tiring field work days and unforeseen challenges;
be physically fit to stand and walk several hours a day under a hot and humid weather, while collecting behavioral data;
feel comfortable walking around a large group of well-habituated monkeys, which may (occasionally) include getting a monkey jumping on the observer’s shoulders;
be mentally strong and emotionally mature to spend several months living under basic conditions and being far away from family and friends;
be able to communicate openly with our team about any problems that may arise;
possess strong social skills, which include enjoying working and communicating easily within a small team, sharing knowledge, and being teachable.
Desirable – Priority will be given to applicants with:
good observation skills including patience, persistence and attention to detail;
a previous experience using handheld data loggers in the field (e.g., field computer/psion and video camera);
a previous experience with behavioral data scoring softwares (particularly The Observer XT by Noldus);
a previous experience with (or at least an interest in) Kinesiology methods;
a previous experience with (or at least an interest in) phylogenetic analyses;
a previous experience traveling and living in foreign countries and cultures;
fluency in English.
The successful applicant will be selected on the basis of his/her eligibility and high probability to be fully funded by an internal funding package offered by the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Lethbridge. Indeed, provided excellent GPA and research potential, the future Ph.D. student will be competitive for a tuition award (covering Ph.D. tuition fees and other administrative fees at the University of Lethbridge), a fellowship award, a teaching assistantship, and a Dean’s scholarship. This package may be supplemented by a graduate research assistantship from the Ph.D. supervisor, if necessary.
Field research expenses will be fully covered. Financial support will be sought by the Ph.D. student, who will be eligible to apply for a Board of Governors Graduate Student Research Scholarship (because the supervisor is a Tier II Board of Governors Research Chair), and will be supplemented by the supervisor’s research grants. This support will include one round-trip
international airfare (from Calgary to field site), administrative expenses incurred while in the field (e.g., visa, long-term stay permit, research permit, field site fees), and a monthly research stipend (covering basic local transport, accommodation, and food expenses).
Term of Appointment: Depending on the successful applicant’s availability, the four-year Ph.D. program at the University of Lethbridge will run:
either from early January 2018 to December 2021 (application deadline at the University of Lethbridge on October 1, 2017);
or from early September 2018 to December 2022 (application deadline at the University of Lethbridge on February 1, 2018).
First field data collection: from May to August 2018 (4 months) in Bali, Indonesia.
Application Deadline: Review of applications to join our lab will begin immediately.
Short-listed applicants will be contacted to schedule phone interviews as soon as possible.
Due to the lengthy administrative procedure to apply for field research permits, we expect to select the successful candidate by mid-September 2017.
Comments: Please submit the following documentation in ONE single PDF file saved with your last and first name in the file name (e.g., “Smith_John.pdf”):
A detailed cover letter documenting your education, research experience, qualifications (among those listed above), and interest in this position, with an emphasis on your motivation to pursue your Ph.D. research on the topic described above. Please also indicate whether you will be available to start the Ph.D. program either in early January 2018 or in early September 2018;
Your detailed CV, including all relevant degrees, diplomas, certificates, coursework, field courses, field experience, and possible publications/conference presentations;
A copy of your official undergraduate and graduate (M.Sc. or M.A.) academic transcripts, with the detailed list of courses taken and the corresponding grades, as well as your cumulative GPA (or GPA-equivalent);
Contact information (including email addresses) of THREE academic or professional references who can attest to your qualifications, including ONE reference who supervised you IN THE FIELD.
Applications that contain more than one file will not be considered.
Your application should be emailed to Dr. Noëlle Gunst (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, and we shall get back to you as soon as possible, via email.
Contact Information: Jean-Baptiste Leca, PhD
Noëlle Gunst, PhD
Department of Psychology
University of Lethbridge
E-mail Address: email@example.com