TWO Volunteer Field Assistants Needed - Gelada Monkey Research in the Ethiopian Highlands
TWO field assistants are needed for a study of the behavior, ecology, and conservation of wild gelada monkeys (Theropithecus gelada) at a remote, long-term field site in north-central Ethiopia called Guassa. Field research assistants will participate in data collection during an intensive 13-month long field season as part of this study, now in its second decade. Assistant duties will include (but are not limited to) carrying out behavioral observations, fecal sample collection, and vegetation monitoring. Work will begin in mid-May 2018 and last until the end of June 2019. Applications will be accepted until both positions are filled.
Two field assistants are needed for a study of the behavior, ecology, and conservation of wild gelada monkeys (Theropithecus gelada) at a remote, semi-permanent field site in north-central Ethiopia called Guassa. The study is being carried out by Dr. Peter Fashing and Dr. Nga Nguyen, professors in the Anthropology Department and Environmental Studies Program at California State University Fullerton. The field assistants will be responsible for (a) collecting basic demographic and reproductive data as part of routine monitoring of the well-habituated study population, (b) conducting focal animal samples (c) recording GPS readings of gelada ranging locations, as well as (d) conducting vegetation monitoring and (e) walking census transects. The two field assistants will share a camp and research responsibilities while at Guassa.
The study area consists of 111km2 of hilly Afro-alpine grassland situated at 3,200-3,600 meters above sea level along the eastern edge of the Ethiopian highlands and affords spectacular views out over the Great Rift Valley nearly a mile below. A number of animals endemic to the Ethiopian highlands occur at Guassa including geladas, the critically endangered Ethiopian wolf (the world’s rarest canid), the blue-winged goose, and the thick-billed raven. Notable mammals not endemic to Ethiopia but also present at Guassa include hyenas, leopards, serval cats, and the recently discovered cryptic African wolf. The gelada population at Guassa has been studied on a near-daily basis since January 2007 and nearly all individuals in the main ~220-member study band are habituated to observers at distances of a few meters or less.
For more information on the project, please see the following website:
Applicants should have a B.S. or B.A. in Biology, Biological Anthropology, or a related field. Good physical fitness and a willingness to walk long distances (6-12 km) each day are essential to working at Guassa where the terrain is hilly, the air thin (due to the high elevation), and the geladas wide-ranging. Experience with winter camping and life in cold climates is preferred since the successful applicants will be living in (spacious) tents at a location where nights are sometimes below freezing (as low as 19ºF though 33-36ºF is more typical) and days are often chilly (45-60ºF) and windy (10-40 km/hour) as well. Our campsite is situated on an isolated patch of ecologically pristine alpine grassland far from human habitation and applicants must be highly self-sufficient (the nearest town, Mehal Meda, is 22 kilometers away from camp, we do not own a vehicle, and contact with other English-speakers is rare). Field assistants will live in a semi-permanent campsite with 2 Ethiopian staff members with limited English language skills. Prior travel and/or field experience in Africa or mountainous regions of Asia or South America preferred. Applicants must be fluent in English and eager to learn Amharic (the national language of Ethiopia).
After Guassa, former field research assistants have all (n=20) co-authored one or more peer-reviewed journal articles with us. Most have gone on to pursue graduate studies (Ph.D. and/or Master’s, including at Yale, Dartmouth, Penn State, Minnesota, Massachusetts-Amherst, Toronto, Saskatchewan, UC Santa Barbara, Oxford, UC London, and Georg-August [Göttingen], among others) or additional research opportunities in biological anthropology, animal behavior, or ecology. Several assistants have returned to Guassa to conduct graduate or postdoctoral research.
For an example of media coverage of a recent (February 2017) scientific paper (in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology) involving past and current Guassa Gelada Research Project assistants, please see...
Our research site was also recently featured in the April 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine. The article featured stunningly beautiful photographs of Guassa and its geladas made by Jeff Kerby, a former GGRP field assistant who subsequently earned his PhD at Penn State and is now a postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth. For more details, please see…
SUPPORT PROVIDED FOR INTERNSHIP/VOLUNTEER POSITIONS
Research assistants will be provided with basic accommodation, food and other basic supplies while at the field site. In addition, we will pay each assistant’s $1,000USD research fee (directly to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority) for permission to conduct research in Ethiopia. However, applicants must pay their own international travel to Addis Ababa ($1,500-$2,000USD from the USA, less from Europe), including the cost of a tourist visa (~$70USD), and are responsible for any additional expenses incurred while traveling in Ethiopia, including travel to and from the field site and Addis every few months (to buy supplies, see a movie, etc.). Buses to Addis (300 km from Guassa or 6-8 bumpy hours travel) are inexpensive ($10 each way) and run almost daily from Mehal Meda. Camp is located a few miles walk from the road where you can catch the bus after a one or more hour wait. Luxury food items such as chocolates, cookies and canned tuna may be purchased in Addis at the volunteer's expense. Our semi-permanent camp is remote but comfortable, with large walk-in tents with beds, solar electricity for the lights, a laptop computer, and small electronics, as well as mobile telephone service for international calls and calls within Ethiopia, and regular email service. Travel health insurance is strongly recommended; volunteers are required to acquire the necessary vaccinations prior to entry to Ethiopia. Volunteers are required to provide their own winter/alpine condition clothing, footwear and sleeping bag. Advice about what items are necessary for life at Guassa can be provided upon request.
TERM OF APPOINTMENT
13 months beginning mid-May 2018 and ending late June 2019. Because the training process requires approximately 2 months, assistants must be willing to work for a minimum of 13-months. We work in teams of twos and each researcher typically spends two to three days in the field with the geladas and one day at camp helping with camp chores and data entry and checking (we download and proof each day’s data onto the camp computer at the end of each field day). We expect successful applicants to be keen observers and diligent and conscientious students of animal behavior. Volunteers must be willing to work in a small team setting and have demonstrated a willingness to follow instructions/protocols closely in the past. We expect detailed updates from the field at least twice each week by email to keep us updated on conditions/progress in the field.
Positions will remain open until filled.
To apply, please submit (1) a letter of interest stating how and why this position satisfies your interest and future educational or career goals, explaining your suitability for this project, plus a time frame during which you are available to work, (2) a CV or resumé detailing relevant experience, (3) a summary of college courses taken and the grades received, to be followed later by an official transcript, and (4) contact information for at least two references, preferably at least one academic reference as well as one person who has worked closely with you or who has closely supervised your work. The subject heading of the email message should read: “Application for field research position”. Please email the application materials to Dr. Peter Fashing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Fashing, Ph.D.
Dept. of Anthropology
California State University, Fullerton
800 N. State College Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92834-6846
For more information about the project directors: