Volunteer Research Assistant:
Movement Ecology of Himalayan Langurs
University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
We are seeking two volunteer research assistants to aid in a study of the movement ecology of Himalayan langurs (Semnopithecus schistaceus) in a human-modified landscape in the Garhwal Himalayas. This project forms a part of the Central Himalayan Langur project which has been running for 6 years now. The project currently monitors a single social group of Central Himalayan Langurs (Semnopithecus schistaceus) and previous research with this group has provided information on their feeding ecology, sleeping site selection, and genetic relatedness. Another major focus of our research has been to foster the conservation of the Himalayan habitat that this troop shares with humans, through community outreach activities and raising awareness through popular science articles about the study group.
The primary focus of the field season in 2021 will be to study the movement ecology of this Central Himalayan Langur population around this human-modified landscape and tests their spatial cognitive abilities, about which we know nothing for langurs or other leaf-eating primates. (Suggested Reading: Ken Sayers 2013 Article). This project will also continue the outreach and educational activities with the local community this year.
Applicants who are interested in this opportunity as a springboard to help them pursue a post-grad degree (MSc. or Ph.D.) in Behavioural Ecology, Anthropology, Evolutionary Psychology or any related field are especially encouraged to apply. This project is also a great opportunity for those wanting to document the wilderness of high-altitude Himalayas through their photography skills while also learning about the behaviour and ecology of a species and the scientific methodology used to document the observations in the wild.
Volunteer Research Assistants will be working as a part of a team including forest department officials, local field assistants, and will be responsible for:
a) Collecting GPS data on range use according to a defined procedure.
b) Collecting langur behavioural data (group scans, habituation data).
c) Ensuring that daily, weekly, and monthly reports are done consistently.
d) Daily accounting and weekly reporting.
Assistants are expected to spend the complete duration of the project in the field. All applicants are responsible for their own field equipment (hiking shoes, bush clothes, rain gear, and a pair of binoculars). It is important to remember that we will ask for the shortlisted assistants to show the results of their COVID screening test undertaken not more than 72 hours before arriving at the field site, or if they have vaccinated, to show the proof of the same. It is also recommended (not mandatory) that you take a health insurance plan before arriving at the field site. Please note that the project adheres to gender equality and will not tolerate any form of sexual harassment. The assistants are expected to be respectful to the local communities and acknowledge their rights to the land on which we will be carrying our fieldwork. The research assistants, upon substantial contribution towards the project, will have an opportunity to contribute to manuscript preparation and submission.
- Minimum of an ongoing or completed bachelor’s degree in biology, zoology, wildlife sciences, anthropology, or any other related field
- As a part of capacity building, applications from motivated students from the local Garhwali community are preferable as well as those who wish to pursue careers in wildlife sciences, zoology, animal behaviour, environmental sciences, etc.
- The most important trait in a field assistant is a strong work ethic and the ability to make a firm commitment for the duration of the project.
- A previous field experience in Himalayan terrain will be preferable.
- Candidates with experience in data collection and data entry, preferably with a behavioural research project, will be preferred.
- Must be able to live and work independently and as part of a team.
- Good physical fitness is essential as most of the day will be spent hiking after the study groups. Our normal work schedule will involve following the monkeys on a regular basis (about 10-12h a day; 5 days a week).
- It is also highly desirable for applicants to have done some reading in primatology (not just copy-paste knowledge from google searches, but journal articles, books, popular science articles, including some from this project) before applying.
This study will be conducted in and around Mandal village at the southern outer fringe of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS). KWS harbours a great diversity of floral and faunal diversity, some of which are endemic to this part and endangered in their habitat. The field site is located 13kms from the nearest town of Gopeshwar and is accessible by an all-weather road. The field site is a popular birding spot in Mandal-Chopta valley as well as the gateway to some famous pilgrimage sites in India.
Very basic living conditions with shared accommodation. Basic food depending on the supply. At the basecamp at Mandal village, there is good internet and cellular network connectivity for Airtel. Electricity is usually available unless there is a major fault in the supply line during the rainy season. Mandal village has a small market where basic utilities and medical help are available. An ambulance is always stationed in the village in case of a medical emergency.
Support provided for assistant positions (travel, meals, lodging):
This is not a salaried position. The project will cover all the costs associated with local travel, accommodation, and food at the field site. A suitable stipend might be discussed after the successful completion of the project duration by the volunteer.
Term of Appointment:
This position starts on May 1, 2021, and continues till August 15, 2021. Depending on the availability of funds, this position can be extended beyond August 2021.
March 20, 2021. We would appreciate potential volunteers sending applications as soon as possible without waiting for the deadline so that the selected volunteer research assistants can be provided with necessary instructions regarding travel and packing for the fieldwork. Review of applications will begin immediately, and the positions will remain open until filled. Short-listed applicants will be contacted to schedule phone/Skype interviews as soon as possible.