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Field Assistant – Bat-Virus Disease Ecology: Puerto Rico
University of Connecticut
Last Date to Apply
Brief research synopsis: There is an urgent need to develop a inter-disciplinary understanding of disease dynamics in their natural, animal hosts for the sake of pathogen control and prevention. The field of disease ecology represents a new perspective for viewing pathogen emergence, while simultaneously advancing the field of ecology. A common theme in ecology is understanding drivers of biodiversity patterns; however, assessments of biodiversity differences have traditionally considered only the taxonomic dimension. This means that species are all considered equally distinct, despite differences in evolutionary relatedness (phylogenetics) or ecological role. This project examines the taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional dimensions of bat biodiversity as drivers of virus diversity throughout the island of Puerto Rico.
Description of work: Fieldwork occurs any time between the hours of 4:00pm and 5:00am. We catch bats as they exit their roosting caves, using mist nets or harp traps. Work is often physically intensive, as it regularly involves hiking to and from the caves. When netting is done for the evening, we sample individual bats for virome analyses and take a suite of measurements. This involves wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE), including long sleeves, rubber exam gloves, and an N95 respirator.
-You need to have a completely nocturnal schedule, but also wake up early sometimes to change field sites or buy groceries
-Bugs dive-bombing your face because they mistake your headlamp for food or a mate (exact reasoning unknown at this point in time)
-PPE can be extremely irritating and induce a feeling of claustrophobia
-Sometimes the field stations we stay at lack wi-fi or cell service (although this provides a great opportunity to catch up on your reading or explore the field sites during the day)
-Cockroaches LOVE caves
-Being out at night is a completely surreal experience that many people don't get to experience
-We will see endangered Puerto Rican boas hunting bats at the mouth of caves
-We get to look bats in the face, and they are beautiful (you should Google the species in Puerto Rico ASAP)
-Although the schedule will be extremely tight, we will probably get to the beach at least once
-No venomous snakes (the biggest danger is hurting an ankle in the field, although there are wasps and scorpions that could cause some discomfort)
-During the day, in your free time, you get to explore the Puerto Rican forests
Additional info: I am looking for two volunteer field assistants for the month of June (2017), with the possibility of staying through August, pending funding. If the field season were to be extended through August, your per diem (food and lodging) would be covered, and there would be a possibility of partial or full reimbursement for the cost of your flight. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.
-A positive attitude - fieldwork can be stressful and grueling, and things go wrong on a regular basis. You must have a good attitude and exhibit a fair amount of mental flexibility.
-Manual dexterity - untangling bats from the nets is similar to untangling a dainty necklace chain, except your subject is alive. Our goal is to help the bats, not hurt them, so you must be gentle but efficient.
-Willingness and physical ability to work in a variety of field settings - accessing field sites will include hiking long distances with heavy loads of field supplies. Some sites are more forgiving than others, so you must be prepared for the most difficult ones.
- Rabies vaccine - rabies has never been contracted from a bat in Puerto Rico, and we will not be making any attempts to change that. You must be vaccinated or plan to be vaccinated upon starting the work.
- Proficiency in Spanish is a plus
Application instructions: Please send me a cover letter and CV with the contact info for two references.