Field assistant position studying capuchin communication and cognition in Costa Rica

Capuchins at Taboga
Taboga Forest Reserve, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Job Category
Volunteer Openings
Expenses covered & modest stipend
Last Date to Apply
We are recruiting one field assistant for a study of white-faced capuchin vocal behavior and social cognition in Costa Rica. This research is conducted through the Capuchins at Taboga Project, a long-term study of the behavior and endocrinology of wild white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus). All research is conducted at a tropical dry forest field station located in the Taboga Forest Reserve in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The assistant will work closely with Missy Painter, a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan advised by Dr. Thore Bergman, a director of the project. The assistant will be responsible for the following: (1) locating and following monkey groups; (2) recording high quality audio of white-faced capuchin vocalizations; (3) recognizing individual monkeys, vocalization types, and behaviors (to detail the context in which vocalizations occur); (4) processing vocalization recordings on project computers to prepare them for acoustic analysis and use in playback studies; (5) working as part of a team to conduct playback studies (during which we play previously recorded vocalizations back to a monkey and observe its response); and (6) contributing to other aspects of the larger Capuchins at Taboga project as needed. All tools and training required to conduct this work will be provided by the Ph.D. student and experienced project assistants. The project field station is part of a field campus of the Universidad Técnica Nacional of Costa Rica at Taboga. You can read more about the location here: We have a multiple 4-bedroom houses that sleep at least 7 people comfortably. The houses have potable running water, reliable electricity and internet, full kitchens, two bathrooms with showers, and laundry facilities. The house is shared by our Costa Rican staff assistants, volunteer assistants, and graduate students conducting research. Capuchins at Taboga is a relatively new research project, but the directors have considerable experience running primate field stations (see one of their other projects here: COVID Precautions: Upon arrival to the field site, the assistant will quarantine for 7 days, at which point we will administer a saliva-based COVID-19 test. Following a negative test result, the assistant will then move into group housing. Assistants take turns going to town for groceries, are required to wear a mask in public at all times, and are expected to participate in regular follow-up COVID testing throughout their time at the field site. Extended time away from the field site must be approved, and quarantine will be required again upon return. When in the forest, assistants must wear a mask and stay at least six meters away from the monkeys. Funding & Compensation: This is a volunteer position, so there is no salary. However, round-trip airfare and all living support will be provided (e.g., travel, meals, lodging). For assistants staying with the project for a full year, a modest personal stipend will also be provided. The project will provide emergency travel health insurance, but the assistant will be responsible for their own basic healthcare needs (which tend to be affordable in Costa Rica). The assistant will be responsible for any additional expenses incurred while traveling on their own in Costa Rica (during breaks from work). Costa Rica does not require specific vaccinations to enter the country, but the assistant will be responsible for securing any recommended vaccinations they wish to have. The volunteer will need to provide their own backpack, field clothing and footwear. We will offer advice about what items are necessary for daily life in a tropical dry forest. The project is also committed to including assistants as authors on scientific publications made possible by their contributions in the field.
Qualified applicants will have a B.S. or B.A in Biology, Zoology, Biological Anthropology, Psychology, or a related field. Applicants must be fluent/highly proficient in English and conversational in Spanish (or at least willing to learn Spanish!), both of which are necessary to communicate with others at the field station. Prior travel and/or field experience in tropical regions is preferred. Due to the nature of working with vocalizations, good hearing and attention to detail are essential. An ability to work full days (~ 8 to 10 hours) outdoors in hot, humid conditions, on sometimes steep terrain, and through sometimes brushy forest is also required. We think the beauty of the forest and the wildlife is well worth it! Assistants must also be comfortable living and working closely with others. A 1-year commitment is preferred, and longer-term appointments with the larger Capuchins at Taboga project are also possible after the year is up. We are looking for someone who can start their appointment in May or June of this year (2021). Position will remain open until filled, and priority will be given to those who apply earlier. We hope to fill the position by the end of April, 2021. Please email the following materials to Ph.D. student Missy Painter: (1) a letter of interest stating how and why this position satisfies your interest and future career goals, explaining your suitability for this project, plus a time frame during which you are available to work (when you are free to travel), (2) a CV or resume detailing relevant experience, including relevant college courses taken, and (3) contact information for two references, preferably one academic reference and one work-related reference. The subject heading of the email message should read: “Application for field research position." We are committed to creating a safe, inclusive environment at this research site. We encourage applications from members of groups underrepresented in field sciences, including members of visible minorities, racialized groups, and LGBTQ+ communities. We also encourage applications from nationals of primate habitat countries, and especially from Costa Ricans.
Contact Person
Missy Painter
Contact eMail
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