University of Florida; Field Research Assistant: Madagascar

University of Florida
Job Category
Temporary/Seasonal Positions
Fully funded fieldwork experience: includes flights to Madagascar and all in-country living expenses (food, accommodation, travel between sites, visas & permits)
Last Date to Apply
PROJECT SUMMARY Deforestation is a major driver of tropical habitat loss, leading to species extinctions and loss of ecosystem services. The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration has sparked a global effort to restore degraded and deforested lands. Globally, a vital question is where to prioritize reforestation? Connectivity analysis assesses habitat interconnectedness (“landscape connectivity”) and identifies key areas for reforestation, enabling species to move across the landscape which is crucial for species survival and ecosystem services. Species’ traits (e.g. movement capabilities) influence landscape connectivity. Yet, current connectivity models might be unrealistic as most overlook species’ traits linked to adaptability and resilience to environmental change (e.g. exploratory behaviors). Madagascar presents a model case-study, as it is a global biodiversity hotspot with a high degree of species endemism. It also has very high deforestation rates leading to forest fragmentation, primarily due to shifting slash-and-burn agriculture practices (known as tavy). This makes Madagascar a high priority country for biodiversity conservation. The last remaining rainforests in Madagascar are in the east and are being degraded at an alarming rate. The government is committed to reforestation across the country and has launched several initiatives (e.g. Green Again project and Mission Green), including an ambitious tree planting effort. Despite these efforts, there is limited guidance on where to prioritize reforestation projects across the island's eastern landscape. We will survey bird species in the biologically diverse tropical rainforest of the Vatovavy-Fitovinany region of Madagascar, where there are people living below the poverty line who rely on unsustainable livelihoods, such as tavy (slash and burn agriculture), leading to intense deforestation and forest fragmentation. We will conduct bird surveys across three habitat types: old-growth intact forests, secondary fragment forests and the agricultural matrix. Birds will be surveyed using point-count sampling to obtain presence-absence data, and mist-netting techniques will be used to obtain species traits (behavioral and morphological). Our objectives thus are to: 1. survey bird species to obtain their distribution and traits associated with adaptability and resilience to environmental change. 2. determine where we should prioritize reforestation in this landscape using connectivity models, informed by species’ traits. JOB ACTIVITIES/ SCHEDULE The team for this field research project will consist of Dr. Cosset, the candidate, a Malagasy student from the University of Antananarivo, and Malagasy research technicians/guides, with an anticipated team size of 4-5 people. It is important that the candidate is able to work in a multicultural team setting. Before fieldwork commences, the team will stay a few days at the Centre ValBio. Fieldwork will be conducted in the continuous forests of Ranomafana National Park and the fragmented forests of Ambalavero. Fieldwork will involve staying at multiple different campsite locations and conducting long hikes (several hours) in the rainforest on slippery and challenging undulating hilly terrains to survey sites or camp locations. The team will be carrying research equipment and other supplies to each survey/ camp location. The mist-netting schedule will involve visiting a field site for 3 consecutive days. On the first day, the team will set up the mist-nets and keep them closed. On the second day, the team will conduct bird banding and mist-netting from 06:00 to 12:00. The mist-nets will be closed after sampling ends at 12:00. On the third day, the team will conduct another round of bird banding and mist-netting from 06:00 to 12:00, and after sampling, the mist-nets will be taken down and returned to camp. The point-count schedule will involve visiting each sampling point for 4 consecutive days. The team will conduct repeat-visit point counts at three equidistant sampling points spaced 200 m apart within each site. Multiple sites will be visited in one morning as point-counts will be conducted for a duration of 10 minutes each, from 06:00 to 12:00 in the morning. Both surveys, mist-netting and point-counts, are anticipated to run simultaneously, with Dr. Cosset leading one of them and the candidate leading the other. Thus, the team will be split into 2 sampling groups. After the surveys, the team will return to camp, debrief on surveys from the day, enter data, organize field equipment, plan survey team logistics and survey locations for the next day, repair mist-nets that need repairing, and have some rest time. Days off are usually one day a week due to the mist-netting schedule, but there may be days where we might have to work through the week in certain circumstances. There will also be some trips into nearby towns/villages to restock our camping supplies. KEY AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY • Lead point-count surveys or mist-netting (depending on the day) • Assist in data entry • Assist in organizing field equipment • Assist in carrying research equipment to survey sites   OTHER DUTIES • Assist in keeping the camp organized • Occasionally we might need to go to the nearest town/ village to restock supplies Job duration: August 2023 – end October 2023 (3 months)
ESSENTIAL • Experience in bird banding & mist-netting. Able to teach others or conduct surveys by yourself. • Experience in conducting bird point-count surveys. Able to teach others or conduct surveys by yourself. • Experience working in remote locations • Experience camping with basic facilities • Good at working in a multicultural team • Experience/ ability to work in physically challenging conditions DESIRABLE • Fluency in French or Malagasy • Experience working in Madagascar TYPE OF PERSON REQUIRED • Passionate about biodiversity conservation • Hard working • Enthusiastic team player • Curious, with a willingness to learn • Respectful of other cultures and beliefs systems – Madagascar has many cultural sensitivities and taboos that MUST be adhered to • Able to work in challenging remote locations and conditions • Able to work on an unpredictable or long work schedule • A problem-solver with a positive attitude – Fieldwork doesn’t always go as planned HOW TO APPLY Please send your resume and motivation letter to Dr. Cosset at Deadline for application: 4th June 2023 Following the closing date, we will contact you by email to let you know whether you have been shortlisted for an interview. Full details on interviews will be provided to invited candidates. For informal inquiries about this job, please contact Dr. Cosset at
Contact Person
Dr. Cindy Cosset
Contact eMail
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