We are looking for volunteer field assistants to help with ongoing predator research as part of the Primate & Predator Project based at Lajuma Research Centre within the Soutpansberg Mountains of South Africa. This montane environment supports populations of leopard (Panthera pardus), brown hyaena (Hyaena brunnea), caracal (Caracal caracal), civet (Civettictis civetta), serval (Leptailurus serval) and large spotted genet (Genetta tigrina). Our project focuses on understanding the ecology of these species, particularly leopard, alongside an assessment of the perceptions and drivers of human-wildlife conflict in the region. Another major objective of our research is to examine the behavioural ecology of predator-prey interactions focussing on diurnal primates and their predators as a model system.
Volunteers will work alongside an experienced team of field biologists and may be involved in the following tasks:
- Hiking to check camera traps. Changing batteries and SD cards in cameras.
- Sorting and tagging species from camera images.
- Helping to identify individual animals such as leopards and servals from camera images.
- Assisting analysis of leopard and brown hyaena scats. This may include collecting and washing scats, making slides or using a microscope to help identify species consumed from cross sections of hair.
- Tracking collared leopards, and downloading store on-board data.
- General data entry and analysis and preparation of reports and papers for publication.
- At certain times volunteers may be asked to assist with primate research and help with supporting Earthwatch teams as part of the project.
The precise activities will vary depending on our recent requirements at the time. Please get in touch if you have specific interests in particular techniques or aspects of our research, since not all activities will be ongoing at all times.
We are looking for volunteer research assistants with the following experience and qualifications:
1. A background in biology/zoology/ecology or related field and an interest in the behaviour, ecology and conservation of predators and other mammals.
2. Be physically fit and capable of undertaking fieldwork in a mountainous environment, in both very hot and cold temperatures. You should be able to comfortably cover 10-15km per day (often more) over rough and often steep terrain and capable of carrying a day pack these distances.
3. Capable of working well as part of a team, under the authority of field research coordinators, and be a valuable team member.
4. Reliable, responsible and motivated when it comes to following research protocols and methodologies, and an ability to work at unsociable hours when necessary.
5. Relevant experience of the project’s field techniques and of working in southern Africa is desirable but not essential.
No salary is provided, and you will need to cover your own food and accommodation costs at the research station. Accommodation costs are currently 4000 Rand a month. All research equipment will be provided. Volunteer research assistants will also be responsible for their own airfare and travel to South Africa and medical/travel insurance.
Housing is available at the Lajuma Research Centre which is equipped with hot showers, flush toilets, a gas stove, fridge, tapped water, washing machine, solar power, firewood and electricity (220V). Volunteers may join the town trip to Louis Trichardt (Makhado) once a fortnight for shopping, visits to an internet café, landline phone calls, etc. Accommodation fees are paid directly to Lajuma and not to the Primate and Predator Project.
Term of Appointment:
Positions start immediately. We are looking for volunteers who are able to commit for a minimum of 3 months, although positions may be held for up to 12 months or longer, depending on availability. Priority will be given to those who are able to stay longer. Volunteers able to contribute for a minimum of 6 months may take responsibility for certain sub-projects, including data analysis and publication where appropriate.
To apply, please submit a CV and covering letter outlining your suitability for the role, relevant experience and duration and timing of your availability. Please also include contact details for two referees. There is no specific deadline and applications will be accepted until positions are filled.