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Tropical Fieldwork – Research Assistant Position ‘The evolution of sociality in tropical wasps’. Starts early July ‘15, 3 month commitment.

A volunteer field assistant is required to help with a field-based project on behaviour in social wasps. This project combines behavioural experiments with next-generation sequencing to understand the molecular mechanisms behind sociality. Fieldwork will be conducted on the island of Trinidad, and will run from July-September. Research involves marking individual wasps, manipulations, conducting censuses, sample collections, and behavioural observations. Research is suited towards those with a keen interest in behavioural ecology, social evolution, and/or entomology.


Position 1: Voluntary field research assistant: 9th of July to Mid-October (3 months)

Position 2: Voluntary laboratory research assistant: From July onwards for 6 months

Position 1 (Field based):

We are looking for one voluntary field research assistants to conduct research on the completely subterranean, highly social Damaraland mole-rat (Fukomys damarensis). Specifically, this project investigates the group augmentation hypothesis and how benefits of living in large groups can generate selection for altruism in animals. We are currently conducting a large scale capture-mark and recapture experiment running over one year in which the voluntary research assistant would play an important role. Field work takes place in the southern Kalahari, Northern Cape province of South Africa. Entire groups of mole-rats will be captured and individually marked. Morphological measurements and tissue samples will be obtained before the release of the animals. The work is physically extremely demanding (long hours, heavy digging to capture mole-rats) and weather conditions are very challenging (heat during the day, very cold during the night). Field work will make trapping during the night necessary. The assistant will mostly be working along one more experienced scientist but will need to work independently at times.

Applicants should be enthusiastic, willing to work hard and keen to get involved in an ecological research project in the African bush. The research assistants are expected to be willing to work at night when trapping schedules require it and need to be fit as capturing mole-rats requires the capacity to do hard physical work (digging) in a challenging environment. Applicants must be holders of a driving license. A zoology related degree and/or previous field experience will be considered an asset. The successful applicant will work in a small team of 2 persons and hence need to be a team player and generally a person that enjoys collaboration under sometimes challenging and isolated circumstances.

Position 2 (Laboratory based):

This position entails assisting in a study on hormonal manipulations of subordinate and dominant mole-rats. We are interested in the effects of prolactin and testosterone on allo-parental care in non-reproducing mole-rats. The research assistant holding this position will be involved in all steps of the experiments and will mainly work in the laboratory with our captive mole-rats which are housed in large semi-natural tunnel systems. The responsibilities include behavioural observations, hormonal measures (blood sampling, urine sampling) and hormonal manipulations.

The successful applicant will work in a small team of 5-6 persons. The research station is also the home of several other projects studying meerkats (, pied babblers, forktailed drongos, bat-eared foxes and hornbills resulting in a stimulating scientific environment. Around 20-30 research assistants are based at the station year round. Research assistants will learn a range of skills such as remote sensing of behaviour, endocrine sampling techniques, capture-mark-recapture techniques, behavioural observations, data handling and management.

Accommodation is provided, and research assistants are paid a monthly allowance to cover their personal costs and food. Costs for travelling from Johannesburg to the field site will be covered.

Applications received until the 8th of June 2015 are ensured full consideration. Later applications can be considered especially for position 2.

To apply (CV + cover letter) or enquire further information see pdf version of this ad or contact:

Dr Markus Zöttl
Research associate
University of Cambridge
+44 (0)1223336673