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Field and Lab Research Project Leader: Experimental Study of Bartering and Gambling in Balinese Long-Tailed Macaques (University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada)
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Posted Dec 17

Field and Lab Research Project Leader: Experimental Study of Bartering and Gambling in Balinese Long-Tailed Macaques (University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada) 
 

Hiring Organization: University of Lethbridge 
 

Date Posted: 2017-12-14 
 

Position Description: We are seeking an independent, conscientious and highly motivated project leader to embark on a one-year field and lab research project, starting around June 2019, under the supervision of Dr. Jean-Baptiste Leca (Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada). 
 

The project leader will experimentally investigate a naturally occurring token-mediated bartering system in a free-ranging population of Balinese long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) living around the Uluwatu Temple, in southern Bali, Indonesia. These monkeys are known to spontaneously and routinely engage in a form of token exchange with humans. This occurs as follows: (1) The monkey steals a valued object from a visitor to the temple (e.g., glasses, hats, jewelry); (2) The monkey waits for one of the temple staff to provide a food offering in exchange for the object; (3) When the monkey deems that the food offering is sufficient, it provides the object to the temple staff who then returns it to the visitor. This behavior is fairly unique, as it is not reported in other populations of the same species. It is also quite common and well-established in this particular population. 
 

The first objective of the present research is to adapt this naturally occurring bartering system into an experimental one, by controlling for a number of variables. The second objective is to propose to these bartering macaques a series of gambling tasks. The two key elements that need to be altered in this bartering system are as follows: (1) Instead of the temple staff initiating the exchange (by offering food), the monkey needs to first ‘stake’ or proffer the object; (2) Instead of the monkey always receiving a reward of a known magnitude, the magnitude of the reward, as well as whether any reward is provided at all, have to be uncertain. Four gambling tasks will closely mirror the conditions under which gambling occurs in humans and attempt to replicate findings from human research. This research project addresses the need for more ecologically valid animal models of human gambling. Our unique non-human primate model will reflect the conditions under which risk-sensitive decisions are made by human gamblers and potentially validate existing animal research in this area. 
 

The successful applicant will first lead and conduct a six-month field experimental study of bartering and gambling in the free-ranging population of long-tailed macaques living at the Uluwatu Temple, south Bali, Indonesia (June – November 2019). The project leader will be in charge of (1) carrying out all the logistical aspects of the field research, and (2) supervising a small team of (local and international) research assistants. Only after successful completion of this first field research part of the study, the project leader will move to Dr. Leca’s Lab at the University of Lethbridge for an additional six months (December 2019 – May 2020), and will be in charge of video-scoring, analyzing, and publishing the data collected. The project leader may also use a large existing video-recorded data set on spontaneously expressed token exchange (i.e., object/food bartering) in this population of Balinese long-tailed macaques, already collected by our research team members. 

Depending on the credentials (i.e., degrees, academic transcripts, research experience, and publication record) of the project leader, this position could possibly turn into a Ph.D. program at the University of Lethbridge, under Dr. Leca’s supervision, with a research project focused on the mechanisms underlying bartering and gambling behaviors in this non-human primate model. During the course of the research project, the successful applicant will benefit from already established collaborations between Dr. Leca and other researchers in various fields (e.g., primatology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, problem gambling). 
 

Qualifications/Experience: Required – Applicants should: 

  • • have, or be working toward a Master’s degree in biology, neuroscience, ecology, psychology, anthropology, or economics, with an emphasis on animal/human behavior (e.g., ethology, behavioral ecology, cognitive science, evolutionary pychology, behavioral economics); 
  • • have excellent GPA and some research achievements (e.g., publications or conference presentations) to be eligible and competitive for internal awards, scholarships, fellowships offered by the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Lethbridge; 
  • • have a previous field research experience collecting behavioral data from large groups of individually recognized free-ranging animals (preferably primates); 
  • • have a detailed knowledge of, and hands-on experience in, behavioral data collection methods (e.g., focal and scan sampling techniques, field experiments); 
  • • show a positive attitude in the face of long and tiring field work days and unforeseen challenges; 
  • • be physically fit to stand and walk several hours a day under a hot and humid weather, while collecting behavioral data; 
  • • feel comfortable walking around a large group of well-habituated monkeys, which include getting a monkey jumping on the observer’s shoulders; 
  • • be mentally strong and emotionally mature to spend several months living under basic conditions and being far away from family and friends; 
  • • be able to communicate openly with our team about any problems that may arise; 
  • • possess strong social skills, which include enjoying working and communicating easily within a small team, sharing knowledge, and being teachable. 

 

Desirable – Priority will be given to applicants with: 

  • • good observation skills including patience, persistence and attention to detail; 

 

 

  • • a previous experience using handheld data loggers in the field (e.g., field computer/psion and video camera); 
  • • a previous experience with behavioral data scoring softwares (particularly The Observer XT by Noldus); 
  • • a previous experience with (or at least an interest in) theories and methods applied in Behavioral Economics; 
  • • a previous experience traveling and living in foreign countries and cultures; 
  • • fluency in English. 

 

Salary/funding: 

The first six months of field research expenses will be fully covered by Dr. Leca’s research grant from the Alberta Gambling Research Institute. This support will include one multi-city international airfare (from the applicant’s home country to Indonesia, and from Indonesia to Lethbridge), administrative expenses incurred while in the field (e.g., visa, long-term stay permit, research permit, field site fees), and a monthly research stipend (covering basic local transport, accommodation, and food expenses). 

Only after successful completion of this first field research part of the study, the expenses pertaining to the subsequent six months of lab work at the University of Lethbridge will also be fully covered by Dr. Leca’s research grant. This support will include a monthly stipend covering accommodation and food expenses while living in Lethbridge. 

Ideally (but not necessarily), the successful applicant will also be selected on the basis of his/her eligibility and high probability to be fully funded by an internal funding package offered by the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Lethbridge. Indeed, provided excellent GPA and research potential, the potential future Ph.D. student will be competitive for a tuition award (covering Ph.D. tuition fees and other administrative fees at the University of Lethbridge), a fellowship award, a teaching assistantship, a Dean’s scholarship, and a Board of Governors Graduate Student Research Scholarship (because the supervisor is a Tier II Board of Governors Research Chair). 

Term of Appointment: Field work: From June to November 2019 (6 months) in Bali, Indonesia. 

Lab work: From December 2019 to May 2020 (6 months) in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. 

Application Deadline: Review of applications to join our lab will begin immediately. 

Short-listed applicants will be contacted to schedule phone interviews as soon as possible. 

Due to the lengthy administrative procedure to apply for field research permits, we expect to select the successful candidate by the end of January 2019. 

Comments: Please submit the following documentation in ONE single PDF file saved with your last and first name in the file name (e.g., “Smith_John.pdf”): 

 

  • • A detailed cover letter documenting your education, research experience, qualifications (among those listed above), and interest in this Project Leader position, with an emphasis on your possible motivation to pursue your Ph.D. research on the topic described above. Please also confirm whether you will be available either from the entire study period (i.e., June 2019 – May 2020), or only part of it (and if so, please indicate your dates of availability); 
  • • Your detailed CV, including all relevant degrees, diplomas, certificates, coursework, field courses, field experience, and possible publications/conference presentations; 
  • • A copy of your official undergraduate and graduate (e.g., M.Sc., M.A., Ph.D.) academic transcripts, with the detailed list of courses taken and the corresponding grades, as well as your cumulative GPA (or GPA-equivalent); 
  • • Contact information (including email addresses) of THREE academic or professional references who can attest to your qualifications, including ONE reference who supervised you IN THE FIELD. 

 

Applications that contain more than one file will not be considered. 

Your application should be emailed to both Dr. Jean-Baptiste Leca (jeanbaptiste.leca@uleth.ca) and Dr. Noëlle Gunst (noelle.gunstleca@uleth.ca). Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, and we shall get back to you as soon as possible, via email. 
 

Contact Information: Jean-Baptiste Leca, PhD 

Noëlle Gunst, PhD 

Department of Psychology 

University of Lethbridge 

Lethbridge, AB 

Canada 
 

Website: http://www.jbleca.webs.com/ 

E-mail Address: jeanbaptiste.leca@uleth.ca 

AND 

noelle.gunstleca@uleth.ca