The NEW ABS News System is Now Available.View News »

About the ABS

ABS News

Field Research Assistant position: Experimental Study of Bartering and Gambling in Balinese Long-Tailed Macaques (University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada)
Jobs & Postdocs
Posted Jan 22

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

Hiring Organization: University of Lethbridge 

Date Posted: 2019-01-21 

Position Description: We are seeking an independent, conscientious and highly motivated Field Research Assistant (FRA) to embark on a six-month field research project, starting early July 2019, under the supervision of Dr. Jean-Baptiste Leca (Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada). 

The FRA will assist a Project Leader with an experimental study of 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, from early July to the end of December 2019. 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. Several 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 help the Project Leader to carry out all the logistical aspects of the field research, including the preparation of the field experimental protocols, the video-recorded data collection during the tests, and the data entry. 

Qualifications/Experience: Required – Applicants should: 

  • • have, some theoretical background (e.g., via academic course work) in biology, neuroscience, ecology, psychology, anthropology, or economics, with an emphasis on animal/human behavior (e.g., ethology, behavioral ecology, cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, behavioral economics); 
  • • have a previous research experience collecting behavioral data from large groups of individually recognized animals (preferably primates in the field, but not necessarily); 
  • • have some 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; 
  • • have some experience riding a motorbike/scooter, with automatic transmission; 
  • • 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 video camera in the field; 
  • • a previous experience with behavioral data entry and processing via Excel; 
  • • 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. 



This is a volunteer position, so there is no salary. 

Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging): 

Upon successful completion of the field work (i.e., at the end of the stay), we will reimburse the FRA’s administrative fees (i.e., RISTEK-research permit, KITAS-stay permit and visa expenses), for a total of approximately $250 (USD), and we will contribute to the airfare for the international flight from the FRA’s home country to Jakarta, and domestic flight (from Jakarta to Bali), for a maximum of $900 (USD). The FRA is expected to cover his/her living expenses in Bali, 

including accommodation, food, and motorbike rental, which may total between $450 and $550 (USD)/month. 

The FRA is also responsible for any additional expenses incurred while in Bali. These expenses include international health insurance, recommended vaccinations, insect-repellent products, and basic field clothes, footwear and gear. Upon successful application, the FRA should provide us with an official document of international health insurance. 

Advice about recommended vaccinations and items for life/research in Bali will be provided to the successful applicant. 

Term of Appointment: From early July to the end of December 2019 in/around Uluwatu, southern Bali, Indonesia. 

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 mid-February 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 FRA position. Please also confirm whether you will be available from the entire study field research period (i.e., July-December 2019), 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; 
  • • Contact information (including email addresses) of TWO 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 ( and Dr. Noëlle Gunst ( 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 



E-mail Address: