Animal Behavior Society
  • Pet Owners
  • Login/Join
  • Journal
  • Contact Us
  • Search


Field assistants needed to study wild capuchins in Costa Rica
Field Assistants
Posted Mar 9
We are recruiting multiple field assistants for the Capuchins at Taboga Project, a long-term project in Costa Rica on the behavior, cognition, communication, endocrinology, and conservation of wild white-faced capuchins (Cebus imitator). All research is conducted at a field station located in the Taboga Forest Reserve in the Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. Directors of the project are Drs. Thore Bergman and Jacinta Beehner (University of Michigan), and Dr. Marcela Benítez (Emory University). 
We are currently looking for research assistants who are willing to conduct daily behavioral observations in the field in addition to specializing in one of THREE areas:
Hormone analyses– The Hormone expert will be someone who has training and/or experience in a laboratory. In this position, you will get field experience in primate behavior and ecology while conducting on-site endocrine laboratory work in Costa Rica. Experience with enzyme-immunoassays (EIAs) would be amazing, but is not required, but previous pipetting experience is a must. You will be responsible for extracting and analyzing hormones as they are collected each day, maintaining the on-site laboratory, maintaining standard operating protocols for all laboratory personnel. Half of this position will also be conducting fieldwork.
Cognitive experiments– The Cognition expert will be 1-2 people who have training in comparative cognition, neuroscience, and/or cognitive studies on animals. In this position, you will get field experience in primate behavior and ecology while conducting experiments on platforms set up throughout the forest. You will be responsible for setting up and taking down interactive experiments on platforms (e.g., social learning boxes, reward validation tasks, touchscreens), maintaining apparatuses, updating study design and protocols, coding and analyzing videos, maintaining data logs, and overseeing all aspects of data collection. Computer savvy and experience in programming and/or machine learning would be ideal.  
Vocalization and communication – The Vocal expert will be someone who has training in animal vocalizations, cognition, communication, and/or audio analyses. In this position, you will get field experience in primate behavior and ecology while collecting and analyzing vocalizations with a microphone and recorder. You will be responsible for cleaning and labeling the vocalizations you collect, running playback experiments, and helping to build an algorithm for recognizing individuals using vocalizations.
Qualified applicants will have a B.S. or B.A in Biology, Zoology, Neuroscience, Biological Anthropology, Psychology, Computer Science (for the Vocal expert especially), or another relevant field. Applicants must be fluent/highly proficient in English and conversational in Spanish (or at least willing to learn Spanish!), both of which are necessary to communicate with others at the field station. An ability to work full days (~ 8 hours) outdoors in hot, humid conditions, on sometimes steep terrain, and through sometimes brushy forest is also required. We think the beauty of the forest and the wildlife is well worth it! Assistants must also be comfortable living and working closely with others.
The project field station is part of a field campus of the Universidad Técnica Nacional of Costa Rica at Taboga. You can read more about the location here. We have multiple 4-bedroom houses that each sleep 7 people comfortably. Each house has potable running water, reliable electricity and internet, full kitchens, two bathrooms with showers, and laundry facilities. The house is shared by our Costa Rican research assistants, volunteer assistants, and graduate students conducting research. You should come prepared to share a room. Directors will be present at the site for 1-4 weeks at a time throughout the year.
COVID Precautions: You must have a Covid-19 vaccination (and be boosted) to be part of this project. When in the forest, assistants must wear a mask and stay at least 6 m away from the monkeys to avoid transmission of human-bourne diseases.
Funding and Compensation:This qualifies as a volunteer position, with no formal salary, but we take care of all expenses, and we offer an extra monthly stipend of $200. Round-trip airfare from your home city and living support while conducting fieldwork will be provided (e.g., travel, meals, lodging, and $400 towards visa trips every 6 months). The project will provide emergency travel health insurance (including evacuation insurance), but the assistant needs to have their own basic healthcare plan. The assistant will be responsible for covering expenses during vacations (3 weeks of vacation time per year). Costa Rica does not require specific vaccinations to enter the country, but the assistant will be responsible for securing any recommended vaccinations they wish to have. The volunteer will need to provide their own backpack, field clothing, and footwear. We will provide snake gaiters (lower leg coverings), binoculars, and other field gear needed to collect data. We can also offer advice about what items are necessary for living a comfortable daily life in a tropical dry forest.

The project is committed to including assistants as authors on scientific publications and presentations made possible by their contributions in the field. We are committed to creating a safe, inclusive environment at this research site. We encourage applications from members of groups underrepresented in field sciences, including members of visible minorities, racialized groups, and LGBTQ+ communities. We also encourage applications from nationals of primate habitat countries, including Costa Ricans.

Appointment:A one-year commitment is preferred, and longer-term appointments are also possible after the year is up. We are looking for assistants who can start their appointment in June of 2024 (anytime in June works). Applicants who decide to remain for longer than one year, will receive one round-trip flight to their home country for a break in between appointments.
Deadline:Positions will remain open until filled. We hope to fill the position before May 2024.
Application: Please email the following materials to Dr. Jacinta Beehner at ([email protected]):
  1. A letter stating your qualifications for this position, which specific position you are applying to, whether you speak Spanish, how the position fits with your interests and future career goals, and when you would be available to come.
  2. A CV or resumé detailing relevant experience
  3. A unofficial transcript of college courses taken and the grades received.
  4. Contact information for at least two references, preferably at least one academic reference as well as one person who has worked closely with you or who has closely supervised your work. No need to send letters at this time. We will request letters at a later stage in the process.
The subject heading of the email message should read: “Application for Costa Rican field position”.