Ph.D. position, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada: Object Play Culture and Complex Foraging in Balinese Long-Tailed Macaques

Hiring Organization:
University of Lethbridge

Date Posted:

Position Description:
We are currently seeking an independent, conscientious and highly motivated student to embark on a four-year Ph.D. program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Lethbridge (starting in September 2016), under the supervision of Dr. Jean-Baptiste Leca.

The Ph.D. research project will consist of investigating the developmental and evolutionary links between the non-instrumental manipulation of objects (e.g., object play) and complex extractive foraging techniques (e.g., processing difficult foods and tool use) in multiple free-ranging groups of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) living on the island of Bali, Indonesia. This project also aims to quantify the social transmission of group-specific object-oriented behavioral patterns (e.g., object manipulation, stone handling, eye covering play, coconut bashing, and tool use) in this primate species, by using network-based diffusion analysis.
Further details about the research project can be found at:

Before officially starting the Ph.D. program, the successful applicant will first conduct a 5-month field study in Bali (scheduled from mid-March to mid-August 2016), focusing on three pairs of large neighboring groups of monkeys living at Uluwatu (south Bali), Ubud (central Bali), and Pulaki (west Bali). These macaques are commensal (i.e., they live in human-dominated habitats, including Balinese temples) and some of the field sites are visited daily by many tourists.

The Ph.D. student will collect social and behavioral data on a large number of immature and adult monkeys (more than 50 individuals/group). Data collection will include a combination of instantaneous group scan sampling (using a pre-established ethogram), as well as pen-and-paper, psion-recorded, and video-recorded continuous focal-animal sampling. The field workload is significant: about 10 hours/day (from 8 am to 6 pm) and 6 days a week. The Ph.D. student will also be responsible for managing the data collected on a daily basis.

In the field, the Ph.D. student will be accommodated in a guest house located not too far from each field site (about 20-25 minutes by motorbike), with basic equipment and utilities, including electricity, running water (but probably not hot water), and wireless internet.

Required – Applicants should:
• have, or be working toward (by the end of December 2015) a Master’s degree in biology, ecology, psychology, or anthropology, with an emphasis on animal behavior (e.g., ethology, behavioral ecology, cognitive science);
• have excellent GPA and research potential 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 experience collecting social and 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);
• 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 in the scorching heat (the tree cover at some field sites is very limited), while collecting behavioral data;
• feel comfortable walking around a large group of well-habituated monkeys, which may (occasionally) 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 social network analyses;
• a previous experience traveling and living in foreign countries and cultures;
• a previous experience driving an automatic motorbike;
• exhibit some flexibility and sensitivity to other cultures;
• fluency in English.

Over a four-year Ph.D. program, the successful applicant will be fully funded by a graduate research assistantship from the Ph.D. supervisor supplemented 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 future Ph.D. student will be eligible and competitive for a tuition award (covering Ph.D. tuition fees and other administrative fees at the University of Lethbridge), a fellowship award, a graduate/teaching assistantship, and a Dean’s scholarship.

Field research expenses will be fully covered by providing the successful applicant with an adequate financial support from the Ph.D. supervisor’s research grants. This support will include one round-trip international airfare (from the successful applicant’s country of residence to Jakarta), domestic airfare (from Jakarta to Denpasar in Bali), administrative expenses (e.g., visa, long-term stay permit, research permit), as well as a monthly research stipend (covering in-country ground transport to field site and field site fees) and basic living support (for accommodation expenses and a daily stipend for food).
The successful applicant is responsible for any additional expenses incurred while in Bali. These expenses include international health insurance, recommended vaccinations, and basic field clothes, footwear and gear. The successful applicant should also provide the Ph.D. supervisor with a proof of international health insurance. Advice about recommended vaccinations and items for life/research in Bali will be provided to the successful applicant.

Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging):
Not applicable (please see salary/funding)

Term of Appointment:
Application deadline for the Ph.D. program at the University of Lethbridge: February 1, 2016
Field data collection in Bali: from mid-March to mid-August 2016 (5 months)
Start of Ph.D. program at the University of Lethbridge: early September 2016

Please note that the starting date for field work in Bali will be slightly delayed (third week of March 2016) due to the need to spend one week in Jakarta to deal with the Indonesian administrative procedure (e.g., research permit).

Application Deadline:
Review of applications will begin IMMEDIATELY.
Due to the long administrative procedure needed to prepare the field work in Indonesia, we expect to select the successful candidate by mid-November 2015. Short-listed applicants will be contacted to schedule phone interviews as soon as possible.

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 position, with an emphasis on your motivation to pursue your Ph.D. research on the topic described above. Please also confirm that you will be available to conduct field research in Bali from mid-March to mid-August 2016;
• your detailed CV, including all relevant degrees, diplomas, certificates, coursework, field courses, and field experience;
• a copy of your official undergraduate and graduate (M.Sc. or M.A.) 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 Dr. Jean-Baptiste Leca ([email protected]) AND Dr. Noëlle Gunst ([email protected]).
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:
[email protected]
[email protected]

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