Field assistants wanted for study of Greater Ani behavioral ecology

Two field assistants needed for a six-week study of Greater Ani behavior in central Panama. Field research assistants will primarily participate in adult capturing efforts over an intensive six-week season. Duties will include (but are not limited to) assisting with mist-net set up and operation, processing (color-banding, measuring, etc.) adult Greater Anis, gear maintenance and repair, data entry and management, and occasionally re-sighting banded birds. We are currently looking for:

•       Two assistants available to arrive in Panama on January 13, 2020, and depart on February 25, 2020.  Applications will be accepted until positions are filled, but preference will be given to those submitted by 18 November.

Location: Barro Colorado Nature Monument, including Barro Colorado Island (BCI; central Panama), Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Researchers and assistants will be housed on BCI in Smithsonian facilities.

Job description: The Greater Ani (Crotophaga major) is a cooperatively breeding Neotropical cuckoo with a unique social system: each breeding group consists of up to 10 individuals (typically between 2 and 4 socially monogamous pairs, plus 0-2 nonbreeding “helpers”), which construct a single nest in which all of the females lay their eggs. The Riehl lab at Princeton University has been intensively studying the breeding biology of the Greater Ani in the Barro Colorado Nature Monument since 2006.

Our work will occur during the non-breeding season, with the primary goal of capturing and color-banding as many adult anis as possible. Although preparation and data entry will occur in lab space provided on BCI, nearly all capture efforts will be accomplished via boat. Our primary means of capturing adult anis is to set mist-nets around group and communal roosts so that we can catch birds as they come into roost each night. Because Greater Anis roost primarily in aquatic vegetation or vegetation overhanging water, most nets need to be placed in water. To put it bluntly: you haven’t really mist-netted until you’ve done it from a boat. Setting and operating the nets can be quite challenging so either extensive previous experience with mist-netting, operating a small motorboat in waters similar to those of the Barro Colorado Nature Monument (i.e., lots of submerged stumps to navigate around), or both would position a field assistant for success in this job.

Dates: Start- 13 January, End- 25 February (~6 weeks)

Salary: Airfare to/from Panama and research-related travel within Panama (i.e., getting to/from the airport and the field site) will be covered. Room and board are also fully covered during your stay at the field site. The BCI field station provides primarily dorm-style housing and three meals a day, seven days a week. A small weekly stipend is provided for highly qualified applicants.

Deadline: Preference given to applications received on or before 18 November.

Qualifications: Those with previous field experience, especially those who have achieved competency in mist-netting, and a strong interest in bird behavior are highly preferred.

Other important qualifications include:

1.    willingness to work long hours in tropical conditions (that means buggy, sweaty, muddy, and often wet),

2.    ability to get along well with and be respectful of others in a relatively cramped environment,

3.    ability and willingness to work jointly in the field and to work in an area where encounters with venomous invertebrates are a real possibility (there are plenty of bees, wasps, and ants; some venomous snakes but not usually encountered while we’re working),

4.    good color vision (essential for distinguishing color-bands),

5.    Spanish language competency is helpful but not required,

6.    Applicants must have a strong interest in field research as a possible or definite career goal,

7.    Field assistants must have a valid passport,

8.  Must be able to swim and comfortable working on a boat, and

9.  International applicants welcome!

Additional Desired Skills: Experience operating a motorboat of ~5 m in length. Greater Anis nest along shorelines of lakes and rivers, and all the birds we are attempting to catch live along the waterways of the Barro Colorado Nature Monument.

Application instructions:

Please send the following:

1) a cover letter (~1 page) detailing your interests and career goals and how you see this position fitting in with them,

2) a resume or CV (please keep to relevant details),

3) the names and contact information (email and phone) of 3 references (ideally with some experience with how you work in a research/field context). Please also indicate the nature of your professional relationship to EACH reference (e.g., field supervisor, academic advisor, professor for a class, etc.).

Applications should be directed to: Dr. Joshua B. LaPergola, email: jl101 AT, with the subject heading “Greater Ani Field Assistant_2020_1_[Last name of applicant]_[First initial]”.