Applications are now closed for the Ekipa Fanihy Field Technician. Please stay tuned for further information or future opportunities.

Projected Project Period: September 10, 2022 (start date) - August 31, 2023 (end date), with options to extend.


Work Description

This one-year position, open only to US citizens, will involve organizing and participating in monthly field expeditions for Ekipa Fanihy with one additional tech and a team of PhD students from the University of Antananarivo. This position will take over from one of our outgoing techs and overlap a current tech who will remain through December 2022 and be replaced in January 2023.

Ekipa Fanihy carries out monthly capture and sampling of Madagascar’s fruit bats (Pteropus rufus, Eidolon dupreanum, and Rousettus madagascariensis) at roost sites in the District of Moramanga, Madagascar, with possible extensions to field sites elsewhere. This work supports a long-term field study aimed at deciphering the mechanisms underpinning persistence of potentially zoonotic RNA viruses in wild, Madagascar fruit bats. Bats are reservoirs for several important, highly-virulent zoonoses, including rabies, Hendra and Nipah henipaviruses, Ebola and Marburg filoviruses, and SARS, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2 coronaviruses. This work also contributes data to population viability analyses and assessments of the conservation status of threatened fruit bats in Madagascar. Please see Research for further details about the major themes of the project.

Field technicians will be trained in the field in September 2022 by project PI, Professor Cara Brook, and/or postdoc, Dr. Theresa Laverty, then supervised remotely (from the University of Chicago) for the duration of the year, interspersed with regular visits from Dr. Brook, Dr. Laverty, and PhD students from the Brook lab.

Techs will spend approximately 70% of their time in the field. During each field mission, techs will travel with University of Antananarivo PhD students for up to 1-2 days to remote field sites in vehicles with hired drivers. While in the field, the team will reside in tents provided by the project for up to two weeks at a time. The work will necessitate strenuous hiking and hauling heavy equipment, sometimes in adverse weather conditions. During field missions, a local cook will be hired to prepare meals, and all expenses (including food) will be funded by the project.

While in the field, the field team will capture bats, collect biological samples (blood, urine, feces, saliva, ectoparasites, wing punches), and undertake basic sample preparation (i.e. centrifugation) and storage in liquid nitrogen. The work will be unevenly paced with periods of intense work interspersed with significant downtime; techs will need to be prepared to entertain themselves during this downtime with reading, writing, personal research projects, studying Malagasy, etc. Many field missions will overlap traditional weekends, and techs will be expected to work during these periods.

In between field missions (30% of the time), techs will live in a shared house in Madagascar’s capitol city of Antananarivo (housing includes a modern kitchen, ample living space, modern bathroom, WiFi, on-site security, and monthly cleaning services). Each tech will be provided a private bedroom. In Antananarivo (‘Tana’), the techs will work with Ekipa Fanihy to further treat, organize, and conduct basic molecular analyses (DNA/RNA extractions, PCR, etc.) of samples at Mahaliana. Together, the two field techs will be additionally responsible for restocking, packing, and preparation of field supplies for recurring field missions. When weekends overlap with periods of time in the city, techs will have free time to travel locally, take Malagasy lessons, and reset as needed.

When not in the field, techs will additionally have opportunities to take part in professional development in the form of remote lab meetings with the Brook Lab at the University of Chicago, as well as receive guidance on the graduate school application process if desired. Field technicians will be acknowledged on publications arising from this work and may or may not be included as co-authors depending on the duration of their employment and the extent of their intellectual contributions to data analysis and interpretation after the field work concludes. Opportunities for independent work–either in science communication or in research–may be pursued on a case-by-case basis.

Please visit our News page or current field tech Kendall Fitzgerald’s blogsite to read previous reports of the team’s adventures in the field. Feel free to reach out to contact current Ekipa Fanihy field technicians, Kendall Fitzgerald (at fitzk@berkeley.edu) or Dominic Daniels (at dtdaniels@berkeley.edu), with any questions about the job.


Qualifications

We are open to candidates from all backgrounds, but an ideal candidate will possess some combination of the following background traits or experiences:

  • a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in biology, ecology, wildlife conservation, or a related field
  • past field experience involving handling of mammals or birds
  • prior camping experience
  • prior experience living and/or travelling in the developing world
  • a high level of physical fitness

Bonus traits include:

  • prior experience working with bats
  • prior field experience drawing blood from mammals or birds
  • an academic interest in disease ecology
  • interest in science communication, outreach, or writing
  • French and/or Malagasy language skills

Candidates who do not meet the above requirements will not be automatically discarded but will need to justify their interest in this position and commitment to catching up on the necessary skills in their application. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Cara Brook at cbrook@uchicago.edu with any questions or concerns.


Compensation

Field Technicians will be part-time, benefits ineligible employees at the University of Chicago and will be required to demonstrate evidence of US medical insurance (i.e. on a family member’s plan) prior to the position start date. All techs will receive an advance stipend of $2000 prior to arrival to Madagascar to support them in preparations for the upcoming field season. Technicians will be responsible for using the stipend to obtain the following prior to the start date:

  • International SOS, or some other form of medical evacuation insurance for the duration of the employment (a ~$400 value)
  • Rabies vaccination. This three-shot series can cost up to ~$1000 if not covered by insurance, though, depending on health insurance, this can usually be acquired cheaply with a letter from the project. Please reach out to your State Department of Public Health or City/County Public Health Department if struggling to obtain this from your Primary Care Provider.
  • One-year supply of malaria medication (i.e. malarone, doxycycline) (a ~$200 value, depending on health insurance)
  • An extendable scientific research visa (~$55 USD value)

Once arrived in-country, field technicians will receive a monthly living stipend of ~$100 a week (~400,000 Ar), which will be more than sufficient to support a comfortable lifestyle throughout the duration of the project (average daily cost of living is < 5,000 Ar in Madagascar). Rent on Tana housing and all in-field food expenses will be paid by the project. Field technicians will be expected to purchase and cook food using their living stipend while in Tana, and any excess funds from the stipend may be kept for personal use.

One roundtrip plane ticket from a major international US airport will be funded by the project across the duration of the one year of employment. Ekipa Fanihy will take a 2-week break from field work during the December holidays, and the tech will be free to travel in country or, if desired, return to the US using personal funds during this time. Breaks from field studies for personal travel of up to 3 weeks total at other times of the year will be permitted if requested with a minimum of 2 months advance notice.

At the conclusion of 12 months of employment, field technicians will receive an additional $2000 bonus to support relocation expenses upon returning home.

Diversity and Inclusion

We are an equal-opportunity group. Applicants from underrepresented backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and lifestyles are enthusiastically encouraged to apply. We acknowledge that we are unable to provide a salary competitive with full-time US-based employment for field technicians at this time. However, if the above compensation description is inadequate for your needs, please inform us of this in your application submission. We will review applications on a case-by-case basis and do our best to making this opportunity accessible for the right applicant, independent of financial constraints!