ELEPHANT FIELD RESEARCH ASSISTANT
The Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT) was established in 2008 when their first project, The Lilongwe Wildlife Centre (LWC), opened as Malawi’s first wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, and education centre. Since then LWT has expanded their programmes to include an extensive national environmental education program, a strong force in investigating and combating wildlife crime, and an expansion of their wildlife research programme.
LWT’s Research Programme has field-based projects in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve (VMWR), Nyika National Park (NNP), as well as captive based studies at the LWC. Our recent projects include; 1) Vwaza Primate Project (primate and habitat assessment of VMWR); 2) Samango monkey census and genetics project (across the country) and 3) Primate reintroduction project (VMWR). In addition, we are expanding to other wildlife research beginning with our centrepiece project, LWT’s Elephants for Landscapes Project which aims to assess the long-term status, ecology and spatial behaviour of elephants in Northern Malawi.
The Elephants for Landscapes Programme aims to monitor long-term population changes in response to environmental change and anthropogenic pressures in VMWR. We will 1) collect population density and abundance and habitat use data using both walking and driving large mammal transects, 2) conduct individual identification and using capture-mark-recapture to assess density and herd dynamics, 3) record herd group dynamics, characteristics, and interactions, and 4) conduct a diet analysis using dung surveys. The recognizable individuals and herds form the foundation of our research, allowing us to collect long-term data on interactions and associations between individuals and different groups. This is the first study on the elephant populations in Northern Malawi and this project forms part of LWT’s larger initiatives that advocate for the continued protection of elephants in Malawi, including the Stop Wildlife Crime Campaign, supporting anti-poaching initiatives, law enforcement and political advocacy, and local education and outreach. This project is conducted in partnership with Elephants for Africa (EfA).
We are looking for a field research assistant who will conduct the fieldwork based out of our research camp at VMWR, working with and reporting to the Research Manager, Amanda Harwood, and the Head of Research, Dr Emma Stone. This person will be responsible for:
- Coordinating and conducting field research including: elephant and large mammal transects on foot and by car (conducting the census), individual ID records (assessing age/sex classes, taking and organizing photographs), habitat surveys, and diet analysis
- Responsible for ensuring data is accurately collected, input, and stored
- Some data analysis
- Creating GIS maps of the study area including creating GIS maps of sightings, habitats and dung data
Operations and Logistics
- Driving a manual 4×4 vehicle in the bush, responsible for upkeep and maintenance
- Responsible for maintenance of all project equipment (e.g. GPS, data sheets, batteries, etc).
- Responsible for organizing scouts or other site-specific logistics and schedules
- Responsible for organizing resupply and food shopping
Staff and People Management
- Responsible for coordinating, supervision and training of unskilled volunteers (both local and international) who join the programme on a regular basis from 2 weeks to 9 months
- Responsible for health and safety of volunteers in the field
- Working alongside our senior Malawian field research assistant
- Working closely and cooperatively with other team members representing the project and with partner organizations including Department of National Parks and Wildlife
- Jointly responsible for camp maintenance and upkeep (including fetching water, charging equipment, cleaning, cooking meals, conducting food and kit resupply runs and volunteer pick-ups in nearby Rumphi (45mins drive) and Mzuzu (2hr drive).
Reporting and Budgeting
- Produce bi-monthly project and logistics reports, newsletters, blogs, etc as required
- Be responsible for accurate budget record keeping and reporting
- Conduct all research activities effectively and efficiently to ensure that accepted standards of research and ethical behaviour are always met.
- Deliver other related duties as assigned by the Research Manager.
- Maintain compliance with all LWT policies and procedures, and the laws of Malawi.
- Attend and contribute to project meetings if required
- Be flexible in the hours worked to fluctuating demand
Requirements Qualification and Experience
- BSc or higher in related field (biology, zoology, conservation, animal behaviour, etc)
- Experience working and living in remote environments, preferably in Africa
- Experience in field-based research in remote environments
- Physically fit – able to walk for hours in unfavourable conditions (e.g. heat or rain)
- Good communication skills, for both international volunteers and students and local Malawian staff and DNPW scouts and park management
- Experience in data collection, organization, and analysis
- Experience with manual 4×4 bush driving and valid driving license
- Self-motivated, hard-working, flexible, conscientious, and enthusiastic for the work; Positive mental attitude, resilient, ability to muck in and get on with it
- Able to work both independently and in a team, as well as live with others
- Must be able to work under pressure and meet deadlines, while maintaining a positive attitude and providing exemplary standards
- Ability to carry out assignments to completion within parameters of instructions given, prescribed routines, and standard accepted practices
- Must be willing to work on projects where there is an associated risk due to the remote nature of the work, but must never take unnecessary risks that may endanger their life or the lives of their fellow employees and partners and/or hinder project objectives
- Clean criminal record
- Experience in GIS, home range analysis and distance sampling analysis
- Long-term experience of field research in Africa (>6 months)
- Postgraduate research experience / degree in elephant research, or related field
- Experience with vehicle maintenance
- Project management experience
- Publications in peer-reviewed journals
- First aid trained
Vwaza Marsh is a protected area run by the DNPW in northern Malawi. It has some wildlife including impala, hippos, crocodiles, elephants, hyaenas, roan, warthogs, baboons, vervets, bushbabies, kudu, and buffalo, many of which can be seen from our research camp on the edge of Lake Kazuni.
Living is basic in a newly built research camp inside VMWR, in pitched tents with beds and shelves. There is good cell and intent signal from camp and solar power for charging electronics, but with no running water.
Terms of Position
Support: This is a voluntary staff position with no salary provided. A small stipend may become available at some point during your term, dependent on funding. Accommodation is provided in Lilongwe and the field sites. Transport inside the country (work-related, e.g. travel from Lilongwe to the field site) is covered by the project. All staff contribute funds to the weekly food resupply (this can vary but is usually 4,000-8,000 mwk/week). Food, personal travel, international flights, visas, vaccinations and medical aid, and insurance are not covered.
Start Date: ASAP / July 2018
Term length: 8 months, with option to extend to 1 year.