Building observations assistant

applications are Closed

estimated opening date : 2022-12-30

The Sociable Weaver Project is offering a position for a motivated field assistant with a keen interest in animal behaviour that will be in charge of conducting field observations related to nest building. If you are interested, please find more information below.


The Sociable weaver research program is a long-term project that uses the sociable weaver population at Benfontein Nature Reserve as a model to study the evolution and maintenance of cooperation. Monitoring of sociable weavers on the reserve goes back to 1993.

Benfontein Nature Reserve (property of De Beers mining company) is situated ca. 15 minutes’ drive from Kimberley (South Africa) and is a 12000 ha reserve on the edge of the Kalahari ecosystem. There is very good birding in the reserve (check ebird ) and several antelopes and some iconic mammals (aartvark, aardwolf, bat-eared foxes), but there are no large carnivores and hence the reserve is safe for fieldworkers. There are, however, venomous snakes (Cape cobras, Boomslangs and Puff adders) especially in and around the sociable weaver colonies! Therefore, to work at Benfontein it is important not to have a snake phobia and also to respect strict safety rules to prevent any accidents.

People in our research group reside at the Research Station within the reserve in a spacious house that includes an office area and a garage/workshop and is shared by all the field team. The project has its own field vehicles that are used to reach the study area (located 15-20 minutes away in the South of the reserve) and to access the nests.

Job description

This position is part of a project that focuses on nest building behaviour and will consist essentially of conducting observations on a daily basis (typically 2h early in the morning and again in the evening, plus data entry when back from the field). The work also involves setting up video cameras to film nest building on the colony canopy, and to set up a system that takes automatic photos of the birds to train computer models for individual identification. This camera work also involves data downloads, charging batteries, etc when back from the field.

To conduct this work, a strong interest in animal behaviour, patience and determination are essential. Specifically, the work requires (1) a strong motivation to conduct behavioural observations; (2) patience and willingness to sit for long periods of time in a hide (3) being able to read colour combinations and identify individuals by their color rings, (4) setting up and managing remote field equipment, (5) interacting with the other team members in the field and at distance, (6) being able to live in isolated field conditions and sharing a house with a small group of people, contributing to communal living tasks (cleaning, cooking, etc), (7) not being afraid of snakes or heigths and (8) be comfortable usign a computer.

In addition, there will be opportunities to participate in other fieldwork tasks, such as monitoring of reproduction (nest checks, measuring and ringing chicks, taking blood samples) or to assist with ongoing experiments

Duration : We aim to record feeding association all year long. We are seeking for someone starting early October and can stay for at least 3 months (extendable period).

Living conditions: The team lives and works together in a remote place. It is important to be able to endure long working hours and the intensive field work rhythm while sharing communal tasks and life at the house. The number of people in the field team can vary typically between 8-10 people between August and September down to 3-5 from November to July. Usually the team is international and a good English knowledge is essential.

Snake and heights: Given the frequency of encounters with snakes, fieldworkers should not have a snake phobia. In addition, the work often requires working on an elevated platform (on top of a vehicle) and sometimes using a step-ladder. As a consequence, the work is not well suited for people that suffer from vertigo or are afraid of heights.

Driving: All fieldwork at the project requires the use of vehicles in dirt roads. The roads do not require using 4×4 vehicles, but good driving skills are important. In addition, general vehicle checks and basic maintenance are part of the duties of anyone in the fieldteam.


  • Driver’s license
  • Not having a snake phobia or fear of heights
  • Being available for 3-4 months minimum
  • Not being colour blind (as all fieldwork involves working with colour rings)

Desired skills:

  • Previous field experience with fieldwork and bird reproduction monitoring
  • Previous experience observing birds or other animals and associated data collection
  • Team work experience
  • Being familiar with computers and electronics
  • Good aptitude for troubleshooting

Covered by the project:

  • Accommodation
  • Travelling to and from Benfontein
  • Insurance
  • Stipend (variable, depending on job and experience)

The project will DISCARD ANY application outside opening dates. We recommend you to regularly check for changes.

To apply, please send us (as an alternative, you can select ‘copy email address’ using right clic) your CV and motivation letter -detailing your availabilities. If your application is selected, we will contact you for an interview.

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