Volunteer Intern Positions
2023-2024 Field Season
The Himalayan Langur Project (HLP) is a collaborative and multi-faceted research and conservation endeavor. We study two wild troops of Himalayan Langur (Semnopithecus schistaceus) in two different landscapes with varying degrees of anthropogenic intrusion in the Central Himalayan region. The Himalayan Langur Project is looking for volunteer interns, for a one-year commitment, to collect behavioral and demographic data on these habituated study troops which are part of a long-term study started in 2016 by Dr. Himani Nautiyal. The primary focus of the research in 2023-2024 field season will be the understanding of spatial cognitive abilities in these leaf eating monkeys, using natural observations and field based foraging experiments. This fieldwork forms part of a PhD research under the guidance of Prof. Julie Teichroeb at the University of Toronto. The project duration is June 1st, 2023 to June 30th, 2024.
The two study troops have their natural habitat in a high-altitude mountainous landscape, and we study them at two different field sites. These are multi-male multi-female troops of Himalayan langurs with ~60 individuals in one troop and ~54 individuals in another. The second major part of the PhD research project is to understand the intersection of langur movement with the anthropogenic environment, focusing on the temporal and spatial distribution of crop foraging by our study troops. The local community is an important stakeholder in our work, and we aim to collect data that helps address the issue of crop-foraging by langurs through various streams. We collect all opportunistic data related to crop-foraging by langurs and other wild animals. We also share our results with the women in the local community so that they can use it to enhance their manual guarding efficiency. The project now has a teaching program where we teach local kids in three batches through outdoor classrooms, nature hiking, and experiential learning. We also engage in plantation drives with the local kids and women, and consult with them about plantation areas and native species of importance to them. As a volunteer intern, you will be encouraged to contribute to the conservation program and bring your ideas to the table.
Field Site Description
The field work will be carried out in the Mandal Valley, which is located on the southern outer fringe of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, in Chamoli district in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. We have two field sites in this valley, where we study one troop each. Our field sites are part of the Mandal-Trishula Reserve Forest which is a diversity rich area. Both field sites are in the mountainous topography, requiring increased fitness and mental and physical resilience to work in rugged terrain and remote locations, with simple and basic living conditions. This is a beautiful valley which gives you access to some of the famous Himalayan treks of Rudranath temple and meadows, Chopta and the Chandrashila peak, and nearby Valley of Flowers trek as well. The two rivers that drain this valley will quench you thirst and will give you cool and calm in the humid days of the summer.
The main basecamp for the project is located in Mandal village (this link open a dropped pin location in google maps). Our first study troop ranges in the agricultural and forest matrix around Mandal and nearby villages. This study troop is part of a long-term study and is well habituated to observer presence. Mandal village is connected to the nearby town of Gopeshwar through an all-weather motorable road. Gopeshwar town is the administrative headquarters of Chamoli district. The driving distance is 13-14 kms between Gopeshwar and Mandal. One can take a shared-taxi (cheapest) to move between these two places. Mandal village has a primary care clinic, and Gopeshwar town has the nearest government hospital to tend to medical emergencies. There is robust cellular and internet connectivity in Mandal. Mandal town is the last bus station on the route that connects Mandal to Dehradoon, which is the nearest big city connected by national railway and interstate bus service. A public transport bus that leaves Dehradoon everyday between 5AM-6AM from Dehradoon reaches Mandal by 4PM in the evening. You can read more about the habitat of Mandal at this link. Mandal village is a fairly developed village, and historically, this village is famous for being one of the hotspots and early founders of Chipko movement.
Kanchula Kharak is located 18 kms driving distance south-west of Mandal and is connected by a motorable road. This will be the second basecamp for study of our other study troop for this project. Kanchula Kharak is a remote field site compared to Mandal, and is located inside the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. This fieldsite has minimal anthropogenic intrusion in the form of the motorable road, two temporary food stalls, and a few huts for forest department officials who are posted inside the sanctuary. Our basecamp is the T.O. Quarter which we rent from the forest department. The basecamp receives no cellular or internet signal, and very basic food is available at this field site. You will work as a part of a three-person team with Mr. Harish Maithani, our most experienced field assistant. You can read more about the habitat of Kanchula Kharak at this link. You will typically spend 5 days at this fieldsite, and travel back to Mandal field site for recharging batteries and refueling supplies before going for another 5 day period.
In the role of a volunteer intern, you will:
- Work collaboratively with a team composed of local field assistants, principal investigator, and other volunteer interns. As part of this team, you will learn to identify the individuals in the study troops using identification guides and learn data collection techniques.
- Undertake data collection as part of your assigned team by following the study troop(s) after satisfactorily finishing training. You will conduct full-day follows of langur troop and collect data on their daily behavior, spatial location, crop-foraging, and interaction with anthropogenic environment.
- Participate in the monthly collection of phenological data.
- Participate and lead conservation and community outreach activities, involving teaching the local kids, and plantation schemes, and learning local cultural values.
- Manage daily entry of the data you will collect in the specifically designed excel sheet.
- Assist with website updates, social media, and other digital activities, as needed.
- Capture photos and videos and record animal behavior on camera.
- Co-authorship is also a possibility based on your interest in the work.
The ideal candidate will have
- Good general fitness, to be able to undertake long strenuous work hours in the field. On a typical day, you will start at 6AM and come back at 6PM, doing a 12 hours of fieldwork where you will be walking up and down hill slopes, walking on trails which are smooth to rugged and everything in between. You should be able to live away from connectivity, as in the case of Kanchula Kharak.
- A positive, optimistic, and hopeful nature, and the spirit to work as part of a team in a collaborative environment, and make one-another a better person by your work and general conduct.
- Passion and curiosity to understand wild animals, the Himalayan habitat, and the local communities.
- Capacity to adapt to the local climatic conditions and adjust with them. On some days, we will be working in drizzly or damp conditions, while on some days it could get hot and humid. There will be bug bites in the forest.
- Strong organizational skills and ability to work with minimal supervision on assigned tasks when required.
- General understanding of conservation and the value of wildlife.
- Passion, creativity, and curiosity about nature and science education/communication.
- Good verbal and written communication skills.
- Interest in teaching and communicating your knowledge and your ideas to the local kids to enrich their life and learning experience, while being sensitive to local cultural values. Also maintain an open and fair approach to the local community and be always willing to learn from them.
Skills and Qualifications, Desired but not Required
- Emotional maturity and emotional intelligence, above all, are important skills to have.
- Have (or be working toward) an undergraduate (B.Sc./B.A.) degree or Master’s degree in any background. It will be great if you know primatological theory and methods, and have practiced primate behavioral data collection, but this is not a deal-breaker. We presume that you have a strong interest in studying animal behavior and doing fieldwork.
- Basic knowledge of MS Excel and Word. Any additional knowledge of these software, and statistical software, as well as mapping and visualization software is a good thing.
- We are always look for volunteer interns who have a passion or hobby for creative art forms (including but not limited to photography, videography, painting, illustration, et al) as these activities have been useful in de-stressing during the fieldwork, and engenders an interesting conversation and future collaborations. We value any experience with photography and videography that tells a story.
- Experience with working with local communities and causes. We expect you to try to learn rudimentary conversational Hindi and we will help you in doing that.
- Ability to multi-task and prioritize with minimal supervision.
- Strong organizational skills and creative ability.
- Ability to understand the Project’s mission and core theme.
- We expect that you have completed COVID vaccination, or can provide us with a valid medical reason for not having done that.
There is no salary for this position. A stipend can be discussed during an online Q&A session of shortlisted applicants. This will be available for applicants committing for seven months of fieldwork or more.
Support provided for volunteer positions
The project will cover your accommodation costs at the base camp. The project will also cover your daily food-related costs (three meals a day). The project will cover your travel costs from Delhi (nearest international airport) and Dehradoon (nearest bus head) and will be discussed with the selected candidates later based on their preferred mode of travel. We will not be able to provide for your personal gears (like binoculars, backpack, field clothing, and other supplies). We will provide common gear like notebooks, stationery, GPS devices.
Previous students who have worked at our project have done or are doing their Master’s degree in institutions in Germany and United Kingdom and pursuing their PhD in United States and Canada. Our fieldwork team is often comprised of students from outside of India as well as locals so that you interact and explore your own ideas as much as you can by garnering different local and global perspectives.
Terms of Appointment
We expect the applicant to send an application without any delay if they are interested in this position. We expect you to join as soon as possible and will prefer applicants who can join between May 25th to June 10th, 2023 and can commit to working for at least seven months.
A review of applications will begin immediately, and the position will remain open until filled. Short-listed applicants will be contacted to schedule zoom Q&A sessions as soon as possible
Instruction for Applying
- Please read this section carefully to prepare a curated application that tells us everything we want to know about you. An application prepared in this way will definitely stand out.
- Please use “HLP 2023 Field Work” as your subject line.
- Please send a cover letter explaining your interest in this position and how you would like to use this opportunity to further your academic and/or non-academic interests, and what do you expect to learn from us. Please include a paragraph speaking about your creative side, if you have any.
- Please mention any relevant experiences that make you a good candidate for this position, and preferentially mention any work or travel experience in mountainous settings.
- Please include the details on the dates of your availability.
- Please attach your CV including information on two referees.
- Please send these two documents to firstname.lastname@example.org and cc to email@example.com. You can write to firstname.lastname@example.org for any further queries.
Relevant readings to learn about the Himalayan langur and its habitat
- Nautiyal, H., Mathur, V., Sinha, A., & Huffman, M. A. (2020). The Banj oak Quercus leucotrichophora as a potential mitigating factor for human-langur interactions in the Garhwal Himalayas, India: People’s perceptions and ecological importance. Global Ecology and Conservation, 22, e00985. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e00985
- Nautiyal, H., Tanaka, H. & Huffman, M.A. Anti-predator strategies of adult male Central Himalayan Langurs (Semnopithecus schistaceus) in response to domestic dogs in a human-dominated landscape. Primates (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-023-01061-0