The PPP needs volunteers!

You can volunteer with our project by joining our Earthwatch project – Conserving Leopards and Monkeys in South Africa – on a 12 days field research expedition. You will get the opportunity to help with a diversity of different research techniques and take part in our environmental education programme. Click here for details.

An Earthwatch volunteer playing the predator game with a school in Kutama in September.

The Primate and Predator Project also hires longer term volunteer research assistants throughout the year to help us with our data collection and conservation work.

We are looking for volunteer research assistants with the following experience:
1. A background in biology/zoology/ecology or related field and an interest in the behaviour, ecology and conservation of primates or predators.
2. Physically fit, and capable of undertaking fieldwork in a mountainous environment, in hot temperatures at certain times of year. You should be able to comfortably cover 10-15km per day (often more) over rough and often steep terrain and capable of carrying a day pack these distances while collecting data.
3. Capable of working well as part of a team, under the authority of field research coordinators, and be a valuable team member.
4. Reliable, responsible and motivated when it comes to following research protocols and methodologies, and an ability to work at unsociable hours when necessary.
5. Relevant experience of the project’s field techniques and of working in southern Africa is desirable but not essential.

Research assistants must be able to commit for a minimum of 3 months, although positions may be held for up to 12 months or longer, depending on availability.

Volunteer research assistants can apply to focus on primate research or predator research.

Primate research assistants may be involved in the following tasks:

1. Behavioural observations of habituated primates through full day follows and collection of standardized behavioural and demographic data from our study troops.
2. Experimental titrations of predation risk based on giving-up densities or predator detection experiments using predator models.
3. Habituation of new groups, sometimes tracking via VHF receivers to maintain contact.
4. Monitoring of primate groups via GPS collars – you may play an important role in setting and monitoring traps, tracking via VHF receivers, data download, and collar retrieval.
5. Phenological transects and vegetation plots to estimate primate food availability.
6. General data entry and analysis and preparation of reports and papers for publication.


Photo by Benny Rebel

Predator research assistants may be involved in the following tasks:

1. Sorting and tagging species from camera images.
2. Helping to identify individual animals such as leopards and brown hyaenas from camera images.
3. Assisting analysis of leopard and brown hyaena scats. This may include washing scats, making slides or using a microscope to help identify species consumed from cross sections of hair.
4. Tracking collared leopards, and downloading store on-board data.
5. General data entry and analysis and preparation of reports and papers for publication.


Photo by Benny Rebel

The precise activities will vary depending on our requirements at the time. Please get in touch if you have specific interests in particular techniques or aspects of our research, since not all activities will be ongoing at all times. At certain times volunteers may be asked to help with supporting Earthwatch teams as part of the project.

No salary is provided, and you will need to cover your own food and accommodation costs at the research station. Accommodation costs are currently 4000 Rand a month for the first 6 months, reducing slightly in subsequent months. All research equipment will be provided. Volunteer research assistants will also be responsible for their own airfare and travel to South Africa and medical/travel insurance.

To apply, please submit a CV and covering letter to the project email address (primate.predator@durham.ac.uk) outlining your suitability for the role, relevant experience, whether you would like to focus on primates or predators, and duration and timing of your availability. Please also include contact details for two referees.