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    Macaw Field Assistant

    • Employer: Macaw Recovery Network
      Location: Punta Islita and Sarapiqui
      Country: Costa Rica
      Last Date to Apply: 09/01/2019
      Open Until Filled: No

    Macaw populations have declined significantly over the past decades. The main causes are illegal poaching for the pet trade and the loss of mature forest habitat, which they rely on for feeding and nesting. MRN's vision is to see a future with thriving parrot populations in healthy, connected forests, across their former ranges. This field program is of crucial importance for understanding the populations trends in the wild to help assess conservation action needed.


    The role of the volunteer field biologist is to help our field team leader and our program manager to monitor Costa Rica’s wild macaws. This includes extensivefieldworkto locate, monitor, track and support breeding pairs and their offspring in order to collect data andimprove rates of successful reproduction.

    Part of the role will take place in the rainforest of Sarapiqui, working with the wild endangered Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus), and part will take place in the dry forest of Punta Islita, where we run a reintroduction program for Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao). A rotational schedule will be put in place so applicants spend 4 months in Sarapiqui and 2 months in Punta Islita.

    The field biologist might also contribute to population counts, mapping projects, reintroductions and other additional research throughout their stay. Successful applicants will receive orientation training and will have the support of specialists where necessary, however much of the work will be carried out independently, thus a high level of self-reliance and motivation is required. In addition to fieldwork, the field assistantis expected to help out in other areas of the organization as the need arises. 

    Field assistant’s duties:

    The work of the field biologist will vary throughout the year and according to location. Depending on the person's skills and interests, the below list shows examples of what the work may be like:

    • Locating nest sites through assessment of historical data, personal observations, tracking bird movements, conversation with locals, and the development of new leads
    • Monitoring nesting activity and keeping detailed notes of observations. This will require waiting for long periods of time in remote locations without getting distracted
    • Intensive monitoring of active nests
    • Reacting to emergencies such as downed fledglings or injured adults
    • Helping to conduct the annual count
    • Collecting nest data and biological samples. This is usually done through single rope access climbing technique
    • Conducting general site maintenance and project development tasks. These may be assigned depending on our current needs and the skills and abilities of volunteers
    • Conducting nest maintenance and nest box building and installation
    • Contributing to the development of the breeding management strategy in order to increase the productivity of the birds
    • Taking advantage of opportunities and learning broader conservation skills that can then be applied throughout the organization
    • At the Punta Islita release site, the VFB is responsible for reporting on the condition of the released birds, their behaviour, numbers and their flight range

    Hours of work:

    The field assistant is expected to work at least 5 days a week, following a flexible time schedule which is guided by the behaviour of the birds. For example, this might be from 4.30am until 6pm, with the possibility of a mid-day break. 

    Duration of position:

    The position runs for six months during the breeding season, from December through May. Upon arrival at either of the two sites, training is provided along with help to better understand the landscape of the work. Later during the program, the volunteer will be applying their acquired knowledge and conducting fieldwork more independently. We may be able to accommodate a longer placement to the six months, if of interest.


    The successful applicant:

    ·     will be able to demonstrate a commitment to, and wants to pursue a career in, science based wildlife conservation; 

    ·     has animal handling experience;

    ·     has fieldwork experience;

    ·     has an independent work attitude and is a self-starter;

    ·     is comfortable being away from family and friends for long periods of time;

    ·     enjoys being outside and is not put out by extreme weather and temperatures;

    ·     is happy to live communally in isolated and rustic accommodation, with limited electricity and network connectivity;

    ·     is experienced and confident in their self-reliance skills.

    Essential skills/qualifications:

    ·     Full, manual transmission drivers license

    ·     Basic level of spoken Spanish 

    ·     Basic motorbike qualification such as a CBT, or overseas equivalent if not from the UK.

    ·     A high level of physical fitness

    Desirable experience:

    ·     A degree at BSc. level or above in a biological science or other relevant field

    ·     Rock or tree climbing for either work or recreation. Knowledge of single rope access technique is beneficial.

    ·     Off-road driving, particularly though deep mud and water saturated terrain.

    ·     Wildlife handling, particularly large birds. 

    ·     First aid training. Up to date qualification is beneficial.

    ·     Full motorbike license

    ·     High level of self-reliance such as previous fieldwork in developing countries, gold level Duke of Edinburg (UK), army cadets/OTC etc.

    Essential personal qualities:

    ·     Dependable and responsible

    ·     Hard working, with early starts and late ends to the working day not being a problem

    ·     Motivated and positive with a desire to contribute

    ·     A passion for wildlife and nature conservation

    ·     Flexible, friendly, patient and optimistic

    ·     A sense of humor is helpful


    ·     Great opportunity to travel and experience Central America, off the beaten track and away from the tourist traps.

    ·     A chance to put all the theoretical knowledge gained throughout your studies to work by getting your hands dirty with real wildlife conservation fieldwork.

    ·     An unparalleled sense of satisfaction from supporting a genuine non-profit wildlife conservation organisation. You will become part of a team that aims to create a sustainable situation for an animal that is currently in great danger of extinction.

    ·     Real, hands-on, in-situ conservation experience and the satisfaction that comes with working closely with highly endangered species.

    ·     Increased understanding and appreciation of different values and lifestyles.

    ·     Increased skills in creative problem-solving and time management.

    ·     Opportunities to work, and network, with avian and wildlife conservation specialists.

    ·     Learn and improve skills such as rope climbing techniques, bird ringing, map reading and using GIS software.

    ·     A recognition certificate is provided if placement is completed successfully.

    Anticipated costs:

    All international and national travel costs to initially get to the site are the responsibility of the applicant. We provide free accommodation and utilities for all applicants who stay for the total duration of 6 months. All team members buy and prepare their own food, and for this we recommend you budget for at least $40 per week, or more if you like luxuries. Comprehensive insurance cover for the entire stay is a must, and it should be arranged and paid for by the applicant. Doing a visa renewal trip is also the applicant's own responsibility.


    To be able to take applications into consideration, the application form on this page must be filled out: https://stowhire.com/macaw-recovery-network-costa-rica/volunteer-field-biologist-great-green-macaw-program

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