Ant-following birds are a specialized guild of insectivores that follow massive army ant raids to forage on fleeing arthropods. Across the global tropics, this guild is highly sensitive to forest fragmentation and degradation, thus serving as useful indicators of anthropogenic change. While ant-following birds are incredibly well-studied in the Neotropics, we know virtually nothing about their African and Asian counterparts. Decades of research on Neotropical ant-following birds has offered critical insights in their behavioral specialization and helped explain their sensitivity to disturbance. However, while Old World ant-following birds are often equated with Neotropical ant-following birds, no studies have been done to confirm whether these birds have converged on similar specialized ant-following behaviors. Understanding similarities and differences in behavior between ant-following birds across continents may help elucidate the mechanisms driving these birds’ declines in disturbed forests.
I’m looking for 3 volunteers to assist me in the field with my PhD research on ant-following bird behavior in Equatorial Guinea, Africa from July 1—Aug 31. Dates are tentative and I’m willing to be flexible with start/end dates depending on when applicants are available. Experience is preferred, but not required. Non-negotiable requirements include a positive attitude, willingness to learn, being able to cooperate well with others, and being kind! Field work will be tough (i.e., slogging through the mud on hot humid and buggy days), but super rewarding. The project will cover food and housing (relatively luxurious, hot water and ceiling fans!) while in the field. Depending on project funding, round-trip flights to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea will also potentially be covered.
Specifically, field work will consist of
1) playback experiment to determine whether ant-following birds use social information to recruit to army ant swarms, will need to learn to identify local birds by sight and most importantly, by sound.
2) outfitting birds with radio-tags using leg-loop harness, radio-tracking tagged individuals to locate birds foraging at army ant swarms.
3) behavioral observations at and away from army ant swarms, recording detailed behavioral observations at swarms especially i.e., number of individuals of each species present at given time intervals as well as intra- and interspecific interactions between individuals.
If you are interested in applying for the position, please email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, a cover letter outlining relevant skills and experience, resume, and contact information for 3 references as a single PDF with subject EG Volunteer Summer 2022. Applicants who applied for Jan-Feb 2022 field season are encouraged to apply again!