Thursday, April 19, 2007

Field Research

One of my options now that I am finished with school is to look for interesting places to do fieldwork or teach. I would love to stay where I am at, but the reality is that I may not be able to. Good jobs for PhDs are scarce in my isolated little desert outpost.

Some of the places I look for jobs include the Teaching of Psychology listserve, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Social Psych Network job posting forum, and PIN where today I spotted an advertisement for an assistant professor of primatology in Japan. I am not qualified, but any time I learn about an open position in primatology I get really excited. Japan has a long history of primate field research. In fact, it predates Jane Goodall's pioneering study. To see an open position there is surprising; I would be even more suprised to see one in this country. They are exceptionally rare.

The best way to be a bona fide primatologist is to do fieldwork. I don't think I can really be taken seriously as a primatologist until I conduct field research on a nonhuman primate species. Otherwise, I will always be a psychologist to many people. Who knows, maybe if I publish my research in a primatology journal (there are only two - one U.S. and one Japanese) that would make me legit. I doubt my research would be considered for publication in these two journals however. That would take a major change in their editorial policy. So, field research looks like an attractive possibility.

I learned French so that I could read books like Terre des Hommes and Le Petit Prince but also so that if and when the right time came, I could go do field research in Francophone Africa either studying gorillas or lemurs. The right time may be fast approaching. I may not be able to secure a job here; my DH may not be able to advance his career here; it looks like I won't be able to start a family; and there is a field research position with the WCS that actually pays for the research assistant's travel, insurance, meals, and accommodations to study gorillas at Mbeli Bai. The gorillas at Mbeli Bai were in the news a while back when researchers there reported the first ever observations of wild gorilla tool use.

It is nearly impossible to get paid to study primates as a field worker and very few research sites support anyone other than the P.I. Most often, to do field work, you have to pay for your flight and travel to the field site which can run around $3,500 and then also pay for all of your meals, housing, and incidentals including gear like binos, boots, rain gear, tent, etc. And you have to be willing to commit to at least 6 months in virtual isolation. You also have to be prepared to spend long days in the field on anti-malarial medication with all sorts of insects, snakes, and other nasties.

It's a job for the crazy.

I'll wait until I for certain don't have a job, read the Heart of Darkness, and then seriously consider the possibility of a major life adventure (but only if Sleyed wants to join me!).


Alasdair said...

As they say in circumstances ever more dire than ours are likely to be, let's roll.

Holly said...

Well, funny you should say that - the WCS got back to me about the funding/space at the research site. They can only accommodate one ex-pat type.

Alasdair said...

curses and drat, foiled again. Maybe somewhere else, some other time. :)

Holly said...

I'm thinking land of the baobobs would be wondeful and also safer :=)