Interested in learning who’s working at the field site – who the people are you’ll spend your volunteer year with?
Click the names below the gallery for bios and pictures of present and past research volunteers.
Present field site staff & volunteers
- BSc in Zoology (Cardiff University)
The natural world captivated me from a young age, this led me on a path to gain a BSc in Zoology from Cardiff University (2013-2016). I have undertaken several short term positions in field biology, most notably surveying fish species on Northern Tobago’s coral reefs. I intended to spend longer in the field, specifically working on animals living in social groups, this led me to the Kalahari Meerkat Project; where I joined as a field assistant in late 2016. I have now joined the management team, where I oversee a number of volunteers in addition to communicating back to Zurich and Cambridge University. I intend to remain in biology in the future and I hope to continue to work on the knowledge I have gained thus far.
Molerats & Squirrels people
- November 2015 to September 2016
- Cape Ground Squirrel Project Volunteer Nov ’14 to Nov ’15
I have always had an interest in the natural world, having completed my undergraduate degree studying Geography at the University of Glasgow. For my dissertation I studied the patterns of migration of Maasai into Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which was a great learning experience, and my first visit to Africa. Since then I have had various jobs, including assistant manager of a safari camp in Zambia. My aim has been to move my work more towards wildlife with the hope to one day be involved in conservation. I started volunteering on the Cape ground squirrel project in November 2014, and a year later I am on-site manager of the project. I hope to start a masters course in the UK in Sept 2016 in Conservation Biology.
- Molerat Project Manager October 2015 – December2016
- Molerat Research Assistant March 2015 – September 2015
- Meerkat Volunteer November 2013 – November 2014
Past research volunteers
Past staff & volunteers
Activational and maternal effects on meerkat vocal communication
In social species like meerkats, animals form complex relationships and social structures that require sustained communication between group members in order to be maintained. Animal vocalisations, like human voices, can provide a plethora of information regarding an individual’s sex, age, size, social rank, motivation and hormonal status. Hormones, such as cortisol and testosterone, are powerful chemicals that mediate many behaviours and social interactions, but the extent to which they affect vocal communication is still not very well understood. Vocal communication is crucial to meerkats as they use different calls to coordinate group movement, alert others to the presence of predators and conspecifics, and also to elicit and respond to social stimuli. Thus, the main aim of my research is to understand how cortisol, a stress hormone, and testosterone, a sex hormone, affect the vocal behaviour of meerkats across multiple contexts like foraging, social and agonistic interactions. Additionally, I am interested in understanding how maternal hormones may affect the vocal and behavioural development of their offspring and the implications these effects may have regarding their social rank, longevity and reproductive success.
Group coordination during foraging in meerkats (Suricata suricatta)
Animals living in cohesive groups need to coordinate their activities, for example when making decisions about their foraging destination or timing of travel. Thereby individual group members need to compromise to overcome potential conflicts of interest. This decision making process can be facilitated by the use of vocal communication, with different signals potentially being used in different contexts. Meerkats are group-living mammals foraging as a cohesive group and use vocal signals to maintain spatial cohesion. As they live in stable social groups, with a high reproductive skew, we expect differences in leadership and signalling, i.e. between dominants and subordinates. Furthermore, the spatial pattern of the group as well as the association pattern between group members will have a strong influence on the decision making process. Therefore, in this study we investigate how meerkats use different vocalisations to coordinate group movement during foraging, focusing also on the spatial organization of the group.
Senior Project Manager KMP – Technical Manager (2015 – 2017)
I have always been interested in biological research; during and prior to my BSc in Biological Sciences at the University of Birmingham I had various short term field and lab based research stints. These involved coral reef surveying in the Bahamas, studying alpine ecology in Norway and observing Chimpanzee social networks in a captive zoo setting. After finishing my degree I was looking to be involved in a longer term field project so came to Kalahari Meerkat Project to be a volunteer field worker for a year. After my year as a volunteer I then transitioned into the Technical Manager position for the project and am now responsible for implementing experiments, planning data collection and maintaining the storage of the long term data. I am looking to stay in this line of work in the future either through post-graduate study or continuing to be involved with field research on the ground.
Senior Project Manager KMP – Personnel Manager (2015 – 2017)
- MSc Wild Animal Biology (Royal Veterinary College)
- BSc Hons Biological Sciences (Zoology) (University of Edinburgh)
During my four years spent doing my BSc in Biological Sciences with Honours in Zoology at Edinburgh University I volunteered twice at animal rehabilitation centres in South Africa and Zimbabwe for a month each time. This, courses on the evolution of parental care and social behaviour and my project on maternal choice increased my interest in animal behaviour. After graduating, to gain some field experience and more wild animal experience for a Masters application, I joined the Kalahari Meerkat Project as a volunteer in October 2013. Following my volunteer year I completed a MSc in Wild Animal Biology at the Royal Veterinary College which involved a project on olfactory enrichment of zoo meerkats before returning to the KMP as the Personnel Manager. I am responsible for the training and well-being of the volunteers and maintaining data quality. I look forward to continuing in a career investigating animal behaviour in the future.
Cambridge Research Assistant (2015-2016)
- BSc Hons Natural Sciences (Zoology) – University of Cambridge
After a brief stint of camera-trapping fieldwork in Mongolia after I graduated, I came to the project as a volunteer for a year in Sept 2014. I’ve stayed on for another year to work as the research assistant for the Cambridge postdocs. Mostly my job involves a mix of fieldwork (particularly habitation and leading captures), lab work & sample management, and database-mining for the postdocs. The specialist skills I’ve developed in extraction and analysis of data from our database are also useful in my other role as support for volunteers working on their own analysis projects. The best part of my job is the variety: performing x-ray and ultrasound scans in the field, chipping samples out of freezers with a chisel, writing queries to calculate meerkat matrilines… it’s all in a day’s work!
- Meerkat volly April 2013-April 2014
After graduating from a MSc in Animal and Human behaviour in 2009, I did a lot of volunteering: in a National Park in North Cameroon where I spent most of my time tracking leopards through the bush; in RD Congo where I was following and collecting data on bonobos for the Max Planck Institute; in France where I was a scientific consultant for a departmental hunting federation; then at the KMP, where I spent a year working as a volunteer, before being hired as the Zurich research assistant. My main research interests go towards animal conservation, particularly human-animal conflicts, involving large carnivores. On a more personal point of view, I really enjoy hiking, nature and animal photography, reading and traveling.
June 2016 to June 2017
March 2016 to March 2017
- January 2016 to January 2017
- January 2016 to January 2017
- September 2015 to August 2016
Special Role: Life History Volunteer
- August 2015 to August 2016