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Research assistant positions (m/f/d) in New Caledonian Crow cognition and behaviour research project (CrowCoG)

Research assistant positions (m/f/d) in New Caledonian Crow cognition and behaviour research project (CrowCoG)

Deadline for applications is 08 December, 2023

The Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution (DLCE) is looking to fill several 2-6 months freelance aviary and field research assistant positions to support our research team in conducting field work on the tool-use and general foraging behavior of the New Caledonian crow.

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology unites scientists with various backgrounds (natural sciences and humanities) whose aim is to investigate the history of humankind from an interdisciplinary perspective with the help of comparative analyses of genes, cultures, cognitive abilities, languages and social systems of past and present human populations as well as those of primates closely related to human beings.

About DLCE
The Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution aims to answer big picture questions about the evolution of language and culture. Our focus is on describing and explaining the major patterns of linguistic and cultural variation across the globe. We tackle these questions by developing novel language documentation methods, global linguistic and cultural databases, and analyses using evolutionary theories and computational methods.

About CrowCoG
From hammers and chisels to cars and computers—the technological behaviour of humans is unsurpassed by any other organism. Nevertheless, we are not alone in the technological realm. Other primate and non-primate species are known to exhibit tool-related behaviour. One species in particular, the New Caledonian crow, expresses tool manufacture skills that eclipse those seen in chimpanzees, including the production of hook tools—an ability shared only with humans. Additionally, New Caledonian crows’ leaf-tool designs vary across geographical areas in a pattern that suggests they may have cumulatively evolved. In aviary experiments, wild-caught New Caledonian crows have successfully solved cognitive tasks that probe abilities such as reasoning by exclusion, causal inference, meta-tool use, agency detection, and short-term planning. The New Caledonian crow is thus an ideal model species to test hypotheses about what makes humans unique, and, in the process, to study the more general links between tool manufacture, cognition, and cultural evolution. This project will use our field sites and aviaries in New Caledonia to expand our understanding of the cognitive and cultural underpinnings of New Caledonian crow tool-use and general foraging behavior.

Aviary-based assistants (2-3 persons)
Aviary-based assistants will primarily focus on caring for, and conducting behavioural studies with, temporarily-captive New Caledonian crows in our purpose-built aviary. Assistants will also help with field-based research, and the general running of the field station.

Field-based assistants (2-3 persons)
Field-based assistants will mainly focus on conducting observational studies on New Caledonian crow foraging behaviour in the wild. This will involve capturing and banding wild birds so that they can be identified, and collecting data on their natural foraging behavior through a combination of direct observation and remote camera-trapping. Assistants will also help with aviary-based research, and the general running of the field station.



  • A passion for science and a deep interest in the natural world
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Demonstrated ability to work as part of a team
  • Demonstrated practical skills
  • Demonstrated ability to learn new skills
  • Willingness to work and live in remote/basic conditions for prolonged time periods
  • Proficiency in both spoken and written English
  • A valid driver’s license
  • Good physical fitness


  • Research experience in the behavioral sciences
  • Field research experience in tough (e.g., tropical, remote) environments
  • Experience in animal husbandry (aviary assistants)
  • Experience working with captive birds (aviary assistants)
  • Experience with capturing/banding birds (field assistants)
  • A valid bird banding permit (field assistants)
  • Experience in data entry and management
  • Good spoken French


  • all assistantswill receive a fixed-amount of pay per month (no social benefits included); one round trip economy airfare to New Caledonia plus ground transportation to the field site, as well as basic accommodation and equipment on site; all assistants will be required to take care of their own (travel) health insurance, proof of which will usually have to be provided to the authorities when entering New Caledonia

Start and term of appointment:

  • starting times for these positions will be in April, May, or June 2024
  • the field assistant positions are for 2-4 months (depending on research schedule and visa entry requirements)

Your application:
Please submit your application in English, including the following:

  • Cover letter describing how you meet the essential and any desirable requirements, including which position—aviary or field—your strengths speak to (max. 1 page)
  • Your CV and copies of degree certificates (Bachelor’s/Master’s diplomas and/or transcripts)
  • Names and contact information (including e-mail) for 2 referees [NB. you may compile several PDFs into one for submission]

The Max Planck Society is committed to employing individuals with disabilities and especially encourages them to apply. Additionally, we seek to increase diversity of our workforce in areas where it is underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourage women and members of underrepresented groups to apply.

For queries, please contact: dlce_info@[>>> Please remove the text! <<<]eva.mpg.de

Only complete submissions via the following link will be taken into consideration.

We look forward to receiving your completed online application .

We look forward to receiving your completed online application at https://www.eva.mpg.de/ career .

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Further information on the research agenda of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology is available on our website : www.eva.mpg.de.

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