Join us as a
and have the experience of a lifetime
Work on a project led by an international team of carnivore scientists.
CRM is led and founded by Dr Emma Stone, an expert bat scientist from the University of Bath (UoB), UK where she leads an active research lab. Emma leads the Bat Conservation and Research Lab at UoB, and completed her MSc on brown hyaena in South Africa and PhD and post doctoral research on bats and foxes at the University of Bristol Mammal and Bat Lab with Professors Stephen Harris and Gareth Jones. Emma founded CRM in 2011 under the English charity Conservation Research Africa.
In the past Emma has completed research on African wild dogs, brown hyaena and spotted and hyaenas contributed greatly to studies concerning carnivore densities, spatial movements and diet analysis.
We offer a unique opportunity to work on an existing research project, alongside established research scientists and assist in applied conservation research and community conservation.
Experience the city or the bush
There are multiple camps for our Carnivore Research Team, ranging from the capital city Lilongwe to the bush and lakeshore, all giving you a diverse range of carnivore research and conservation experience. It will also give you the chance to explore the diversity of culture and environment that Malawi is famous for.
Head on over to our research camps page to take a virtual tour of our field sites.
DEVELOP YOUR SKILLS
During your time with Carnivore Research Malawi you will develop and finetune many new skills. Daily activities will include camera trapping, diet analysis using scats, and species identification. Apart from these CRM can provide a tailored program to develop skills in your interest, such as radio telemetry, GIS and laboratory work.
At the end of your stay you will be sure to leave with an extensive understanding of, and hands-on experience with fieldwork methods and techniques.
Take a virtual tour of what you can experience from our Urban Research Camp
Click on the yellow icons to see what you can do from our Urban Research Camp
Duration: 2 to 10 weeks (longer stays may be possible)
Requirements: age 18+, and in good health
Location: Lilongwe City, Malawi.
Activities: Field Research on spotted hyaena and large mammals, education, community engagement: including camera trapping, spotlighting, diet analysis, vegetation surveys, radio tracking, some collaring depending on time of year, habitat assessments, data collation; community surveys and questionnaires (at certain times of year)
Student project opportunities? Yes
Discounted rates for students? Yes
Melanie, Nov/Dec 2022
" I volunteered with CRM for 2,5 weeks in November/December 2022 and it was a great experience for me! I have known the project for quite a while and wanted to take part for a longer time and finally did it! Being a wildlife biologist myself with previous spotted hyena work experience I was very excited working with them again.
For me the Urban Hyena Research Project is most interesting, studying ecology and behavior of spotted hyenas concerning human-carnivore conflicts in an urban environment outside of protected national parks or conservation areas!
From the first moment I arrived at the camp I felt welcome and well taken care of, was asked regularly if I enjoy being there. Fully integrated in the team I helped with daily work like camera trapping, habituation, ID recognition, den searches, scat analysis or data entry.
Life in the camp at the lodge was comfortable and easy except for those regular blackouts, typical of Malawi.
For a few days we relocated to Kuti Wildlife Reserve to start working there with hyenas. I really like that camp and could imagine working there long-term.
The project managers put a lot of effort in making my stay as nice as possible and created a volunteer plan for my whole stay. I was free to help with all kinds of work, but was never forced to do anything I might have not liked doing. So it couldn't have been organized any better!
Alltogether it was not hard work, I had some free time as well I could use to go on private safari tours.
I gained new skills and made new experiences like seeing hyenas at night-time!
Everyone of the research group was very friendly and social! So I was very sad to leave, couldn't have enjoyed my time there more and wish, I could have stayed longer.
Unfortunately there was no outreach work and interacting with local communities regarding human-wildlife conflicts during my time there, but I plan to come back anyway and might have the chance to do it then. "
Matthew, Nov 2015
3 months with CRM
"My name is Matthew Jones and I am a student of Nottingham Trent University where I study Wildlife conservation. For this year of university I have decided to take a placement year in order to gain experience and skills in the field of conservation in order to better my chances of getting a job after I complete my studies. I have always wanted to work with large carnivores so I looked at a lot of organisations but none were right for me. A lecturer at university then suggested I look at CRM, which I did, and was very impressed by the work they did. I immediately emailed Dr Emma Stone and within a couple weeks I was booked in. I write this blog after 10 weeks of my stay, giving a brief explanation of what I have done and what experience I have gained so far.
Large Mammal Transect
A really big part of my time with CRM has consisted of collecting data on transects. During these 10 kilometre walks the team looks for herbivores to get data on the density and diversity of species within the park. This is something that I’ve had previous experience in before but at Liwonde there is an air of excitement about the data we collect as the end result may be that new species of carnivores will be reintroduced into the park. Data is also collected on the spoor of carnivores which, despite previous experience, has proved to be challenging due to the dry climate. The transects are where I’ve collected data for my own project which will be used for my dissertation. I’m attempting to use dung to see if habitat preference in herbivores changes between the wet and dry seasons, and if there are relations to proximity to water. This has been a really enjoyable experience and has provided me with a number of challenges to overcome. The biggest of these being the need to learn how to ID dung, which I now feel very confident with due to the help of our scouts and my trusty spoor guide. The actual construction of the project would have been nowhere near as easy if it not had been for the help of Buffy, the senior research assistant for CRM, and other members of the camp.
The night time tracking of hyaenas using radio collars is probably the best skill I’ve learnt and developed on during my time with CRM. Being out after dark gives a completely different feel to the park. The forest is filled with silence which is only broken by the call of the night jar, crashing of elephants and the eyrie whoop of spotted hyaenas. The tracking also gives a unique opportunity to see the nocturnal species of the park, for example, on my second session I saw a couple porcupine, a serval and various species of mongoose. The night was topped off by a close encounter with two hyaenas.
The actual tracking itself can be tedious at times, especially when you cannot get a signal on the target animal. The lack of roads and the fence around the rhino sanctuary tracking often pose difficulties, but when you eventually find them the wait is always worth it. It should definitely be said that more often than not we have gotten a sighting on a hyaena during these tracking sessions, although not always the one we have been tracking.
During my stay there has been a need to dart some of the hyaenas, mainly for health reasons. At present I have yet to witness a darting as individuals that require attention have not shown up on darting night, but the preparation for these nights have allowed for me to gain a lot of experience.
In order for a darting to take place we require a carcass to use as bait. Unfortunately the park has a problem with snaring for bush meat, which is currently being combatted by African Parks. If any carcass is found it is often given to us and it is then left for the hyaenas. When the vet is able to come to Liwonde then we attempt a darting, but she cannot always come and so we use the carcasses to habituate the animals to our presence, as this improves the chances of a successful darting. It also means that we are more likely to get a good opportunity to watch hyaenas feeding. The only real downside to this is having to deal with some pretty horrendous smells which arise from rotting remains.
Although the setting up and collecting of camera traps takes up only a small amount of time it offers the best opportunity to see the wildlife in the park. As most of the work that we do takes places in the morning or at night, it’s great to get into the park see a different side of it. Nearly every venture out I’ve had to set camera traps has resulted in an amazing animal sighting, including a fish eagle feeding off a carcass, a herd of hartebeest grazing and elephants bathing at the water holes.
After attaching the camera to a suitable tree, and leaving them for good amount of time, we go back and check the photos. While the main aim is get as many carnivore photos as possible, in particular hyaena ID shots, we also get loads of shots of the other species that allow for an up close view of animals that would otherwise be challenging to see.
As much of the work is undertaken during the morning and evenings the days can sometimes be slow and a good way to use up time productively is sort out some of the data collected. As anyone who has entered data before can tell you, this can be tedious, but it is a vital part of research. It is also really good to get experience in using different software types and I’ve been able to improve on my knowledge of software including Microsoft excel and ArcGIS.
When there is a large group of volunteers it is a little difficult to get the experience on the computers, as there is a limited amount of data to handle and computers to use. However, as I have collected data for my own project I am never short of things I need do and have received excellent advice on what to do with the information I’ve collected.
Though it’s important to know the kind of work that done with CRM, I think its necessary to mention what it’s like to actually like to live on a camp in the middle of a national park. Firstly, you’re living on a national park which is awesome and there are animals everywhere. Seeing elephants, hippo, baboon and various other animals on a daily basis quickly became the norm and only every now again I found myself having sudden realisations of where I was and what I was doing. Although there are few difficulties such as limited internet connection, little variety in food and, in my case, rivalries with biscuit stealing vervet monkeys, these things seem pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things.
The camp is pretty luxurious as camps go, with a bar, a laundry-room and the essential pool to cool down in during the hot days. The staff of the hotel are all friendly and are usually up for a chat whenever there’s a chance. Although there a few obvious challenges of moving into a camp of strangers, it is made easier by the friendly and warm atmosphere given off the by staff of CRM and African bat conservation."
Interested? Here's how to apply
1. Download our volunteer pack for more
2. Click to complete the online application form.
3. What for us to email you.
We will then contact you to confirm receipt of your application, confirm dates and costs and send you a detailed volunteer pack to give you all the extra information you need before arriving.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at
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