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Grant for Graduate Students in Applied Ecology, Northeast US

Melanie Colón

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Mianus River Gorge
Research Assistantship Grant for Graduate Students

Program Description
Each year, the Mianus River Gorge (MRG) awards a Research Assistantship Program
(RAP) grant to fund a graduate-level study that investigates environmental
challenges in urban and suburban ecosystems. RAP students are awarded a
grant of $5,000/yr for two (Master’s) or three (Doctoral) years.

The overarching purpose of this grant is to answer ecological questions
related both to conservation in urban and suburban landscapes generally,
and to specific issues affecting the MRG Preserve and/or the Mianus
Watershed. Thus, while we are happy to consider proposals from students from
any location, our local-scale interest combined with the high school
mentorship requirements (see below) means that we tend to award the grant to
students located in and/or focused on the northeast US.

Applicant Eligibility
• Applicant must be willing to mentor a high school student in our
authentic research program, the Wildlife Technician Program (WTP).

• Proposed research must directly contribute to a better understanding of
urban and suburban ecosystems from a management perspective. We are
interested in applied research that will inform land management and develop
conservation strategies for natural areas in urbanized landscape, and
provide management recommendations to our staff on stewarding the MRG
Preserve and the Mianus Watershed.
• Proposed projects can be multi-disciplinary and cover a range of topics,
e.g., wildlife biology, human ecology, watershed or forest management, and
ecosystem processes.
• Candidates must be enrolled in a U.S. accredited college (Master’s or PhD
• All proposed studies should include the Gorge or its watershed as one of
the study sites although other sites may be used (and is encouraged to
provide regional relevance to your findings).

Evaluation Criteria
• Mentor potential – Does the project provide research opportunities to a
high school student?
• Research implications - How can the proposed research contribute to
improved management, restoration, or conservation of natural resources in
suburban and urban landscapes? How will the proposed research inform
management of the Mianus River Gorge and/or the Mianus Watershed
• Project duration - Can the proposed project provide meaningful results
during the student’s tenure?
• Funding - Can the research be completed with existing resources?
• Innovative – Does the research utilize new methodologies, theories, or
management strategies?
• Impact on existing resource – We are interested in studies that employ
methods that minimize disturbance or impact upon the population or resource
being studied, particularly in the MRG Preserve itself, whenever possible.
If highly invasive or destructive sampling is proposed, there should be a
strong justification for its need and a lack of alternatives.

Students interested in all aspects of applied ecology and conservation are
encouraged to submit a proposal to RAP, but this year we are particularly
interested in studies that focus on two topics:

1. Evaluating the health of our eastern hemlock stands in general and with
special regard to effects of hemlock wooly adelgid and elongate scale, and
possible indirect effects of "predatory" ascomycete fungus (and possibly
others). The Gorge is home to a remnant stand of old-growth hemlock forest.
Our hemlocks are infected with HWA and HES but appear to be in good health
compared to other stands in the region where hemlocks are dying off
rapidly. We would like an experienced lab to determine, first, if our
impression regarding our hemlocks' relative health is correct, and if so,
why that is. Ideally this would fit within the context of a larger study on
hemlock conservation, restoration, etc. across the region.

2. Developing techniques for restoring species and ecosystem function in
suburban and exurban landscapes. This need is rather broad and, for
example, can range from developing planting or restoration techniques to
human dimensions/social science research on how to build conservation
ethics and stewardship action on private lands, community buy-in, etc.

Application Process
Applications are reviewed in two stages. To attract a broad array of ideas,
we ask candidates to describe their project in two to four pages. Those
candidates whose application successfully meets the above evaluation
criteria will be interviewed and asked to provide a more detailed proposal
before a final decision is made. We encourage prospective applications to
contact us if they have any questions about the grant program (research
@mianus.org or 914-234-3455).

Please apply by May 1, 2016 at:

For examples of previous RAP and WTP projects, see:

Chris Nagy, Ph.D.
Director of Research and Land Management - Mianus River Gorge, Bedford, NY

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