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  • King Rail distribution and habitat use in Missouri - Master's Graduate Research Assistantship

    Guest Kristen Malone
    • Employer: SUNY Brockport
      Location: Field work throughout Missouri; other duties in Brockport, New York
      Country: United States
      Last Date to Apply: 10/31/2022
      Open Until Filled: Yes

    Advisor: Dr. Kristen Malone, Assistant Professor, Environmental Science and Ecology Department, SUNY Brockport, Brockport, NY  

    Key Collaborators: Janet Haslerig, Missouri Department of Conservation; Doreen Mengel, University of Missouri; Lisa Webb, USGS, Missouri Coop Unit & University of Missouri 

    Background: The King Rail (Rallus elegans) is a migratory species of secretive marsh bird (rails, bitterns, grebes, gallinules) and is listed as endangered or threatened in 12 U.S. states, including Missouri. The King Rail is Missouri’s only breeding species of rail; other rail species pass through during migration, but only the King Rail regularly stays to breed. King Rails are uncommon in Missouri, however, recent sightings and changes in wetland habitat conditions at some public sites justify new survey efforts to determine King Rail distribution in Missouri. If viable, sustainable populations are found to occur in Missouri, management strategies should be compiled in cooperation with local land managers to support King Rail populations. With a more comprehensive understanding of King Rail habitat associations, we can identify suitable King Rail habitat distribution throughout Missouri. Identifying suitable habitat throughout the region can provide resource managers with critical areas to prioritize for management actions or restoration that could benefit King Rail populations. Additionally, once the current distribution of King Rails and suitable habitat are identified, future monitoring can be targeted to those areas to track population trends through time. Identifying suitable habitat could also focus future King Rail research in suitable study sites to address further knowledge gaps. Hence, identifying the key characteristics of King Rail habitat in the Missouri is a priority for their conservation in the state. 

    Position Description: We are seeking a highly motivated student to lead a field crew in Missouri during spring/summer 2023 to survey for King Rail and other secretive marsh birds. The student will also manage data, conduct analyses, and write a final report/manuscript while also completing the requirements for a master’s degree at SUNY Brockport. This student will communicate and collaborate with MDC biologists and other MDC staff, and with project collaborators at SUNY Brockport and University of Missouri.  

    The position will have 4 semesters of support and is funded by the Missouri Department of Conservation. This includes project equipment and travel costs and a graduate research assistantship ($18,000 annually for two years) and full tuition remission. While enrolled in classes, the student will be a SUNY Research Foundation employee at SUNY Brockport and must maintain full time graduate student status to receive the full assistantship support.  


    ·         Strong motivation to obtain a graduate degree 

    ·         Bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology or related field 

    ·         Ability to lead, manage, and be part of a team conducting field work 

    ·         Experience with avian research 

    ·         Excellent written and oral communication skills 

    ·         Willingness to learn sophisticated approaches to data analysis   

    ·         Minimum undergraduate GPA 3.0/4.0 

    Start Date: January 16, 2023 

    Application Deadline: Applications will be reviewed on a continual basis; we encourage applicants to submit their materials promptly. Applications submitted before October 31, 2022, will be given full consideration.  

    Instructions: All materials should be in a single PDF document and emailed to KMalone@brockport.edu. Materials should include a cover letter outlining the applicant’s interest and qualifications, a CV, unofficial university transcript, and contact information for three references. At least two of the references should be able to attest to the applicant’s field experience beyond course work.  



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