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  • M.S. Assistantship in Ptarmigan Reintroduction: New Mexico

    • Employer: New Mexico State University
      Location: Las Cruces (university) + Pecos Wilderness (field), New Mexico
      Country: United States
      Last Date to Apply: 03/01/2021
      Open Until Filled: No

    Start Date: 5/15/2021

    Last Date to Apply: 3/1/2021 



    The Lawson Lab in the New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology at New Mexico State University (NMSU) invite applications for an MS research assistantship, with field work beginning in mid-May 2021. The successful applicant will be part of a collaborative study between NMSU, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (DGF), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce white-tailed ptarmigan to their historic range in New Mexico.

    Field Work Details: The initial field work will involve the capture of ptarmigan in Colorado in late May, followed by release and monitoring using VHF transmitters in the Pecos Wilderness Area of New Mexico. Additional ptarmigan will be translocated in September, 2021. The student will be expected to work alongside study personnel from NMSU and DGF to monitor marked ptarmigan to track survival, habitat use, nesting, and brood-rearing success. The second field season (with potential for a third) will focus on continued monitoring of surviving individuals.

    All field work will take place in mountainous, alpine habitat that will require extended periods of camping and backpacking. The student must be comfortable with working in adverse field conditions (rapidly changing weather, difficult/steep terrain) inhabited by bears. A typical day of field work will involve hiking 5-7 miles to track marked birds or collect nesting data (vegetation measurements, nest fate, etc.). The field crew will be able to return to the Santa Fe area approximately every 5-10 days to re-stock supplies, charge equipment, enter data, shower, etc. with temporary housing provided. Student will receive the needed safety training and a technician to assist with field work.


    Graduate Research Scope: The student will be expected to develop research questions related to population and reintroduction ecology. Potential topics include factors influencing survival and nest success using known-fate analysis, nest attendance behavior, brood rearing habitat selection using resource selection functions, and modeling future habitat suitability related to predicted climate change patterns.


    Hiring and salary: The successful candidate will initially be hired as a technician (salary: $11.77 per hour) for the majority of the first field season (late May-mid Aug. 2021) and then transition to a Graduate Research Assistantship for the Fall 2021 Semester beginning in mid-August, contingent on satisfactory field season performance and successful admission to the NMSU graduate school. The assistantship includes: (1) an annual stipend of $24,217 with three years of salary; (2) tuition and fees covered for 30 credit hours (approx. 2.5 years); and (3) $200/month for health insurance reimbursement, as NMSU does not currently offer a graduate student health insurance plan.



    Required: B.S. in wildlife, environmental sciences, or related field and possession of a valid U.S. driver’s license. The successful applicant must also meet the minimum requirements for admission to the NMSU Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology M.S. program (3.0 GPA in last two years of undergrad). Applicants should also have demonstrated excellent written and oral communication skills and/or quantitative skills, experience conducting field work, and an ability to work independently while following safety protocols. Candidates from underrepresented groups in wildlife and ecology are strongly encouraged to apply.

    Preferred: Demonstrated ability to work in remote field sites (requiring extended backpacking and camping) in adverse conditions, experience collecting VHF telemetry data, and familiarity and proficiency in statistical software (e.g., R, Program MARK, etc.)

    To apply, please email a single PDF that includes: (1) letter of interest, (2) CV or resume that includes GPA and contact information for three references (including a field supervisor), (3) unofficial university transcripts. Please include “White-tailed ptarmigan MS” in the email subject (alawson@usgs.gov). Apply by March 1st for full consideration, though applications will be reviewed as they are received, and may continue until a suitable candidate is found. The successful applicant will be asked to submit an application to the NMSU graduate school.


    Contact Person: Dr. Abby Lawson, Assistant Unit Leader of Wildlife, USGS New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

    Contact e-mail: alawson@usgs.gov

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