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  • PhD Assistantship in Ecology of Rosy Finches

    Guest Abby Lawson
    • Employer: New Mexico State University
      Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico
      Country: United States
      Last Date to Apply: 09/30/2022
      Open Until Filled: Yes

    Start Date: 1/1/2023

    Last Date to Apply: 9/30/2022

    Website: https://airtable.com/shrIzCshT0rBxUxCK



    The Lawson Lab in the USGS New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology at New Mexico State University (NMSU) invites applications for an PhD research assistantship beginning in January 2023. The successful applicant will be part of an exciting collaborative study between NMSU, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Management, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and Rio Grande Bird Research LLC to investigate Rosy-Finch ecology using multiple long-term datasets. The student will work closely with Dr. Abby Lawson (USGS), Ms. Corrie Borgman (USFWS), and a mentor from a migration biology program based at NMSU (see below).

    Rosy-Finches (Black, Gray-crowned, and Brown-capped) are among the most climate-threatened bird species in North America. The Sandia Mountains in northern New Mexico represent the southernmost point in which all three species co-occur and is the site of a long-term (2004–present) study that has collected mark-recapture data and feather samples. In addition to on-going data collection, this study will also evaluate the efficacy of radio frequency identification (RFID) equipped bird feeders as a monitoring tool for Rosy-Finches. This position will primarily focus on the analysis of existing data and feather samples, though funds are available for the student to occasionally assist with field work in the Sandia Mountains from November–March. Field work activities may include capturing finches using a mist net and applying auxiliary markers, deploying RFID-enabled birdfeeders, and maintaining existing feeders. The student will be expected to develop cutting-edge research questions related to population, migration, and trophic ecology. Potential topics include survival and abundance estimation using multistate open robust design models from the mark-recapture data, evaluating monitoring strategies for wintering Rosy-Finches, as well as breeding probability origin and individual diet and habitat specialization inferred from feather stable isotope samples.

    In addition to the research project, the student will be part of a new, USDA-funded program based at NMSU that focuses on preparing students for careers in applied conservation of migratory birds in a rapidly changing climate. Students in the program will receive hands-on training through a series of workshops, and complete a set of core courses including Science Ethics, Science Communication, and Migration Biology with a field component in Costa Rica. Graduate students affiliated with the program will be team-mentored, including a mentor based in a state or federal agency, and will have travel funding available to present their research at a national conference.

    Salary and Benefits: This position includes 3.0 years of funding for a research assistantship ($24,581/year), tuition, and health insurance reimbursement (up to $200/month), as NMSU does not currently offer a graduate student health insurance plan. The remainder of the student’s duration will be supported by a Teaching Assistantship in the Biology Department, though we anticipate working with the student to apply for additional funding in the form of research grants and fellowships.



    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 Graduate School (3.0 GPA in last two years of undergrad), as well as GRE scores for applicants who received the undergraduate degree outside the U.S. 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.


    Strong preference will be given to applicants who have completed an M.S in wildlife, ecology, environmental science or a related field, as well as applicants with a strong quantitative background (e.g., experience with R, hierarchical models, Bayesian statistics). Previous experience in one or more of the following areas is also desired: stable isotope ecology, capturing and handling songbirds, and experience with RFID technology.


    To apply, please submit an application through our online portal (link below). Applicants will be asked to provide the following in a single PDF: (1) letter of interest that describes their qualifications and how this position fits into their career goals; (2) CV or resume that includes contact information for three references (including a direct supervisor); (3) writing sample such as a published manuscript or M.S. thesis; and (4) unofficial university transcripts. Individuals from underrepresented minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply. Apply by September 30th for full consideration.


    Submit an application: https://airtable.com/shrIzCshT0rBxUxCK


    Questions? Contact Dr. Abby Lawson (ajlawson AT nmsu DOT edu)

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