Dr. Josh Millspaugh (University of Montana), and Dr. Jeff Beck (University of Wyoming) are co-leading a new research effort in the Normally Pressured Lance (NPL) area in Sublette County, Wyoming. The NPL encompasses 140,859 acres (96% of which is public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management [BLM]) south and west of the existing Jonah Field. Here, long-term development potential includes a maximum of 3,500 directionally drilled wells over 10 years that will produce oil and natural gas. A total of 35,000 acres of the Alkali Creek and Alkali Draw winter sage-grouse concentration areas overlay the NPL where upwards of 1,500 greater sage-grouse aggregate during many winters, indicating the need for better information to guide grouse conservation efforts in the project area. Major objectives for this research include: 1) evaluating winter mortality risk and physiological stress in relation to environmental and anthropogenic conditions, 2) evaluating winter resource selection and distribution in relation to environmental and anthropogenic conditions, and 3) providing recommendations for future conservation of grouse in relation to energy development within the NPL footprint.
We are seeking 2 motivated and experienced PhD students to collect data and complete original research as part of this larger project. One student will earn their degree at the University of Montana and the other student at the University of Wyoming. Drs. Millspaugh and Beck will serve on graduate committees for each institution. The original research developed is flexible to the ingenuity of the successful applicant, but should be related to the project’s overall objectives. This study will be based on data collected from 100 female sage-grouse marked with GPS transmitters that collect multiple locations/day over a minimum of three years. Grouse will be distributed among treatment and control sites with data collected pre- and post-impact within a before-after-control-impact study design.
Field work for this project will likely entail capturing and processing sage-grouse, radio-tracking, accompanying pilots during aerial location flights, microhabitat vegetation sampling, winter habitat collection, as well as supervising a field technician in these duties. Field work will also require supervising field technicians while working under harsh weather conditions, safely operating 4WD trucks and ATVs, working long hours with highly variable work schedules (including night-time hours), and may require camping. Students will be expected to work collaboratively and share data, and compile progress reports, publish manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, and present findings to lay and scientific audiences. The students must communicate effectively with personnel from the sponsoring energy industry and supporting natural resource agencies (BLM and Wyoming Game and Fish Department) and private landowners. These positions have a start date for fall semester 2019. Tuition, health insurance, and an annual stipend are provided.
Qualifications include a BS and MS degrees in the biological, ecological, or natural resource sciences, or other closely related field; relevant research experience; an ability to work long hours; complete rigorous field work; and possess excellent written and oral communication skills. A MS GPA of ≥3.5, GRE with verbal and quantitative scores >50th percentile, and minimum GRE of 4.0 for analytical writing will be viewed highly. Applicants with quantitative and spatial analysis skills and publication experience will also be viewed highly.
Please apply by emailing a SINGLE PDF file that includes a cover letter, CV, minimum of 3 references, unofficial transcripts, and a copy of your GRE test taker score report to both Dr. Josh Millspaugh (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Jeff Beck (email@example.com). Closing date for applications is April 1, 2019. After initial screening, suitable candidates will be invited to write, and ultimately present, a one-page synopsis of a potential research idea for this project that is feasible to form a chapter in their dissertation.
Dr. Josh Millspaugh Boone and Crockett Professor of Wildlife Conservation University of Montana
Wildlife Biology Program W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation 32 Campus Drive, Stone Hall 113 Missoula, MT 59812
Dr. Jeff Beck
Professor of Wildlife Habitat Restoration Ecology
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY 82071
PhD Assistantships (2): Avoidance and Mortality Risk of Greater Sage-grouse to Energy Development in Winter Concentration Areas in southwestern Wyomin