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  • Postdoc position in raptor population modeling

    Guest Abby Lawson
    • Employer: New Mexico State University
      Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico or remote
      Country: United States
      Last Date to Apply: 10/24/2022
      Open Until Filled: Yes

    Title: Postdoc in decision support for raptor take limits for wind energy development in the Central Flyway

    Agency: New Mexico State University

    Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico (remote work arrangements will be considered)

    Salary: $58K-63K/year (DOE) with benefits; funding for 2 years

    Start Date: Flexible- can be as early as Fall 2022, though Winter/Spring 2023

    Last Date to Apply: October 24th, though the position will remain open until a suitable candidate is found.



    Background: Our team is excited to announce a postdoctoral research opportunity to develop a decision support framework for informing raptor take (mortality) limits in the Central Flyway, where extensive wind energy development is occurring. Current models that set allowable take limits from anthropogenic activities assume the effects of climate are static, which is increasingly unrealistic and cast doubt on predictions of flyway-scale take levels derived from existing frameworks. We propose developing a new decision support tool that explicitly includes climate variables as inputs to population dynamic models to allow the USFWS to set allowable take limits that are more biologically realistic over the timeframe of interest.


    We will work with stakeholders and title holders in a series of structured decision making workshops to co-produce the new framework. After defining the problem, eliciting hypotheses related to the effects of climate on raptors, and eliciting risk attitudes in relation to uncertainty,  the postdoc will be tasked with building a series of integrated population models (IPM) that incorporate the hypothesized climate effects using a series of covariates. The postdoc will primarily focus on the development of an IPM for Swainson’s Hawks, as IPMs already exist for other species included in the framework: Cooper’s Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, and Golden Eagles. We will then present the results of the IPM and projection analyses at subsequent workshops, in which we will further refine existing hypotheses, and prioritize remaining uncertainties using value of information analysis. The postdoc and study PIs will lead efforts to update the relative support for each alternative IPM based on comparisons between forecasted population viability and additional, annual monitoring data.


    The postdoctoral researcher will lead the modeling component of the project and co-lead multiple workshops with the principal investigator team. The postdoc will be supervised by Dr. Abby Lawson of the USGS New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit based at New Mexico State University, and will work closely with fellow PIs from the USFWS National Raptor Program (Drs. Paige Howell, Brian Millsap), USGS Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (Dr. Mitchell Eaton), the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Dr. Orin Robinson), and the University of Colorado (Dr. Imtiaz Rangwala).


    The postdoctoral researcher will be expected to:

    Co-lead a series of standing calls and webinars with PIs and stakeholders to keep them apprised of study progress

    Develop a series of integrated population models for multiple raptor species that incorporate both large-scale demographic data sets and local-scale spatial covariates, and downscaled climate variables to test hypotheses identified during the rapid prototyping workshop

    Co-lead two stakeholder workshops focused on: 1) rapid prototyping of the decision problem, eliciting hypotheses and risk attitudes; 2) identifying critical critical uncertainties using value of information analysis


    Position structure:

    The position is funded for 2 years through a USGS South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center grant. The successful candidate will be hired through New Mexico State University (Las Cruces, NM) and be based on the main campus, though remote options may be considered. The start date is negotiable.


    The postdoctoral researcher will be provided an annual salary ranging between $58,000 – $63,000 depending on experience, plus benefits, a desktop computer (based at NMSU) with high processing speeds, and travel funds to attend the workshops and national conferences. This position is an excellent opportunity to engage with agency professionals and conduct cutting-edge quantitative research.




    Minimum qualifications: 

    Ph.D. degree by start date in Wildlife, Ecology, or related field by the anticipated start date (late Fall 2022 or Winter 2023)

    Expertise in R coding language and previous experience constructing Bayesian hierarchical models.

    Demonstrated desire and proven ability to publish in peer-reviewed journals.

    Excellent written and personal communication skills

    The ability to work both independently and collaboratively, and to meet deadlines.


    Desired qualifications:

    Competitive candidates will have a background in data integration, structured decision making/decision analysis, experience in facilitation and leading workshops with diverse stakeholder groups around contentious environmental issues.


    How to apply:

    Submit an application through our online portal (link below). Applicants will be asked to provide the following: (1) a writing sample (such as a published manuscript or Ph.D. dissertation), (2) letter of interest that describes your qualifications and how this position fits into your career goals; (3) CV or resume that includes contact information (phone and email) for three references; (4) unofficial transcripts from your PhD institution. Individuals from underrepresented minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply.


    Apply by 11:59 MDT October 24th for full consideration, though the position will remain open until a suitable candidate is found.


    Application portal: https://airtable.com/shrBLubzTdwHteL8w

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