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  • Florida Scrub-jay field technician

    Guest Sarah Fitzpatrick
    • Employer: Michigan State University
      Location: Jupiter, FL
      Country: United States
      Last Date to Apply: No value
      Open Until Filled: Yes

    We seek a field research technician for approximately six months (potentially longer) to assist with a long-term demographic and genetic monitoring study on the Federally Threatened Florida Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) on Florida's Atlantic coast. This technician would be employed by Michigan State University and supervised by Dr. Sarah Fitzpatrick with opportunities for training and interaction with the Archbold Biological Station Avian Ecology group, led by Dr. Sahas Barve. We look to fill this position as soon as possible. This position may extend beyond six months, depending on performance and funding availability.  

    Primary duties with this position include:

    • Searching for and monitoring nests (March through June)
    • Conducting monthly censuses of color-banded birds
    • Banding and blood-sampling juvenile and nestling birds
    • Processing and shipping blood samples for DNA analyses
    • Data entry
    • Writing reports
    • Coordination with supervisor and park authorities

    Ample opportunities exist for conducting independent research and/or public outreach, depending on the technician's interests. This position provides significant opportunities for enhancing skills in project management, communication, and technical report writing.

    Expected hours and compensation:

    The technician will be expected to work an average of 40 hours/week. Some weekend hours may be necessary during April and May. The technician will initially be hired as a MSU temporary/on-call employee at $23/hour, eligible for health insurance coverage. A lodging subsidy will also be provided. All necessary field equipment (including binoculars, 4x4 vehicle, laptop) will be provided by the employers while working on the project.

    Desired qualifications:

    • Bachelor's degree
    • Experience resighting color banded birds, finding and monitoring nests, conducting animal surveys
    • Ability to navigate using maps and work alone in the field within protected landscapes
    • Ability to work independently with little direct supervision
    • Ability and experience driving 4x4 vehicles on dirt roads
    • Attention to detail with respect to following sampling protocols and managing data
    • Tolerance for early morning field work and high heat/humidity
    • Good and responsive communication with supervisors and coworkers

    Please contact Sarah Fitzpatrick (sfitz@msu.edu) with a CV and the names and contact information for 2-3 references, or with additional questions. An official job posting on careers.msu.edu is to follow.

    Project synopsis:

    The Florida Scrub-Jay (FSJ), declared Federally Threatened in 1987, is a rapidly declining bird species restricted to isolated fragments of its native oak scrub habitat. This species faces genetic risks associated with small population size and reduced connectivity such as loss of genetic variation and inbreeding depression. To mitigate these problems, our highly collaborative team, comprised of FSJ biologists, geneticists, state and federal wildlife managers, and park biologists, identified two important populations located in conserved lands within Florida's southeastern Atlantic Coast to target for translocations. These were targeted because of high risk of inbreeding depression, but also high potential for increased population growth. Restoring these populations is crucial for long-term viability and persistence of the Southeastern Coastal metapopulation. In 2019 and 2020, eight FSJs were translocated from a large population in northcentral Florida into one of the coastal populations. Since then we have intensively monitored demography of both coastal populations to study small population dynamics and consequences of translocations. Our long-term goal is to study these dynamics over a period long enough to test for genetic rescue. We also collect whole genome sequencing data from all breeding individuals to test whether inbreeding limits population growth and whether gene flow can increase population viability. Outcomes have significant value to the recovery of this species by documenting the potential for translocations and genetic rescue to increase population growth rates, and facilitate natural connectivity.

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