I am looking for students who are trained up in some of the basic field/lab approaches to disease/climate change/amphibian ecology and that could start their project pretty quick after some input and advice from me & my lab on the system. I am especially interested in recruiting students with strong quantitative skills (statistics, experimental design), tools (GIS analysis, population genetics, mark-recapture), a publication record, and independent research background. The kind of student I need in the next few years will be comfortable doing lots of independent field work, being comfortable (with the language, culture, location) living in remote field sites (not at field stations, no electricity, no computers), perhaps by yourself, who have the ability to redesign projects on the fly in the field, the ability to analyze spatiotemporal and population data and with strong interest in climate change and/or disease. This is a wish list, and I don’t expect every incoming student to have all these skills, but I am hoping prospective students have some knowledge or experience with some of these things.
It is important to recognize that we are mostly a field ecology lab, so you must not only be comfortable being out in the woods or in a swamp, but you should really enjoy camping and hiking and exploring new places. That said, I am very interested in having new students begin to incorporate more experimental work into our projects. We have started several new projects on North American salamanders that are especially amenable to doing manipulative field experiments or for bringing animals into the lab for experimental testing.
We currently have two main research foci in the lab: the role of disease and climate change on North American salamander ecology and on tropical amphibian ecology. New projects include disease ecology of North American salamanders, field surveys, and population biology. We have started working in the Appalachians on Plethodon salamanders, asking many of the same questions as in our tropical research – how global threats (climate, disease) affect amphibian population & community ecology and host-pathogen ecology. I try to encourage my students to develop more fully some of the ideas we have on how the biology of tropical frogs or temperate salamanders (e.g., habitat use, abundance, thermal biology, diet) relates to amphibian declines; primarily focusing on various aspects of community ecology and population biology (e.g., survivorship and demographic parameters & population structure, reproductive characteristics, and population dynamics), disease ecology (reservoir species, microenvironmental effects), and impacts of amphibian declines on ecosystems. Some of my current grad students are working these same questions here in the US – examining the role of salamanders in foodwebs, spatiotemporal variation in the distribution of Bd, and effects of climate change on salamander populations and communities.
Some of my past grad students worked on quantifying disease dynamics in multi-host communities, Mark-Recapture studies of amphibian populations and the role of disease in demography, and the role of the amphibian microbiome in disease ecology. Projects from earlier years include ecosystem effects of amphibian declines with both Ambystoma salamanders in Illinois and Panamanian stream frogs, tadpole ecology, population ecology, predator-prey dynamics & effects on ecosystems of temporary ponds (IL), and frog-fungus disease dynamics, population genetics of tropical stream frogs, salamander pop bio (Ambystoma) & reproduction (Eurycea), the role of tadpoles & frogs in tropical stream ecosystems, diet partitioning in tropical Eleutherodactylus, habitat use of tropical stream frogs. Recent postdocs have done experiments and modeling of disease in tropical amphibian communities, multi-host & multi-pathogen experiments, and the role of trade in the spread of wildlife diseases.
If you are interested in joining our lab, please send me an email including your CV, names of 3 references, your GRE & GPA scores, and (most importantly) a description of your research ideas. Tell me what kind of research questions you enjoy or which study system you are most interested in, and what kinds of projects you would be interested in doing. Please tell me about any research projects you have done in which you were the lead investigator, designing the project, collecting the data, and analyzing the data - what did you learn and what was the outcome of the project? I can admit PhD students through the BEES and MEES programs. It is not possible to admit MS students through BEES, although it is a possibility for the MEES program. I encourage all undergraduates to obtain a MS degree first, and will only accept the exceptional undergraduate who has significant independent research experience. With academic jobs becoming rarer, and competition for postdocs increasing, a MS degree offers you a 2-year position from which you can assess whether academia is for you, gain research skills, take classes, and make important connections so that if you decide to continue for aPhD you are ready to dive in and get started.