African carnivore gut microbiome research; MS Assistantship: Michigan

Northern Michigan University
Marquette, MI
Job Category
Graduate Assistantships
graduate stipend and tuition waiver
Start Date
Last Date to Apply
The Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science Lab (WECOS Lab) ( in the Biology Department at Northern Michigan University is seeking an outstanding MSc student to begin in August 2023. Researchers in the WECOS Lab are motivated by the idea that a greater understanding of how wildlife populations–and their associated communities and ecosystems–respond to environmental change is essential for developing science-informed strategies to conserve Earth’s biodiversity. In our research efforts, we use a variety of molecular, microbiological, and quantitative techniques to understand host-microbiome associations and the myriad factors that influence these tightly co-evolved systems. As host-microbiome systems are increasingly subjected to human-mediated disturbances, we are interested in answering questions that will inform the conservation and management of diverse species around the world. The MSc project will focus on characterizing the gut microbiome of African carnivores (e.g., African lion, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal), in Etosha National Park, Namibia relative to variation in diet as part of a collaborative initiative among scientists from Northern Michigan University, University of Georgia, Etosha Ecological Institute, and Ongava Research Centre. Understanding the diversity and function of carnivore gut microbiomes relative to variation in diet will provide novel insights into host-microbiome systems in a rapidly changing world. The MSc student will be responsible for extensive lab work (e.g., DNA extraction) as well as analysis of DNA sequence datasets derived from metabarcoding to identify prey and from 16S amplicon sequencing to identify gut bacterial taxa. The MSc student will also use existing computational tools and develop new scripts to complete bioinformatic analyses and data visualizations leading to the completion of a thesis as well as 2 publications for submission to peer-reviewed journals. Funding for this position includes a 2-year graduate teaching assistantship (9-months/year), and research expenses. The PIs will work with the student to obtain summer support (e.g., Excellence in Education Grant) and a graduate student travel award to support student expenses to attend 1 national/international conference to share the research findings.
Required Qualifications: The WECOS lab is committed to creating a welcoming learning environment that fosters diversity and inclusion. We strongly encourage applications from candidates from groups historically and contemporarily underrepresented or underserved in the biological sciences. • B.S. in biology, ecology, environmental science, wildlife science, or zoology with both an interest and experience in bioinformatics or computer programming. Alternatively, candidates with a B.S. in bioinformatics, computer science, data science or a similar field with a strong interest in wildlife ecology and conservation would also be extremely competitive for this position. • Experience conducting field or laboratory research related to this general field of study • Demonstrated ability to work in remote areas under adverse field conditions with little infrastructure and few amenities • Experience/competency analyzing data in R • Aptitude for and interest in quantitative ecology • Excellent written communication skills including the desire to publish in peer-reviewed journals • Excellent verbal communication skills including the desire to communicate research findings to in-country stakeholders and diverse scientific audiences • Evidence of a demonstrated commitment to inclusive science and outreach to diverse audiences • Self-motivated and able to work independently while simultaneously contributing to team research goals in a timely manner • Dedicated to open science practices • Positive attitude, kind, humble, and eager to learn • Minimum undergraduate GPA 3.25 Preferred Qualifications: • Lab experience including DNA extraction • Diet analysis via metabarcoding • Coursework in microbiology, bioinformatics, R statistical analyses, Python • Data management (Access, Excel) Interested parties are encouraged to apply even if these minimums aren’t met. To Apply: Please email a single pdf that includes (1) a cover letter detailing how your academic and professional experiences have prepared you to meet the listed qualifications, as well as how this master’s-level graduate research opportunity would help further your career goals, (2) resume/cv – listing presentations, publications, related professional experience, (3) unofficial copies of transcripts, and (4) contact information for 3 professional references (e.g., research supervisor, internship supervisor, professor/instructor) to Dr. Diana Lafferty at Candidates selected for an interview will be notified by February 17th, and expected to participate in an interview via Zoom during the week of February 20-24. If offered the position, candidates will be required to submit all the required materials for graduate admission by March 1st (i.e., completed application for admissions, application for graduate assistantship, official transcripts from all undergraduate institutions, 3 letters of recommendation, and a brief essay describing your background, research interests, and career goals). For more details regarding graduate admission to NMU visit: Land Acknowledgment: Northern Michigan University occupies the ancestral and contemporary homelands of the Anishinaabeg, who make up the Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibway, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples.
Contact Person
Diana Lafferty
Contact eMail
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