M.S. Assistantship: Bolson tortoise reintroduction ecology, Las Cruces, New Mexico
New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, New Mexico State University
Armendaris Ranch (field work)/Las Cruces (school), New Mexico
$24,581/year plus tuition and $200/month health insurance reimbursement
Last Date to Apply
The Lawson Lab in the New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology at New Mexico State University (NMSU) invites applications for an MS research assistantship, with field work beginning in mid-May 2022. The successful applicant will be part of a collaborative study between NMSU, the Turner Ecoagriculture Institute, the Turner Endangered Species Fund, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor reintroduced Bolson tortoises within their prehistoric range in southern New Mexico.
Study Background: The Bolson tortoise is the largest and rarest of the six Gopherus species native to North America. The tortoise’s prehistoric range extended throughout much of the Chihuahuan desert, though today the species is extirpated from the US with the exception of a semi-captive population in southern New Mexico that is managed by the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF). The Bolson Tortoise Recovery Project released 55 juvenile tortoises (outfitted with VHF transmitters) on the Armendaris Ranch in 2021, with plans to release additional individuals in 2022 and 2023. The goal of research is to aid the reintroduction efforts of the Bolson Tortoise Recovery Project through an improved understanding of the species’ demography and behavior. The specific objectives of the proposed research include:
1) Compare vital rates and survivorship between released and captive juvenile tortoises as a function of size, environmental factors, and habitat characteristics
2) Evaluate habitat use and movement patterns as a function of environmental conditions (e.g., air temperature, precipitation) and habitat features (e.g., vegetation, soil)
3) Provide recommendations to the Bolson Tortoise Recovery Project and the USFWS for future tortoise reintroductions
Field Work Details: All field work will take place on the Armendaris Ranch in southern New Mexico. The successful applicant will work with a technician and TESF staff to monitor movements of released tortoises, conduct annual surveys of captive and released tortoises, conduct vegetation surveys to evaluate habitat use, and maintain camera traps. We anticipate three years of data collection (2022–2024) spanning from March–November each year. The field crew will be provided with a 4WD field truck, all necessary field equipment, and a trailer to be parked on the Armendaris Ranch. The student and technician will receive all necessary safety training.
Hiring and salary: The successful candidate will be hired as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Summer 2022 term beginning in mid-May, contingent on successful admission to the NMSU graduate school. The assistantship includes: (1) annual stipend of $24,581 with three years of salary; (2) tuition and fees covered; and (3) $200/month for health insurance reimbursement, as NMSU does not currently offer a graduate student health insurance plan.
Required qualifications: B.S. in wildlife, environmental sciences, or related field and possession of a valid U.S. driver’s license by May 10th, 2022. The successful applicant must also meet the minimum requirements for admission to the NMSU Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology M.S. program (3.0 GPA in last two years of undergrad). GRE scores will not be considered. Applicants should also demonstrate excellent written and oral communication skills, experience conducting field work (ability to lift 50 lbs and walk 8 miles per day), and an ability to work independently while following safety protocols. Candidates from underrepresented groups in wildlife and ecology are strongly encouraged to apply.
Preferred qualifications: Demonstrated ability to work in remote field sites in adverse conditions (extreme heat, biting insects, etc.), experience collecting VHF telemetry data, and familiarity and proficiency in statistical software (e.g., R, Program MARK, etc.).
To apply, email a single PDF that includes: (1) letter of interest no longer than 1.5 pages, (2) CV or resume that includes GPA and contact information for three references (including a field supervisor), (3) university transcripts (unofficial is fiend). Please title the PDF “LastnameFirstname_Bolson.pdf” and include “Bolson tortoise MS” in the email subject (email@example.com).
Apply by January 5th for full consideration, though the position may remain open until a suitable candidate is found. The successful applicant will be asked to submit an application to the NMSU graduate school.