M.S. or PhD Assistantship – Woody Plant Encroachment Effects on Ecology of Tick-borne Diseases

Agency
Oklahoma State University
Location
Stillwater, Oklahoma
Job Category
Graduate Assistantships
Salary
$21,000/yr plus health insurance and tuition waiver
Start Date
05/01/2022
Last Date to Apply
02/15/2022
Description
A M.S. or PhD-level graduate research assistantship is available at Oklahoma State University in the lab of Dr. Bruce Noden (Dept. of Entomology and Plant Pathology) with collaboration/co-advising with Dr. Scott Loss (Dept. of Natural Resource Ecology and Management). This research position will focus on the effects of woody plant encroachment into grasslands on the ecology of ticks and tick-borne diseases. The student will complete coursework on the OSU campus in Stillwater, with fieldwork in central and western Oklahoma. Woody plant encroachment substantially alters grassland ecosystems, including abiotic conditions like temperature and humidity, and distributions and interactions of invertebrate and wildlife species. Our recent research in Oklahoma also shows that populations of pathogen-infected, blood-sucking arthropods (mosquitoes and ticks) change with woody plant encroachment, specifically by eastern redcedar, a native tree species with invasive-like characteristics that is rapidly expanding in many areas of the U.S. Great Plains due to factors like fire suppression. Thus, in addition to well-documented effects on water availability, rangeland productivity, and biodiversity, encroachment by eastern redcedar poses a major public health concern. Yet, very little is known about how different stages of eastern redcedar expansion influence populations of vectors and wildlife hosts, vector-host interactions, and the risk of disease transmission in humans. In particular, tick-borne diseases are increasing dramatically in the U.S., including in Oklahoma, yet few studies have investigated how eastern redcedar encroachment affects tick populations and tick-borne pathogen prevalence. In this study, the graduate student will focus on addressing these research gaps, and there will also be exciting opportunities to collaborate with other researchers on topics like the effects of eastern redcedar encroachment on abiotic conditions that influence tick populations, and the role of changing wildlife populations in the ecology of tick-borne diseases. This project will increase ecological understanding of vector-borne disease transmission and have major implications for public health, especially since woody plant encroachment is occurring in grasslands worldwide, with likely widespread implications for disease ecology. Ideally, the position will begin in May 2022 with support available for up to 4 years ($21,000/yr plus health insurance and tuition waiver). We will consider applications from candidates that have an interest in either pursuing a MS degree (assistantship duration of 2-2.5 years) or PhD (~4 years), and we may have some flexibility in the project start date. TO APPLY: send (by February 15th) applications consisting of a SINGLE ZIP FILE that includes: (1) a cover letter outlining how they meet the above required and preferred qualifications, (2) CV, (3) unofficial academic transcripts, (4) GRE Scores, and (5) contact information for three references to Dr. Bruce Noden (bruce.noden@okstate.edu). We are committed to fostering an environment where diversity of background and thought is accepted and encouraged, and we encourage all interested people to apply despite preconceived notions of their own experience as it relates to this project’s objectives. About the Noden and Loss labs: Our labs have collaborated for 8 years on projects related to the ecology of vector-borne diseases, including research evaluating effects of land cover changes like urbanization on tick-borne diseases. For more information about our labs, see: Dr. Bruce Noden’s lab: https://experts.okstate.edu/bruce.noden/ Dr. Scott Loss’s lab: https://scottrloss.wixsite.com/losslab About Oklahoma and OSU: Oklahoma is the most ecologically diverse state on a mile-for-mile basis, with ecosystem types ranging from forested mountains in the southeast to mesas and canyons in the west. As a result, the state contains a broad diversity of plants and animals, and recreational opportunities also abound, with national forests, national wildlife refuges, and countless lakes all within 2-3 hours of Stillwater. In addition, Stillwater is 1 hour from both Oklahoma City and Tulsa, which have additional opportunities for recreation, sporting events, music, the arts, restaurants, etc. OSU is a land-grant institution with an enrollment of ~25,000 students, and it is located on the ancestral lands of the Kickapoo, Osage, Kiowa, and Quapaw peoples. Indigenous people from other Native nations also reside here, many of whom were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands. They all contribute to the history and current vitality of our region. The Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology (EPP) and the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM) are both part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. These departments conduct interdisciplinary research, instruction, and extension education to address insect and plant pests and diseases (EPP) and to contribute to sustainable management and conservation of wildlife, forest, rangeland, and fisheries resources (NREM). Both departments are a source of cutting-edge research, quality instruction, and effective outreach to students, landowners, managers, and public agencies. Any offer of employment is contingent on the university’s verification of credentials and other information required by law and/or university policies, including but not limited to a criminal background check. Oklahoma State University, as an equal opportunity employer, complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding non-discrimination and affirmative action. Oklahoma State University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all individuals and does not discriminate based on race, religion, age, sex, color, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, or veteran status with regard to employment, educational programs and activities, and/or admissions.
Qualifications
Required qualifications: Applicants must possess a B.S. degree (and also a Master’s degree for those interested in a PhD assistantship) in Biology, Entomology, Wildlife Ecology, or a related field; a strong work ethic and sense of self-motivation; the ability to work independently and with a small team in a management capacity; and a strong interest in and passion for conducting research focused on ecological concepts and applications. Applicants must also possess a valid US driver’s license. Preferred qualifications: Applicants with some or many of the following qualifications will be especially competitive, especially for consideration for a PhD-level assistantship: extensive experience coordinating field projects/crews, completing mentored independent research, field sampling for invertebrates including arthropod vectors like ticks, conducting vegetation surveys, conducting laboratory-based invertebrate identification and/or pathogen testing, using GIS and statistical analysis software; giving research or other types of presentations; and summarizing results in written reports and/or publications.
Contact Person
bruce.noden@okstate.edu
Contact eMail
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