MSc position on grassland plant-insect interactions at Montana State University

Montana State University
Bozeman, MT and Malta, MT
Job Category
Graduate Assistantships
Start Date
Last Date to Apply
We are seeking applicants for a MSc position in the Burkle lab in the Ecology Department at Montana State University and in partnership with the Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute’s Great Plains Science Program. This graduate student will work on and around American Prairie (Phillips County, Montana) to study spatial drivers of insect and plant communities and the function of insect taxa in shortgrass prairie systems. Research questions and approaches can be tailored based on student’s interests but will examine one of the following three topics: 1) Responses of beneficial plant partners (e.g., pollinators) and insect herbivores to plant nutrient allocation across an experimental gradient of nutrient availability; 2) Identify mechanisms of arthropod community response to grazing by large mammals through an experiment manipulating individual expected effects (e.g., removal of aboveground grass biomass, reducing grass dominance, increasing bare ground, addition of dung and urine, etc.); or 3) Target (grasshopper) and non-target (bee and plant) responses to a history of aerial insecticide spraying. The student will be based at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman, MT during the school year (non-field season). Research in the Burkle lab is focused on community ecology, conservation, and species interactions, especially plant-pollinator interactions. The graduate student will work as part of a team including faculty, Smithsonian ecologists, resource managers, and field technicians. The Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) provides a stipend and a tuition waiver for up to 6 credits per semester. The position will begin in mid-May 2023 as a Smithsonian Fellow and transition to a MSc student at MSU in fall 2023. This is a three-year position. Interested applicants should apply by submitting your application materials to both Laura Burkle ( and Ellen Welti ( Your Application Materials should include (1) a brief personal statement (no more than one page) detailing your academic background and previous research experience, reasons for pursuing graduate school, your specific current research interests, and how your research interests relate to the research topics proposed above; (2) your CV; (3) informal undergraduate transcripts; and (4) contact information for three references. These Application Materials may be submitted as one combined PDF file or several separate PDF files. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis (open immediately) but no later than January 29, 2023. More information about Smithsonian's Great Plains Science Program is available at More information about the Ecology Department at Montana State University is available at
Requirements • Valid driver’s license • Strong oral and written communication skills • Ability to work effectively independently and as part of a team • Attention to detail and safety protocols • Undergraduate degree in ecology, biology or related field • Willingness to spend the field season with a small team in a very remote location, separated from campus Preferred qualifications • Previous experience in plant- and/or arthropod-related field work • Plant and/or arthropod identification skills • Demonstrated experience conducting independent research • Statistical experience and using the R coding language
Contact Person
Laura Burkle and Ellen Welti
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