PhD GRA (Cornell University): Grassland birds and solar energy in New York State

Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
Job Category
Graduate Assistantships
~42k year + tuition remission and health insurance
Start Date
Last Date to Apply
Highlights: • Creative and innovative research environment • Cutting edge research in renewable energy ecology • Fieldwork in and around solar facilities throughout New York State • Engagement with state agency managers and experts in avian ecology • Competitive, 12-month stipend (~$42,000/yr) • Full support (salary, tuition, and health insurance) Background: In New York, socioeconomic and political forces continue to bolster renewable energy development throughout the state, yet wildlife managers have limited information with which to manage wildlife resources amid this rapid energy transition. New York’s Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Benefit Act includes goals for 70% renewable energy by 2030 and an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; these targets largely will be met with solar energy. Scientific knowledge of interactions between solar energy development and grassland bird conservation and management is lacking. Grassland birds are one of the most imperiled groups of birds in North America. In New York, grassland birds as an aggregate of species have emerged as a high priority conservation interest to natural resource managers and their conservation partners due to their precipitous declines associated with loss of grasslands, shifting agricultural practices, reforestation, and climate change. Solar energy development may have direct (i.e., mortality) and, more so, indirect effects on grassland birds, namely displacement and habitat loss. Solar energy is anticipated to directly compete with grassland bird conservation because grassland bird habitat—flat and contiguous open areas—also is optimal for solar development. The NYSDEC has funded a study to determine effects of solar energy development decisions on grassland bird species in New York and thereby to guide avoidance and minimization measures that reduce negative impacts of solar energy production on grassland birds. We also will assess current mitigation measures for grassland birds and solar energy development and the feasibility of co-location of grassland bird conservation and solar energy at multiple spatiotemporal scales. Description: We seek one PhD student for this collaborative research project to study effects of solar energy development on breeding grassland birds and/or wintering grassland birds in New York State. One PhD student already has been hired. We expect the PhD students to work as a team. Each PhD student will conduct research on the effects of solar energy development decisions on grassland bird species in and around operational solar facilities in New York State as part of a research team led by Dr. Steve Grodsky (USGS/Cornell). The PhD students will take field measurements for three consecutive years (~3 months/year), followed by one year of synthesis and dissemination of results for the initial 4-year study. The PhD students will take part in the following research activities in and around solar facilities: 1) avian surveys in spring and winter, respectively, 2) deployment of bioacoustic sampling units, 3) sampling of grassland bird foods - invertebrate (spring/summer) and small mammals (winter), 4) characterization of vegetation communities, 5) landscape-level geospatial analyses, 6) analysis of ecological datasets generated from fieldwork, and 7) production of reports to NYSDEC, peer-reviewed publications, and other scholarly outputs. The PhD students will be expected to conduct quality, applied ecological research, publish in peer-reviewed journals, and contribute to a team of creative, interdisciplinary researchers. This position comes with a highly competitive, annual 12-month salary (~$42,000/yr) and full support in the forms of tuition remission and student health insurance.
Qualifications: - Master's degree in wildlife ecology or related field (or equivalent work experience) - Proven capacity to publish peer-reviewed publications - Advanced modeling and computational skills; proficiency in R - Proficiency in ArcGIS - Ability to lead, manage and be part of a team conducting fieldwork - Experience with avian research, especially that on grassland birds - Ability to identify birds of the eastern U.S. by sight and sound - Ability to work independently and as part of a group Applicants are to send a single PDF containing: 1) cover letter; 2) CV; 3) contact information for 3 references and 4) PDFs of relevant peer-reviewed publications (if applicable) to Dr. Steve Grodsky ( by 31 January 2022. Applications will be reviewed on a continual basis; we encourage applicants to submit their materials promptly. Selected candidates will be required to apply for admission to the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment’s Graduate Program at Cornell University.
Contact Person
Dr. Steve Grodsky
Contact eMail
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