PhD GRA – Effects of solar energy development on soils, plants, and pollinators in the Mojave Desert (USGS/Cornell University)

USGS New York Coop Unit/Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
Job Category
Graduate Assistantships
Start Date
Last Date to Apply
Background: The rapid buildout of solar energy in the Mojave Desert is outpacing our understanding of the effects solar energy development may have on desert ecosystems. We will collaborate with BLM Nevada, the University of California, Davis, and the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center to conduct novel research aimed at elucidating spatiotemporal effects of solar energy development on soils, plants, and pollinators at two solar facilities in Nevada. Our objectives center on elucidating responses of desert soils, plants, and pollinators to solar energy development before, during, and after construction of two, industrial-scale PV solar energy facilities. We anticipate achieving multiple goals that seek to inform applied, solutions-oriented wildlife management at solar facilities in the Mojave Desert. Description: The PhD student will conduct research on the effects of solar energy development on desert soils, plants, and pollinators under the direct supervision of Dr. Steve Grodsky (Assistant Unit Leader, New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit & Assistant Professor, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Cornell University). The PhD student will play an integral role in this flagship project for the newly instated Cornell branch of the Wild Energy Initiative (Wild Energy Cornell). The PhD student will work with a team of researchers, including Dr. Rebecca Hernandez (UC Davis), Dr. Jeff Lovich (USGS), Dr. Seth Munson (USGS), and Lara Kobelt (BLM). The PhD student will conduct the following research activities: 1) collect field data on soils (physical properties, geodiversity), plants (abundance, diversity), and pollinators (abundance, diversity) before, during and after construction of solar facilities (~3 month fieldwork/yr) using various methods; 2) curate and analyze data; 3) write progress reports to be submitted to the Bureau of Land Management; and 4) publish peer-reviewed publications and disseminate research findings to stakeholders broadly. The PhD student 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 (~$38,000/yr) and full support in the forms of tuition remission and student health insurance.
- Master's degree in ecology, soils ecology, plant ecology, entomology, or related field - Proven capacity to publish peer-reviewed publications - Advanced modeling and computational skills; working knowledge of statistical software - Ability to conduct fieldwork in rugged conditions - Experience with desert plant, soils, and/or pollinator research - Ability to work independently and as part of a group - Minimum undergrad GPA of 3.6 Applicants are to send a single PDF containing: 1) cover letter; 2) CV; 3) contact information for 3 references and 5) PDFs of relevant peer-reviewed publications (if applicable) to Dr. Steve Grodsky ( by August 15th. Applications will be reviewed on a continual basis. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted and 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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