PhD Position: Integrated social-environmental ranching-wildlife systems project

Agency
University of Alaska
Location
Moscow, Idaho
Job Category
Graduate Assistantships
Salary
$21/hr
Start Date
06/01/2022
Last Date to Apply
10/01/2021
Website
http://www.gilbertresearch.org/blog/2021/9/16/phd-position-available-effects-of-drought-and-wolves-on-the-social-ecological-system-of-rangelands-in-the-western-us
Description
PhD Position: Integrated social-environmental ranching-wildlife systems project We are seeking a PhD student to conduct research focused on how wolves, wild and domesticated ungulates, and drought impact the coupled human-wildlife system in Western US rangelands, focusing on study areas in Oregon and Idaho. This 5-year NSF-funded project will fully support the PhD student, including salary support through 3 years of research assistantship and 2 years of teaching assistantship, as well as all tuition, fees, and healthcare. Project overview: Multiple stressors are impacting ecosystems shared by wildlife and humans worldwide, threatening human livelihoods and wildlife biodiversity, and limiting our ability to predict future system states under global change. Climate change can strongly interact with other sources of change, such as recolonizing large carnivores, to alter food web dynamics and potentially reduce ecosystem provisioning for humans while increasing stress on human decision-makers. A critical gap exists in our knowledge of how climate affects human-wildlife systems via wild food webs, and how natural resource decision-makers respond to the stress. We hypothesize that multiple environmental stressors (e.g., climate change and novel predators) will have complex and interactive effects on human-wildlife systems via trophic interactions among predators, prey, livestock, and plants within shared food webs, potentially reducing the provisioning of humans from the shared ecosystem and human tolerance for predatory and competitive wildlife, and increasing uncertainty for natural resource decision-makers. There is a pressing need to advance models, tools and theory to 1) understand how multiple stressors interactively affect food webs in which humans and domestic animals are embedded, and 2) identify and quantify feedbacks among natural resource decision-makers and human-wildlife systems in response to multiple environmental stressors, including identifying potential “tipping points” in system resiliency. Using a factorial design of study sites across combinations of wolf presence and drought in Oregon and Idaho, we will mechanistically study rancher-wildlife-plant dynamics. Data will stem from rancher surveys, wildlife camera grids, and ground-surveyed and remotely-sensed plant data. We will integrate social and ecological data into a structural equation modeling framework, which will drive ecological forecasts of predation and competition risk to livestock we will provide to ranchers and managers. To understand natural resource manager decisions, which occur at larger spatial scales than rancher decisions, we will conduct a broad-scale analysis of the rangeland SES across the Western US using publicly-available wildlife and social data and remotely-sensed environmental characteristics. By analyzing decision-making across these spatial scales, we anticipate being able to identify key feedbacks, emergent phenomena, and potential tipping points in resilience for the human and wildlife components of the rangeland SES. The interdisciplinary PhD student will help answer questions related to: 1) how the rangeland foodweb responds to drought and wolf activity; 2) how human decision-makers perceive and respond to drought, wolves, and other rangeland and socio-economic variables; and 3) dynamics of this integrated system, via socio-ecological modeling. The PhD student will also help develop ecological forecasting tools based on integrated socio-ecological models, with the help and mentorship of the project team and strong computing support from the University of Idaho’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Data Sciences (https://www.iids.uidaho.edu ). The project team: The PhD student will be supervised by Dr. Sophie Gilbert (www.gilbertresearch.org) in the Department of Fish & Wildlife Sciences, and Dr. Chloe Wardropper (https://chloewardropper.weebly.com/) in the Department of Natural Resources and Society, both at the University of Idaho, located in beautiful Moscow, Idaho. The student will be working within a broader team, including personnel, faculty, and postdoctoral researchers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Idaho. The PhD student is expected to work collaboratively and to engage productively with all team members, as well as to supervise summer technicians from the University of Idaho. The student will join a rich research community, including faculty at both the University of Idaho and Washington State University (located 8 miles from Moscow, in Pullman, WA), and a large and welcoming community of graduate students across a variety of relevant natural and social science disciplines. Moscow is located in the Idaho panhandle, at the edge of the Rocky Mountain Foothills and the beautiful Palouse hills. It is a vibrant college town, including a bustling main street and excellent walking and biking, nearby outdoor recreation (mountain biking, hiking, and more), and rent is quite affordable (monthly rents for apartments near campus are ~$650).
Qualifications
Required qualifications include a Master’s degree in ecology, wildlife biology, natural resource management, sociology, geography, or related fields by summer 2022, proficiency in English, and valid driver’s licence (or willingness to obtain one). Applicants should also be proficient in quantitative data analysis. Desired qualifications include a good theoretical understanding of either the ecological components of the project (community and predator-prey ecology), or the social components (risk and decision-making, ranching systems). The ideal student will be keenly interested in understanding coupled natural-human systems and engaging in interdisciplinary work. Importantly, the student should have a strong spirit of curiosity/inquiry, and the demonstrated ability to work well as part of a team in a rural environment. Desirable experience also includes expertise with fieldwork in remote settings, ecological data analysis including experience or willingness to learn program R, and social science survey methodologies, but due to the interdisciplinary nature of the position, expertise in all of these areas is not expected. To apply for this position, please send a single pdf attachment (file name formatted as lastname_firstname_date.pdf) to BOTH sophiegilbert@uidaho.edu and cwardropper@uidaho.edu, containing (1) a cover letter indicating reasons for desiring this position, past experiences relevant to the position including academic training, field experience, and experience with teams and stakeholders/the public; (2) CV; (3) copies of undergraduate & graduate transcripts (unofficial is ok); (4) a recent sample of your technical writing; and (5) contact information for three references. Please use the subject header “Wildlife-Ranching PhD application”. The student will commence graduate studies in September 2022 and ideally start field work in June 2022. Revi
Contact Person
Sophie Gilbert
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