PhD Research Assistantship: Black Vulture Behavior, Movements, and Foraging in Relation to Cattle Production – Indiana

Purdue University, College of Agriculture, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Purdue, IN and Southern IN
Job Category
Graduate Assistantships
Start Date
Last Date to Apply
Despite increasing in abundance in many areas and a current expansion in distribution, black vultures remain an understudied species, with most research focusing on either scavenger ecology or movements near airfields. Though primarily a scavenger, black vultures can kill prey, and reports of black vultures killing and consuming livestock, especially cattle calves, have increased in recent years. Despite the above trend, estimates of livestock loss caused by black vulture predation, whether vulture-killed livestock can be readily identified, and how vultures utilize the landscape in cattle production areas remain relatively unknown. The selected student will work to fill these knowledge gaps and inform future vulture management by 1) gathering and analyzing existing data on vulture-livestock conflict events occurring throughout the Midwest, 2) employing a producer survey to estimate costs of livestock loss and perceptions of black vultures 3) and conducting field studies focused on vulture movements, vulture interactions with livestock, and vulture response to management tools. Analytical and quantitative tools to be used to achieve the above objectives include, but are not limited to, structural equation modeling, step selection functions, and individual/agent based modeling. The student will develop and present outreach materials on methods to mitigate black vulture damage and will also serve as an interface between cattle producers and the Purdue University Heeke Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, by acquiring and submitting samples to the laboratory for post-mortem examination. The student will also interact with industry groups and regulatory agencies. This is a unique opportunity for individuals interested in the interface of raptor ecology, quantitative ecology, wildlife management, movement ecology, and rangeland ecology and management. The position also provides applied experience for a career trajectory in local, state, or federal agencies or a research career focused on the ever-growing fields of quantitative ecology and human-wildlife conflict. The student will be co-advised by Dr. Patrick Zollner (Purdue University) and Dr. Bryan Kluever (USDA National Wildlife Research Center), and will also work closely with Dr. Grant Burcham (Purdue University) and Lee Humberg (USDA Wildlife Services, Purdue University).
BS in Wildlife Biology, Ecology, Biology, or a related discipline is required. MS in addition to BS is preferred but not required. In your application materials, please explicitly address your demonstrated organizational skills, interest/background in movement ecology, quantitative skills, and finally your ability to mentor others. In addition, applicants should be highly motivated with a demonstrated ability to work independently in both field and office settings. We seek those able to readily interact with various stakeholders including government agencies, land owners, agricultural producers, and non-governmental organizations. Those with experience publishing peer-reviewed journal articles, a strong work ethic, demonstrated technical writing ability, excellent interpersonal skills, and demonstrated skill or skill potential in quantitative ecology will be most competitive. Experience trapping and handling raptors, conducting natural resources-based social science surveys, unique contributions to the diverse perspectives within the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and experience working in multiple-use landscapes are all beneficial but not required. Interested students should provide a 1 page statement of interest, CV, unofficial transcripts, and contact information for three professional references to Drs. Patrick Zollner and Bryan Kluever via e-mail. In addition to the statement of interest, all applicants should provide responses to the following questions in a single document. The response to each question should be given in 250 words or less. 1. Describe a situation that demonstrates your work ethic and ability to complete complex tasks in a timely manner. 2. Provide an example of a work/academic situation that typifies how you handle adversity when striving to attain a goal. 3. What motivates you to pursue your proposed graduate studies, and how will completion of these studies prepare you to achieve your career goals? 4. Please describe a specific example from your work/academic experience that demonstrates your curiosity and creativity. 5. What are your strengths and weaknesses with regard to achieving goals individually and in collaboration with others?
Contact Person
Dr. Patrick Zollner, Dr. Bryan Kluever
Contact Phone
(765) 496-9495, (352) 448-2130
Contact eMail
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