Post-Doctoral Scholar Agent Based Modeling of Least Bells Vireos: West Lafayette, IN

Department of Forestry and Natural Resources Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN
Job Category
Post Doctoral Appointments
$47,500 annually (negotiable)
Start Date
Last Date to Apply
Project Description: The federally endangered Least Bell’s Vireo (LBVI, Vireo bellii pusillus) nests in narrow riparian areas surrounded by the heavily urbanized matrix of Southern California. Several of the largest remaining patches of LBVI nesting habitat occur on US Department of Defense (DoD) military training areas and in US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) flood control basins. Expenses for ESA compliance related to LBVI are among the highest of all listed bird species, with widespread operational and financial impacts on federal action agencies and military installations. A complex array of threats and stressors interact to threaten LBVI populations, including groundwater extraction, loss of streamflow inputs due to water recycling programs, changing flood and fire regimes, nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater), and negative impacts to riparian vegetation from invasive non-native plants and insects. One challenge in developing management strategies for recovery is understanding how different stressors may interact, particularly with emerging threats like new invasive species or major changes in disturbance regimes due to climate change. A ~25-minute video describing this project in more detail can be viewed at this link ( The goal of this research project is to develop an individual/agent-based modeling tool that integrates sub-models reflecting different stressors, and synthesizes those sub-models to understand the relative effectiveness of a range of PI- and stakeholder-generated management scenarios. Position Description/Project Role: The selected post-doctoral scholar will work closely with PhD students in the labs of Dr. Pat Zollner and Dr. Jeff Holland as well as with all project Co-PIs (see below) throughout the model development cycle to design, document, implement in code, and analyze a complex agent-based model. Specifically, successful applicants will have the following skills and experience: 1) Collaborative design and development (in code) of an agent-based model that will integrate sub-models developed by multiple collaborators on the project team. The ability to plan for this integration, maintain a code base, and help collaborators develop models that will fit seamlessly into a global model will be critical; 2) Ability to run agent-based modeling software at scale, so that a complex model with thousands of interacting agents can be run hundreds, if not thousands, of times for different analyses working on a computing cluster and/or using cloud-based resources. This skill is required for model testing, calibration, sensitivity analysis, and applied analyses to simulate many stakeholder or researcher-driven alternative management scenarios to assess their relative effectiveness; and 3) Strong code documentation skills (e.g., modeling notebooks, comments in code) will be required, as well as the commitment to work with all on the project team to follow documentation formats specific to agent-based models (ODD, TRACE). This is a unique opportunity for individuals interested in the interface of individual/agent-based modeling, quantitative ecology, wildlife biology, conservation biology and ornithology. The position provides applied experience for a career trajectory in local, state, or federal agencies or a research career focused on the fields of quantitative ecology or conservation biology. The post-doctoral scholar will be advised by Dr. Patrick Zollner (Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources). The student’s research will be a collaboration with; Dr. Richard Fischer from the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Mr. Casey Lott Conservation Science and Data Visualization, LLC, Dr. Jeffrey Holland Purdue University Department of Entomology, and Ms. Melissa Rohde of Rohde Environmental Consulting LLC. Specific Duties: The post-doctoral scholar will serve as the hub coordinating the design and code compatibility of sub-models from all project collaborators. They will play a critical role in designing and coding the overarching model that integrates sub-models related to different stressors as well simulation experiments that investigate the interactive effects of those stressors and their implications for management activities. Responsibility for specific tasks will be finalized when the entire team is assembled but the selected post-doctoral scholar will be working closely with the PhD student on all aspects of this project.
Applicants should have a PhD in Ecological Modelling, Wildlife Biology or a related discipline. When preparing materials (statement of interest & response to 5 questions) applicants should explicitly address their demonstrated organizational skills, interest/background in individual/agent-based modeling, quantitative skills, and their ability to mentor others. Applicants should be highly motivated with a demonstrated ability to work independently and collaboratively. The post-doctoral scholar that we hire should be able to readily interact with partners including government agencies across many levels as well as non-governmental organizations. Applicants with experience publishing peer-reviewed journal articles, a strong work ethic, demonstrated technical writing ability, training in ecological modeling, excellent interpersonal skills, demonstrated skill or skill potential in quantitative ecology and proficiency in R will be most competitive. Experience developing individual/agent-based models in NetLogo or equivalent platforms, knowledge related to optimizing solutions to network structure challenges, familiarity with conservation challenges faced by LBVI, as well as candidates who bring unique contributions to the diverse perspectives within the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources are all additional elements that will make applicants more competitive. How to Apply: Interested applicants should compile all of the following materials into a single pdf file; a CV that includes contact information for three professional references, a 1-page statement of interest, and responses to the following 5 questions (each of these responses should be 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 post-doctoral scholarship, and how will participation in this project 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? That single pdf should be attached to an email that has a subject line of “Application for Post-Doctoral Scholar on Least Bell’s Vireo ABM”. That email should be sent to Dr. Patrick Zollner ( and applicants should understand that their application materials may be reviewed by other project collaborators as part of application evaluation. Application review will begin as materials are received. Qualifications: PhD in Ecological Modelling, Wildlife Biology or a related discipline.
Contact Person
Dr. Pat Zollner
Contact Phone
Contact eMail
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