mardi 8 mars 2011

Ph.D. or post-doctoral opportunities in fundamental ecology and conservation biology

Ph.D. or post-doctoral opportunities in fundamental ecology and conservation biology (wild horses, seals, bird life, vegetation) on Sable Island, NS.

Opportunity Description:

I am developing a long-term, individual-based program of research into the ecology and evolution of the feral horses living on Sable Island, Nova Scotia. As part of this initiative, I am looking to recruit Ph.D. students to ask fundamental questions of the population ecology, life history, behaviour, and evolution of the feral horse population, and inter-species and inter-ecosystem dynamics between horses, vegetation, and other species on the island such as birds and seals. I am particularly interested in mature M.Sc. students that are interested in developing a
Ph.D. program that will contribute to and make use of the long-term data set my lab is collecting on the life histories of the horses on the island. This summer will be the fourth year of data collection, which includes summer censusing and identification of all individuals on the island using digital photography, and documentation of individual life histories with the goal of constructing whole-island pedigrees. Sample sizes are large, with more than 400 horses currently living on the island. Ph.D. students with 2ˆ3 years of further data collection will be
in a position to ask incredibly interesting questions regarding individual-based dynamics, band dynamics and dispersal, behaviour and dominance, habitat selection, social networking, sex-ratios, or, with potential sampling of horses for DNA and traits such as body size, questions on genetics and evolution, including paternity. There is also the potential to ask questions (depending on securing additional funding) of the impacts of the feral horses on island bird populations, including endangered Roseate Terns.

The important thing is that applicants will be mature enough to develop their own insightful questions of ecology, using the system we have access to on Sable Island as a model. That said, our lab is following several lines of research that potential students may want to build on. Current students are studying spatial heterogeneity in horse population growth on the island, band-level social networking, patterns in vegetation and successional dynamics, and spatial heterogeneity in isotopic signatures from vegetation samples and horse tissues to develop isoscapes to determine the importance of seal and seabird transference of marine-derived nutrients to island dynamics. Opportunities to publish in the best journals of our field and set oneself up for a career in academia can be found here. Field work will occur principally in late summer on Sable Island; further information on this field site can be found at our lab website, below.

Successful applicants will require a Canadian NSERC PGS scholarship or other secured source of scholarship funding (e.g., if an international student). I am particularly interested in students that anticipate being successful in this year‚s NSERC scholarship round, to start this summer or in the fall; or students that are in the process of finishing their M.Sc. and would thus be in a position to apply for an NSERC scholarship this October, for a start date in May 2012. Preference will be given to students that aspire to a career in academia and who have a track record that reflects this career goal. In addition to obtaining scholarships, students will be expected to apply for and help secure research funding for their own projects. Postdoctoral students with funding in-hand are always welcome.

Interested students should contact me by email and be prepared to submit a current CV with copies of publications and an academic transcript. As the funding for this position will require a fully funded scholarship secured by the student, I will only be able to review applications of students that have a competitive grade point average and record of publication in peer-reviewed journals.