Job Postings

PhD Assistantship for ABM Modeling of Least Bells Vireo Populations

Title: Modeling Interacting Stressors & Management Strategies on Least Bell’s Vireo Populations

Institution: Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Location: West Lafayette, IN

Job Category: Graduate Assistantship

Salary: Year-round funding (full tuition waiver and salary of ~$24,000/year is available as a Graduate Research Assistant (PhD level) in the Forestry and Natural Resources Department at Purdue University.

Pertinent Websites:

Start Date: August 15 2022. Funding may be available for this this student to start earlier in the summer of 2022 if they prefer that.
Last Day to Apply: Application review will begin 8:00 AM on June 6 2022. The candidate selected from that pool of applicants will need to submit an official application to Purdue’s graduate school after they are notified that they are the top candidate.

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 mixture array of threats and stressors interact to threaten LBVI populations, including these threats include stressors related to 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. The selected student will work with the various project Co-PIs (see below) as well as a post-doctoral scholar and end users to fill these knowledge gaps by addressing 3 objectives:

1) designing, developing, and implementing an agent-based model that integrates sub-models (developed by collaborators) associated with multiple stressors to assess their interactive influence upon LBVI populations;

2) collaborating with relevant agency and NGO partners to design a spectrum of realistic management scenarios across the LBVI range and use the agent-based model to simulate these scenarios and assess their relative effectiveness; and

3) publishing manuscripts describing the research underlying the first two objectives and delivering the agent-based model and documentation to end users

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 student 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 CA TNC.

To apply: Interested applicants should compile all of the following materials into a single pdf file; copies of unofficial transcripts, 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 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?

That single pdf should be attached to an email that has a subject line of “Application for PhD Position Modeling Interactive Stressors on Least Bell’s Vireo”. That email should be sent to Dr. Patrick Zollner ([email protected]) and applicants should understand that their application materials may be reviewed by other project collaborators as part of application evaluation.

Qualifications: BS & MS in Wildlife Biology, Ecological Modelling 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 student 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, 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.

Purdue is a land-grant university of over 40,000 students and ranked the 10th best public university in the U.S. The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources is housed administratively in the College of Agriculture (#7 US ranking) and offers vibrant, nationally ranked graduate programs in wildlife and ecology. Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue is an easy drive from Indianapolis and Chicago. The West Lafayette-Lafayette area is home to a diverse community of 174,000, with good schools, safe neighborhoods, over 40 parks and extensive trail systems, active Farmers Markets, and year-long community festivals and art events.

Contact Persons: Dr. Patrick Zollner
Contact Phones: (765) 430-7858
Contact e-mails: [email protected]


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