M.S. Project Assessing the effects of pollinator-focused plantings on wildlife-related ecosystem services in small- scale agricultural settings in coastal Virginia and Maryland.
Virginia Tech Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation This study will elucidate how increasing plant biodiversity in small-scale agricultural systems may affect a variety of ecosystem services on and around the farm. Farmers may increase plant biodiversity on their non-cropped or marginal lands by planting grass/forb/wildflower mixtures that often target pollinator populations (hereafter referred to as farmscaping), which is a practice supported by multiple USDA cost-share programs. However, plant biodiversity surrounding farms, which individual farmers cannot control (hereafter referred to as landscape scale biodiversity), may change the impacts of farmscaping on ecosystem services. We have formed an interdisciplinary team with specialists in agricultural ecology, entomology, wildlife biology and the human dimensions of natural resources to measure the synergies and tradeoffs amongst regulating, provisioning, and cultural ecosystem services that result from farmscapes and landscape-scale biodiversity. The M.S. student sought in this advertisement will be advised by Dr. Sarah Karpanty in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech and will collaborate closely with other project investigators, including Dr. Meghan ORourke in VTs Department of Horticulture and Dr. Michael Sorice in VTs Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, and partners with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The M.S. student will collect data on the regulating (e.g., pollination), provisioning (e.g., wild game harvest), and cultural (e.g., aesthetics) services related to wildlife on farmscaped sites and surrounding landscapes in coastal Virginia and Maryland. Data will be collected using a variety of non-invasive techniques (e.g., acoustic and camera monitoring, point counts) on game birds (quail, turkey), migratory songbirds, bats, and game mammals (white-tailed deer). A research and teaching assistantship at a competitive level will be provided during the fieldwork and thesis preparation. Expected duration of assistantship and project is about 3 years. This program would be excellent preparation for students wishing to continue for a Ph.D., or those wishing to work for a resource management agency or conservation NGO. Duties: Complete study design in consultation with major professor (Sarah Karpanty) and collaborators; collect behavioral and ecological data to test hypotheses and fit models; supervise technicians; operate trucks and ATVs; coordinate with the NRCS, VDGIF, and TNC and other researchers; analyze data, write reports and publish research results in refereed journals with advisor and collaborators. Fieldwork involves long hot days, early mornings and nights. Incumbent will live at a field site for a portion of each year in research housing. This will be an excellent project for someone wishing to make a research contribution to basic science and, simultaneously, to the design of wildlife conservation strategies in rural and agricultural settings. Start date is January 10th, 2017. Qualifications: B.S. in Wildlife Science, Ecology, Conservation Biology or closely allied field, with excellent grades, GRE scores and references. Ability to get along with cooperators. Previous field experience required, preferably with non-invasive sampling techniques of birds and mammals. Evidence of scientific writing skills (i.e. academic papers, publications, etc.) and a commitment to scientific publication. Willingness to work long hours in the hot sun in remote conditions. To apply: email C.V., 1 page letter of application, degree title and GPA for all degrees, GRE scores and names and contact information for 3 references including at least one field supervisor and two academic references. Finalists will be asked to participate in a phone interview, to send transcripts, and to apply to the Virginia Tech graduate school. Send application information to Shannon Ritter, sjrit...@vt.edu. For questions regarding the position, please contact Dr. Sarah Karpanty, karpa...@vt.edu, 540-231-4586. Candidate selection will begin immediately and will continue until position is filled. Start Date January 10th, 2017. We recommend applying as quickly as possible.