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 O’Rourke in VT’s Department of 
Horticulture and Dr. 
Michael Sorice in VT’s 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.
  

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