NSF Graduate Research Fellow (NSF-GRF) via the Graduate Research Intern Program (GRIP)

Our fifteen-member USGS Powell Center working group of Federal and academic research ecologists and entomologists is studying the theoretical and applied aspects of insect invasion.  The working group’s goals are to: 1) develop a quantitative model that informs prediction of insect invasions that could be high-impact; and 2) refine our working hypothesis so that the relative contributions of the defense-free space hypothesis and the enemy release hypothesis are more fully developed and the role of evolutionary history more fully specified. 

We have developed the structure of a Traits and Factors Database (TraFac) for herbivory-specialist insects, and have provided its initial population with traits of conifer specialist invading insects.  TraFac will be populated with traits of other invading insects specializing on other plant groups and of target herbivory specialist insects not yet established in North America but with a high likelihood of introduction.  We will create a statistical model of species impact as predicted by the traits and factors coded in TraFac, and will extend our model to targeted herbivory-specialist insects that have not yet invaded. 

Our working group has an opening for a fully-funded 12 month NSF Graduate Research Fellow (NSF-GRF) via the Graduate Research Intern Program (GRIP) that will have a lead role in further development of the TraFac database, developing and testing statistical models predicting insect invasion and host plant defense, and publishing results.  The Intern will work in Tucson under the direct mentorship of a USGS research ecologist (Dr. Kathryn Thomas) who is one of the Principal Investigators, and will have access to USGS computing and modeling resources both in Tucson and with the Powell Center in Fort Collins.  Work will be primarily office-based at USGS offices located on the University of Arizona campus.

The ideal candidate will have a strong background in entomology, management of biological databases, statistical modeling using R.  The Intern will be a fully functioning member of the Powell working group and will gain experience in the development, management, and documentation of a complex biological database; development and application of quantitative models predicting the impact of insect herbivory; and interaction with a dynamic team of researchers across the nation in tackling the theoretical and practical aspects of insect invasion.  In addition, the Intern will have exposure to the USGS and governmental research environment as well as working collaboratively across multiple agency and university venues.  This research issue is of national importance and is expected to provide a number of opportunities for continuing collaboration.  The USGS Powell Center supported our working group with comment on the importance of the problem and potential impact that success would have on ecosystems, conservation science and applied conservation implementation.

Please contact Dr. Kathryn Thomas (kathryn_a_thomas@usgs.gov) directly about more details about this position.

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