Open graduate positions:
The grassland ecology and resilience lab at Kansas State University (KSU) is looking to hire ambitious graduate students at the masters and PhD level, preferably starting in the summer or autumn of 2020. As part of a new lab, students will have extra room to develop a research agenda. However, there are also ample opportunities to join ongoing work on long-term experiments, observational data networks, and simulation models, especially at Konza Prairie LTER. Major research themes in the lab include the effects of fire, grazing (including bison reintroduction), and climate variation on western grasslands and forests. The chief goals of this lab is quantifying the resilience of grasslands and forests to these pressures, with an emphasis on changes in plant diversity, vegetation structure, and wildfire activity. Students with interests in applied and theoretical ecology are equally encouraged to apply. I value diversity and strongly encourage students from any background to apply--especially from historically under-represented groups.
Opportunities and mentoring for students:
I am best-suited to mentor students with interests in community ecology, grassland ecology, global change biology, or theoretical ecology. Students in the lab will have the opportunity to can gain skills that will serve you in biology and beyond, such as experience with writing and fieldwork, and technical skills in coding, data-visualization, math, and statistics. KSU has an impressive faculty that can provide further training in most areas of biology and environmental science. The lab also maintains strong connections with the Art and Landscape Architecture programs at KSU, which provides additional avenues for research and outreach.
I maintain an open and relaxed mentoring style and work well with others who are passionate about science or conservation. My ultimate goal is that students will develop and test their own innovative research questions. The ability to pose innovative questions is a fundamental part of being a researcher or teacher. Therefore, I do not micromanage students and leave lots of room for students to be independent. I strive to create an environment where people (including myself!) are comfortable taking intellectual risks and are not afraid of “being wrong.” However, I also work to provide a broad base of support for the people I work with and will do whatever I can to help you succeed.
Kansas State University and Manhattan KS:
The Division of Biology at Kansas State University is a rigorous and welcoming community of researchers with over 30 faculty. The graduate student body is diverse and active. The department is particularly strong in grassland ecology, with a large number of professors working on grasslands at scales from individual genes all the way through consumers and landscape patterns. Students are guaranteed funding for the duration of their graduate studies, assuming satisfactory progress towards degree. The stipend is generous (>$25,000 per year), especially considering that the cost of living in Manhattan KS is very affordable.
In the middle of the Flint Hills of Kansas, being a student at Kansas State University (KSU) provides a quality of life that might surprise people that have not visited before. The town of Manhattan KS has two downtown areas with great dining, cafes, and nightlife. Most housing is within one to two miles of these downtowns, at least one large grocery store, and KSU's recently renovated recreation center. In my experience, you can easily go all week without a car. Of course, you won’t be climbing any mountains nearby, but the Flint Hills boast large expanses of open grassland and has surprisingly steep topography, which makes for good hiking and access to lakes and rivers. Manhattan has easy access to Lawrence KS and Kansas City, which host many concerts and sporting events--ever notice that they are always cutting to Kansas City during the world cup? The local airport offers frequent services to travel hubs in Chicago and Texas.
How to apply:
Interested students are encouraged to contact the lab leader, Zak Ratajczak (zratajczak at wisc.edu) with a CV, a short summary of their research interests, unofficial transcript, and contact information for up to three references. The official application deadline is December 15th. Apply at this link.