PhD Position in Integrated Social-Environmental Ranching-Wildlife Systems Project

Pullman, WA

Position Title: PhD Position in Integrated Social-Environmental Ranching-Wildlife Systems Project

Organization: Institute for Interdisciplinary Date Sciences

Location: Pullman, WA 

Position Overview: Multiple stressors are impacting ecosystems shared by wildlife and humans worldwide, threatening human livelihoods and wildlife biodiversity, and limiting the ability to predict future system states under global change. Climate change can strongly interact with other sources of change, such as recolonizing large carnivores, to alter food web dynamics and potentially reduce ecosystem provisioning for humans while increasing stress on human decision-makers. A critical gap exists in knowledge of how climate affects human-wildlife systems via wild food webs, and how natural resource decision-makers respond to the stress. They hypothesize that multiple environmental stressors (e.g., climate change and novel predators) will have complex and interactive effects on human-wildlife systems via trophic interactions among predators, prey, livestock, and plants within shared food webs, potentially reducing the provisioning of humans from the shared ecosystem and human tolerance for predatory and competitive wildlife, and increasing uncertainty for natural resource decision-makers. There is a pressing need to advance models, tools and theory to 1) understand how multiple stressors interactively affect food webs in which humans and domestic animals are embedded, and 2) identify and quantify feedbacks among natural resource decision-makers and human-wildlife systems in response to multiple environmental stressors, including identifying potential “tipping points” in system resiliency. Using a factorial design of study sites across combinations of wolf presence and drought in Oregon and Idaho, we will mechanistically study rancher-wildlife-plant dynamics. Data will stem from rancher surveys, wildlife camera grids, and ground-surveyed and remotely-sensed plant data. We will integrate social and ecological data into a structural equation modeling framework, which will drive ecological forecasts of predation and competition risk to livestock we will provide to ranchers and managers. To understand natural resource manager decisions, which occur at larger spatial scales than rancher decisions, we will conduct a broad-scale analysis of the rangeland SES across the Western US using publicly-available wildlife and social data and remotely-sensed environmental characteristics. By analyzing decision-making across these spatial scales, we anticipate being able to identify key feedbacks, emergent phenomena, and potential tipping points in resilience for the human and wildlife components of the rangeland SES.  
The interdisciplinary PhD student will help answer questions related to: 1) how the rangeland foodweb responds to drought and wolf activity; 2) how human decision-makers perceive and respond to drought, wolves, and other rangeland and socio-economic variables; and 3) dynamics of this integrated system, via socio-ecological modeling. The PhD student will also help develop ecological forecasting tools based on integrated socio-ecological models, with the help and mentorship of the project team and strong computing support from the University of Idaho’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Data Sciences.

The project team: The PhD student will be supervised by Dr. Sophie Gilbert in the Department of Fish & Wildlife Sciences, and Dr. Chloe Wardropper in the Department of Natural Resources and Society, both at the University of Idaho, located in beautiful Moscow, Idaho. The student will be working within a broader team, including personnel, faculty, and postdoctoral researchers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Idaho. The PhD student is expected to work collaboratively and to engage productively with all team members, as well as to supervise summer technicians from the University of Idaho.  

Minimum Qualifications: A Master’s degree in ecology, wildlife biology, natural resource management, sociology, geography, or related fields by summer 2022, proficiency in English, and valid driver’s license (or willingness to obtain one). Applicants should also be proficient in quantitative data analysis. 

Additional Qualifications: A good theoretical understanding of either the ecological components of the project (community and predator-prey ecology), or the social components (risk and decision-making, ranching systems). The ideal student will be keenly interested in understanding coupled natural-human systems and engaging in interdisciplinary work. Importantly, the student should have a strong spirit of curiosity/inquiry, and the demonstrated ability to work well as part of a team in a rural environment. Desirable experience also includes expertise with fieldwork in remote settings, ecological data analysis including experience or willingness to learn program R, and social science survey methodologies, but due to the interdisciplinary nature of the position, expertise in all of these areas is not expected. 

Application Deadline: October 1

How to Apply: To apply for this position, please send a single pdf attachment (file name formatted as lastname_firstname_date.pdf) to BOTH and, containing (1) a cover letter indicating reasons for desiring this position, past experiences relevant to the position including academic training, field experience, and experience with teams and stakeholders/the public; (2) CV; (3) copies of undergraduate & graduate transcripts (unofficial is ok); (4) a recent sample of your technical writing; and (5) contact information for three references. Please use the subject header “Wildlife-Ranching PhD application”. The student will commence graduate studies in September 2022 and ideally start field work in June 2022. Review of applications will begin October 1st and continue until a suitable candidate is chosen.