Ph.D. and M.S. Student Project Assistantship Opportunities
The Department of Natural Resources and Society at the University of Idaho seeks exceptional M.S. and Ph.D. applicants to begin graduate study during the 2021 – 2022 academic year. Our students and faculty engage in integrative research exploring the coupling of human and natural systems, with projects spanning theory and application. Our department has an excellent track record of alumni gaining leadership positions across a wide spectrum of environmental and natural resource fields.
Please see below for our list of project opportunities. For some projects research assistantships are available, and for some projects financial support is available via teaching assistantships. We encourage you to learn more by first visiting individual faculty webpages, then directly contacting faculty before applying. We look forward to hearing from you.
- Services and tradeoffs in the human dimensions of agroecosystems
(Faculty advisor: D. Wulfhorst):
Projects examine the ecosystem service challenges to provision resources needed for food and forage production while attending to resource conservation and sustainability needs. Research designs may have case sites as well as connectivity within LTAR – the Long Term Agroecosystem Research network. Examples include:
- Investigating trends of rural community stability and cohesion in food production landscapes grappling with challenges of emigration, climate fluctuation, and new social risks (e.g., opioids).
- Examining core indicators of rural prosperity and community well-being tied to risks and sustainability within the U.S. food production system. Focal areas may concentrate on rangelands or crop production aspects of food and fiber demands.
- Design of secondary data analyses to construct an ‘atlas’ of human dimensions aspects within services and tradeoffs of agroecosystems. Outcomes of this approach will concentrate on measurable impacts within sustainable intensification as the long term network evolves.
(Faculty advisor: Greg Latta):
Projects involve developing and modifying models linking the forest resource base with forest product markets to evaluate the potential effectiveness of natural resource, energy, and climate policies. Examples include:
- Projecting changes in rates of U.S. forest carbon sequestration and/or emissions in response to differing macroeconomic futures.
- Evaluating the potential delivered wood cost effects of an expansion of wood-based bioenergy or mass timber production.
- Exploring how policy focus when changing federal harvest rates affects private timber supply and fire risk mitigation.
(Faculty advisor: Kenneth Wallen):
- Conduct conservation or fish and wildlife management research through the lens of human behavior. Work on projects that produce actionable insights from rigorous psychological, sociological, and behavioral science inquiry with observational, experimental, and survey methods. Explore the nature of and reasons for environmentally significant behavior; contribute to conservation or fish and wildlife management via insights into human behavioral patterns and processes. Projects may be in partnership with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
(Faculty advisor: Chloe Wardropper):
- Wardropper conducts qualitative and quantitative social science research on how individuals and organizations make decisions about resource management (including working lands and water systems) under environmental change. Please see Dr. Wardropper’s website (https://chloewardropper.weebly.com/) for information about her projects and RA opportunities.
(Faculty advisors: Jaap Vos, Teresa Cohn):
- Fifty years ago, Ian McHarg published “Design with Nature”. In this book McHarg argued that communities should be developed based on an understanding of the local environment rather than the individual whims and desires of local property owners. According to McHarg planners needed a solid background in the natural sciences and use ecological knowledge as way of thinking and goal setting. According to McHarg, everything connected to everything. With the increasing impacts of climate change, McHarg’s ideas are now even more relevant to planning but they are oddly enough still not at the center of either planning theory or education. In fact, the vast majority of planning schools are still teaching comprehensive planning, permitting and zoning with sidelines in urban design or public policy.
- We are looking for a student to do applied research to help us create a graduate certificate for planning professionals that is based on a strong foundation in ecology and connects natural resources and environmental change to community values, social needs and aspirations.
(Faculty advisor team: Mark Wolfenden, Jan Eitel, Lee Vierling, Teresa Cohn, Karla Eitel):
- We are seeking a motivated Ph.D. student who is interested in studying climate change effects on ecosystems affected by Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) functioning. Whitebark pine is considered a keystone species in the Northern Rockies, playing a critical role in the lifecycle of other plants, mammals and insects; it has also been identified as a candidate for listing as an endangered species. The Ph.D. candidate will have access to a suite of chemical ecological, ecophysiological, and remote sensing tools and use these to study ecological communities impacted by Whitebark pine presence. As part of this project, the student will be working at remote field sites near McCall, Idaho and the University of Idaho’s Taylor Wilderness Research Station. The student will also work closely with U of I’s award-winning McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) to integrate and communicate research findings to a broader audience including K-12 students and teachers. The student will be advised by U of I MOSS faculty who have expertise in chemical ecology, remote sensing and education.