Through a mixture of circumstances, I suddenly have 2-3 grad student positions open in my lab for fall 2014 or winter 2015. So while I know this is very much not the season for this sort of thing, if you’re looking to do an M.Sc. or Ph.D. asking fundamental questions in population, community, or evolutionary ecology, please drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For background on my lab, visit my lab website. Briefly, my own work mostly involves modeling and experiments on population and community dynamics using laboratory-based microbial model systems. But most of my students have worked in other systems, including alpine plants, plant-pollinator interactions, and bean beetles. Basically, I’m happy for my students to work in any system as long as I and my Calgary colleagues have the financial and intellectual resources needed to support the work. Some examples of the questions I and my students have been working on recently:
- Quantifying local adaptation of lake bacteria to spatial and temporal variation in water chemistry. This is a really neat project in which we’re freezing bacteria and water samples at -80 C so that we can do reciprocal transplants among sites and times to test for local adaptation in the field. Gets at fundamental questions about the relative importance of spatial vs. temporal environmental variation for the maintenance of genetic diversity. A paper based on pilot work is in review right now, the next step is to scale things up in a big way.
- Eco-evolutionary dynamics of competing bean beetles. My student Stephen Hausch (co-supervised by my colleague Steve Vamosi) has been doing some really ambitious experiments with bean beetles to look at how standing genetic variation affects the outcome of interspecific competition in both the short and long term. He’s got some amazing results, some of which we understand, some of which we don’t (e.g., the beetles don’t seem to evolve character displacement…) Lots of opportunities to build on this work.
- Interplay of drift and determinism in community dynamics. A line of research I got into because I found that my protist microcosms often exhibit more among-replicate variability in their dynamics than can be accounted for by sampling error. Even in highly-controlled systems with large population sizes in a constant environment, stochasticity seems to play an important role in population and community dynamics. We’re doing experiments to try to nail that down, for instance by manipulating culture vessel size, thereby directly manipulating total population size and thus the strength of drift. One goal is to understand the circumstances under which the deterministic component of the community dynamics amplifies or damps out stochasticity.
- Spatial synchrony of population dynamics. A long-running collaborative project with my former postdoc Dave Vasseur, now at Yale. Mixes mathematical modeling and protist microcosm experiments. Various directions one could go with this, including branching out into other systems. I have what I think are some neat ideas to use flour beetles as a model system to study spatial synchrony of chaotic population dynamics.
- Other projects include facilitation, coexistence, and plant species distributions along elevation gradients, and various other developing ideas. And I’m also open to students (especially Ph.D. students) who have their own ideas.
The Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary has a strong group of about a dozen ecologists and evolutionary biologists, with strength in depth in evolutionary ecology, population ecology, plant-insect interactions, fish ecology, and other areas. The department has two field stations in the mountains, next-generation sequencing facilities, access to various high-performance computing clusters, and everything else you’d expect from a big, well-equipped research university.
Grad students in the department are guaranteed a minimum of $21,000/year through a mixture of TAships, RAships, and other sources like fellowships.
Calgary is a city of over 1 million people, 45 minutes drive from the Canadian Rockies with all the opportunities for field work and recreation that implies.
If you’re interested, please email me ASAP. Tell me a bit about your background, interests, and long-term goals, and about what specifically attracts you to my lab and/or Calgary more broadly. Please also include a cv, undergraduate and any graduate transcripts (unofficial is fine), and contact details for three references.