Position available: PhD student to study fire, predator prey dynamics, and mule deer

PhD Position: Effects of fire and landscape disturbance on mule deer ecology and predator-prey community structure, British Columbia, Canada

We are seeking a PhD student to conduct research focused on how disturbance, especially fire, affects nutrition, predation, and competition for mule deer in southern British Columbia. This region once supported British Columbia’s most productive mule deer population, which has declined since the 1970s in spite of increasingly restrictive hunting regulations. Recent large-scale fires provide the rare opportunity for a landscape-scale experiment on how disturbance affects mule deer demography, resource selection, and community relationships.


The PhD student will help answer questions related to: 1) how landscape factors including disturbance affect community dynamics among predator and prey species at different temporal and spatial scales, and impacts on mule deer forage and exposure to predation; 2) how nutritional quality of habitat, competition, and predation impacts adult female fitness (body condition, survival, and reproductive performance) and fawn recruitment, and use these individual responses to understand population-level consequences of landscape change; and 3) how deer respond at different temporal and spatial scales to the landscape of nutrition, predation risk, and competition, and what role fire and other disturbance plays in these processes.

The project team: The PhD student will be supervised by Dr. Sophie Gilbert (www.gilbertresearch.org) at the Department of Fish & Wildlife Sciences, University of Idaho, located in beautiful Moscow, Idaho. The student will be working within a broader team, including a PhD student based at the University of British Columbia – Okanagan Campus (with Dr. Adam Ford, Department of Biology, www.atford.weebly.com), as well as the BC Wildlife Federation (www.bcwf.net), wildlife managers from the British Columbia government, and the Okanagan Nation Alliance (www.syilx.org). The PhD student is expected to work collaboratively and to engage productively with stakeholders, fish and game clubs, provincial range and wildlife agencies, industry, and First Nations.

Desired qualifications for both candidates include a good theoretical understanding of large mammal ecology coupled with a spirit of curiosity/inquiry, the demonstrated ability to work well as part of a team in a rural environment, experience with or willingness to learn large mammal handling, camera trapping, VHF/GPS telemetry, plant identification, 4x4 vehicle operation, wilderness first aid, coding in program R, GIS analyses, habitat selection, population modeling, and occupancy analysis. Required qualifications include a MSc in ecology or related fields by Fall 2018, proficiency in English, and valid driver’s licence and passport (or willingness to obtain a passport).

To apply for this position, please send a single pdf attachment (file name formatted as lastname_firstname_date.pdf) to sophiegilbert@uidaho.edu containing (1) a cover letter indicating reasons for desiring this position, past experiences in large mammal ecology including relevant field experience, and experience with teams and stakeholders/the public; (2) a recent CV; (3) copies of undergraduate & graduate transcripts; (4) GRE scores for US applicants; and (5) contact information for three references. Please use the subject header “Mule deer PhD application”. The student will commence graduate studies in September 2018. Review of applications will begin March 12th.