About Trent University: One of Canada’s top universities, Trent University was founded on the ideal of interactive learning that’s personal, purposeful and transformative. Consistently recognized nationally for leadership in teaching, research and student satisfaction, Trent attracts excellent students from across the country and around the world. Here, undergraduate and graduate students connect and collaborate with faculty, staff and their peers through diverse communities that span residential colleges, classrooms, disciplines, hands-on research, co-curricular and community-based activities.

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PhD or MSc positions on the spatio-temporal dynamics and conservation of western chorus frogs; Ontario, Canada:

In collaboration with Blazing Star Environmental, the Lougheed Lab (Queens University) and the Wilson Lab (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources), we are assessing determinants of distribution and occupancy of western chorus frog across its Canadian range, where the species is listed as Threatened and thereby needs research into its population status, distribution and trends. The comprehensive program will involve conducting field surveys and analyzing extensive citizen science call survey data (>500 sites) to assess:

1) geographical gaps in surveys and current sampling design needs; 2) variability in species occupancy through space and time; 3) factors determining species detection, occupancy, and abundance; and 4) priority areas for conservation planning and action. The project will also include: 5) optimizing application of eDNA and acoustic recording units in population surveys.

The project team is flexible in terms of student projects within the larger program and therefore will consider both PhD and MSc applicants based on their interests and expertise. Ultimately, we seek to assemble the best team possible to address western chorus frog survey detection needs, habitat requirements, range determinants, and population status. The funding package includes competitive stipends as well as coverage of all professional expenses.

Qualifications: Successful PhD candidates must have an MSc, whereas MSc candidates will have a BSc, in Biology, Ecology, or a related field. Candidates should have experience in one or more of the following areas: GIS, statistics using R software, eDNA analysis and application, occupancy and habitat modeling, as well as a strong work ethic and interest in working collaboratively in a large and diverse research group. Additional desirable skills include amphibian field skills and working independently.

To apply, please send a cover letter highlighting relevant prior experience and interests corresponding to the above program priorities, curriculum vitae, unofficial academic transcript, and contact information for 3 references to: Dennis Murray (dennismurray@trentu.ca) and Tom Hossie (thossie@trentu.ca). The successful candidate(s) will be enrolled at Trent University by September 2023 or preferably sooner. See www.dennismurray.ca and www.thomashossie.ca, www.blazingstar.ca and https://biology.queensu.ca/people/department/professors/lougheed/ for additional information.

Contact Person Dennis Murray/Tom Hossie Contact eMail dennismurray@trentu.ca

Salary TBD (varies for MSc/PhD applicants)

Start Date 01/09/2023

Last Date to Apply 01/05/2023

Interested in a career in animal ecology or conservation biology? We are always seeking motivated students to join the lab.

If you have good academic standing, a solid understanding of ecological principles,  superior field and quantitative skills, and an insatiable curiosity about natural systems, please apply!

As part of a large team that conducts diverse research, graduate students in the Integrative Wildlife Conservation Lab gain valuable experience conducting and publishing independent research, while acquiring highly sought after expertise and skills in areas such as:

  • telemetry and camera trapping
  • occupancy modelling, estimating population density, population viability analysis
  • species distribution modelling,  landscape ecology and genetics
  • movement and behavioural ecology
  • remote sensing and GIS
  • environmental DNA (eDNA) and metabarcoding
  • genotyping, genomics and bioinformatics
  • animal handling and husbandry
  • experimental design (laboratory and field studies)
  • project management
  • data management and analysis
  • science communication

To apply or for more information, contact Dennis Murray (dennismurray@trentu.ca). Applications should comprise a cover letter, CV, contact information for 3 references, and an unofficial transcript, which should be sent to Dennis Murray in advance of any formal application to Trent University’s graduate programs. Successful candidates will be enrolled at Trent University in either the M.Sc. Bioenvironmental Monitoring and Assessment Program or Ph.D. Environmental & Life Sciences Graduate Program

Postdocs are also welcome to apply.
Available projects

Our lab supports both MSc and PhD students, with MSc’s usually conducting research in support of larger projects involving one or more PhD’s. This approach helps build teams that work collaboratively and synergistically on projects that otherwise may be too large and complex to tackle independently. This approach provides flexibility when defining MSc and PhD projects so that research areas can be tailored to fit student interests and expertise within the scope of the larger project. Ultimately, MSc and PhD students benefit by having better-supported projects, gaining broader experience, and being involved in multiple collaborations, making them more competitive for employment upon graduation. MSc and PhD research products are always published in scientific journals.

The following list includes projects for which we are actively recruiting, but it is not all-inclusive and we subscribe to the philosophy of fitting projects to students. Prospective students should contact us directly to determine whether they could fit either listed projects or other opportunities that are available in our lab.

Western chorus frog spatio-temporal dynamics and conservation
In collaboration with Tom Hossie and Blazing Star Environmental, we are assessing determinants of the distribution and occupancy of at-risk western chorus frogs across their Canadian range. Using citizen science call surveys, we are determining: variability in frog site occupancy through space and time, factors affecting species detection, occupancy, and abundance, and priority areas for conservation planning and action. We will also optimize application of eDNA and acoustic recording units in population surveys.

Biogeography and conservation status of at-risk mole salamanders 
In collaboration with Tom Hossie and Chris Wilson we will examine historical, contemporary, and likely future distribution and conservation status of at-risk mole salamanders in southern Canada. We suspect that the southern range limit of blue-spotted salamanders is receding northward due to environmental change, and we will assess its past colonization patterns and present distribution and status. We are also studying long-term viability of the Ambystoma salamander community specifically on Pelee Island, to understand how blue-spotted and endangered smallmouth salamanders, which serve as obligate reproductive hosts to more competitive unisexual polyploids, can persist in fragmented and dynamic landscapes.

Snowshoe hare responses to dynamic landscapes

In collaboration with Stan Boutin and Charles Krebs, as well as the Government of the Yukon, we are investigating snowshoe hare responses to variation in food and cover at our long-term study site in southwest Yukon. Using GPS telemetry and accelerometry, we will track how hare movements, habitat selection, and behaviour vary according to both seasonal shifts in the distribution of food and cover, and annual change in the abundance of hares and predators associated with their 10-year population cycle. Using our longer-term datasets, we will also address temporal shifts in both source-sink dynamics and genomic variation in hares, in accordance with the hare cycle and ongoing environmental change.

Long-term boreal forest dynamics under climate change 
In collaboration with Stan Boutin and Charles Krebs, as well as the Government of the Yukon, we are studying boreal forest structure and function in southwest Yukon. The project builds on our longstanding work on Canada lynx and snowshoe hares to investigate patterns of variation in vegetation and snow in this rapidly-changing landscape. Using LiDAR, multispectral, hyperspectral, and RGB imagery, we will assess how patterns of forest productivity and phenology vary across space and time, as well as the dynamics of plant health and quality as browse for herbivores. We will also address forest dynamics owing to a recent spruce bark beetle outbreak, sources of forest heterogeneity and resiliency to climate change, and how snow conditions vary through space and time and affect forest structure and wildlife habitat. The project will also support forecasting forest health and dynamics under climate change.

Eco-evolutionary and conservation dynamics of desert succulents from southern Africa

In collaboration with the Lithops Research and Conservation Foundation, we are studying eco-evolutionary and conservation dynamics of Lithops spp., a genus of small succulent plants from southern Africa. In the lab, we are sequencing the full Lithops genome and will develop a phylogenetic tree and evolutionary linkage assessment for the genus, as well as conduct garden experiments to understand genome-level responses to environmental variation and climate change. In the field, we will help develop a long-term monitoring program for at-risk Lithops populations while also conducting research on plant health and composition relative to local environmental conditions, habitat and site suitability and potential for population restoration, population and meta-population viability, and future species distribution in light of climate change.

Blanding’s turtle  conservation
We are conducting research to directly inform Blanding’s turtles conservation in Ontario. Blanding’s turtles are listed as threatened in the province of Ontario and endangered both in Canada and globally, due to rapid population declines that are predicted to continue in the face of threats mainly from road mortality and habitat loss associated with development. To aid in the development of strategies to promote recovery and long-term viability, we are conducting surveys, tagging, and tracking of Blanding’s turtles to inform on the species distribution and habitat needs, population trends and structure, and the effectiveness of mitigation measures.

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