Project Description: A Ph.D. Graduate Student Assistantship is available at the University of Illinois to conduct research evaluating shovelnose sturgeon metapopulation dynamics (population estimates, movement, survival, and growth) at strategic locations in the Rock River near Erie/Moline, Illinois and connected waterways to help guide shovelnose sturgeon sportfish management in Illinois. Despite the importance of this long-lived fish to Illinois fisheries, their migratory nature, avoidance of traditional monitoring gears, and lack of reliable aging structures can make their population assessment difficult. 

Therefore, an intensive sampling and mark-recapture effort (Floy/PIT tags) to estimate growth, survival, and population demographics paired with movement behavior assessment (acoustic telemetry) will provide a deeper understanding and tools necessary to manage the Rock River shovelnose sturgeon fishery. 

Acoustic telemetry coupled with traditional mark-recapture/population assessment provide a powerful framework to delineate metapopulation boundaries, better understand dam passage and fragmentation, determine transition probabilities between river reaches and determine vital rates to feed spatially explicit models for shovelnose sturgeon. 

This will be a multi-year approach to understand shovelnose sturgeon metapopulation dynamics and would rely on intensive monitoring in the spring and fall, Floy and PIT tag implantation, coordination with contracted fishermen, and acoustic receiver deployment in the Rock River and use of the existing receiver infrastructure in the Mississippi River. 

Information and coordination with other state agencies will be leveraged.  This position will also help lead shovelnose sturgeon monitoring and tagging crews in the field and will require a balance of field, lab, coursework, and office responsibilities.  

This position will complete coursework through the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign NRES (Natural Resources and Environmental Science) program and work closely with scientists at the Illinois River Biological Station in Havana, Illinois.  The Illinois River Biological Station (  ) is a collaborative and cohesive unit, and it is imperative that the student is able and willing to work well with others and be versatile.


  • M.S. in fisheries biology, biology, or related field required.
  • Must have a valid driver’s license, be able to swim.
  • Must have strong computer, computational, and analytical skills, and have the ability to work independently and in a group.
  • Must have a competitive GPA (>3.0). Competitive GRE scores are required for NRES admission.
  • Experience operating small watercraft on riverine systems is preferred. Proficiency using GPS and GIS technology is preferred.
  • Applicant will be required to work long hours in adverse weather conditions.
  • Applicants with a strong background in fisheries and aquatic ecology research, telemetry, statistical modeling using R and GIS software, individual-based modeling, and stock assessment are preferred.

Salary and Appointment: This position includes a 50% research assistantship with a tuition waiver through the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science (NRES) beginning Fall 2023. The current monthly stipend for this assistantship is $2,298.79 plus tuition waiver.  Start date: July 2023

To Apply: For full consideration, applications should be submitted no later than May 1, 2023. To be considered for this position, please email 1) cover letter that explains interest and qualifications, 2) transcript (unofficial is acceptable), 3) C.V. (including 3 references) to Dr. Jim Lamer @  (reference “Graduate Application” in subject line).

 Any application that does not include all 3 of these required documents will not be reviewed. For questions, please contact Dr. James Lamer, Illinois Natural History Survey, by email at  or by phone at 309-543-6000.

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