Position Description: We are recruiting an ambitious Ph.D. student to evaluate distribution, abundance, and demography of mule deer in western Oklahoma. This project is part of a collaboration between the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Oklahoma State University.

The mule deer population in western Oklahoma is restricted currently to areas that are typically characterized by extreme weather events, high variability in resource availability, and an increasing influence of anthropogenic activities associated with agricultural operations and energy infrastructure.

To better understand the distribution, abundance, and population ecology of mule deer and to inform harvest management in western Oklahoma, the selected candidate will use GPS and VHF collars to assess population dynamics by estimating vital rates, determining cause-specific mortality (including the role of parasites, predators, and nutritional condition), and using integrated population modeling to quantify population trajectory.

The selected candidate will assess aerial and ground-based methods for investigating and monitoring mule deer distribution and spatial variation in abundance, as well as movements and habitat selection in the context of the potential effects of anthropogenic pressures (including agriculture and energy infrastructure) and environmental variability.

The student will be expected to develop additional questions depending on their interests and work closely with a concurrent Ph.D. student at Oklahoma State University. Funding is available for 4 years (August 2023–June 2027), while working toward a Ph.D. degree in Wildlife Science at Texas A&M University-Kingsville as part of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute.

The selected candidate will also be expected to work closely with biologists from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, private landowners, and researchers from collaborating universities. Additional duties include publication of research results and presentations at professional conferences. The student will be co-advised by Drs. Levi Heffelfinger and Michael Cherry.

Start date: August 01, 2023

Stipend/Salary: $2,200 per month plus benefits (medical package available after completion of waiting period) and nonresident tuition waived (resident tuition fees apply but will be reimbursed to ensure a full tuition waiver)


  • M.S. in wildlife management, natural resources, ecology, or a closely related discipline
  • Undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or greater
  • Previous field and animal handling experience
  • Experience planning and coordinating daily field activities
  • Experience conducting independent research
  • Highly motivated with a strong work ethic


  • Experience using R, GIS, and/or other statistical programs.
  • Demonstration and experience with technical writing and/or publication
  • Strong interest in the ecology and management of game species
  • Experience capturing and handling ungulates
  • Experience with radio telemetry
  • Experience working closely with private landowners
  • Ability to walk/run over rugged terrain, sometimes in extreme conditions (heat, cold)
  • A valid US driver license (without restrictions)

Application Deadline: 06/01/2023. Applications will be reviewed upon receipt and will continue until a suitable candidate is selected. Therefore, interviews may be offered before the closing date of 01 June 2023.


Applications must be a single PDF file with your last name in the file name. The application can be sent via email to levi.heffelfinger@tamuk.edu  with a subject line “Mule Deer Ph.D.” Application must include; (1) a 1–2-page cover letter that details why you are interested in this position, your most relevant experiences, and your professional goals/aspirations; (2) a Curriculum Vitae; (3) contact information for 3 professional references (i.e., name, affiliation, email, and phone number); (4) transcripts (can be unofficial).

Levi Heffelfinger, Ph.D.

Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute

Texas A&M University -Kingsville

Email: levi.heffelfinger@tamuk.edu

Texas law requires that males 18 through 25 show proof of compliance with Federal Selective Service law in order to be eligible for employment. Selected candidate must pass a pre-employment background investigation to be hired for this position.

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