Opening for Funded PhD Student in Scheffers Lab: Spring 2021
We are seeking a highly motivated Ph.D. student to start at the University of Florida in Spring 2021. Funding is available for this student for four years with the possibility of extension via UF fellowships.
This is a unique opportunity for a student to choose from a diversity of ongoing research projects in the global change and ecology lab of Dr. Brett Scheffers and the landscape ecology lab of Dr. Robert Fletcher.
Available research projects are:
1) Biogeography and elevation gradients; tap into a long-term study on the biogeographic patterns and conservation status of birds in the Rocky Mountain region of Montana and Idaho (see, e.g., McCarthy et al 2011);
2) Tropical ecology of Madagascar; study the biodiversity of rainforest canopies with a focus on the vertical stratification, ecophysiology, and behavioral experimentation of frogs and reptiles in Madagascar (see, e.g., Basham et al 2019, Seidl et al 2020);
3) Experimental landscape ecology; investigate the role of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and matrix quality on the population and community dynamics of insect herbivores using a prickly-pear cactus and their associated species as a model system (see, e.g., Fletcher et al. 2011, 2013, 2014);
4) Tropical ecology of Panama and Colombia; study the distributions of butterflies, birds, and/or frogs, both vertically (within rainforests) and horizontally (across landscapes/elevation) (see, e.g., Basham and Scheffers 2020).
5) If you have an idea for an exciting theme of research that falls within the fields of biogeography, ecophysiology, climate change, macro 'big data’ ecology, landscape ecology or some other ecological field; we encourage you to contact us.
Preferred applicants will be highly motivated and have a background in ecology, ornithology, herpetology, entomology, or other relevant ecological fields. Prior publication experience is highly desirable. Extensive field experience, strong quantitative skills, and an ability to work well both independently and as part of a diverse team are essential for this position.
Students with strong initiative and desire to carve out their own research questions are highly encouraged to apply. In a single .pdf file, interested students should send (1) a letter stating your background and research interests and how they align with the Scheffers/Fletcher research program, and your reasons for pursuing a graduate degree, (2) a description of the research projects you are most interested in and why, (3) Curriculum Vitae, and (4) contact information for three references by email to Dr. Brett Scheffers (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). In the subject line of your email should read “PhD Position Scheffers/Fletcher”, followed by your name.
Deadline: Review of submitted materials will begin immediately
Competitive stipend and health benefits are included. Funding is available for up to 4 years with the possibility of a 5th year via UF fellowship programs. The successful student will be part of the Graduate Programs in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment
Information about the University of Florida:
The University of Florida is a premiere research institution, known for research excellence and boasting some of the nation’s most highly regarded STEM programs. UF is ranked 7th in the nation’s best public institutions, and, in the natural sciences, UF is known for its tropical ecology program and is ranked as the nation’s #1 program for Wildlife, Fish and Wildlands Science and Management. UF’s international focus brings a diverse perspective to its research, which fosters a strongly collaborative and interdisciplinary atmosphere, making it one of the most desirable universities for graduate research.
Information about Gainesville, Florida:
Situated in the rolling countryside of north central Florida, Gainesville is much more than a stereotypical college town. Home of the University of Florida, seat of Alachua County’s government and the region’s commercial hub, Gainesville is dynamic, environmentally conscious and culturally diverse. The University’s strong international program contributes to Gainesville’s 99,000+ population, generating a welcoming, multi-cultural atmosphere. Additionally, the natural beauty, temperate/sub-tropical climate, proximity to beaches, and civic amenities make Gainesville a pleasant and interesting place in which to learn and to live. For these reasons, Gainesville has been ranked as one of the USA’s best cities to live in.
Ecologically, Florida boasts a diversity of fauna and flora common to both southern temperate and subtropical climates and is replete with springs, rivers, backwater streams, lakes, freshwater and saltwater marshes, mangrove fringes, cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks, sandhills, scrub, pine flatwoods, and rangeland. Nested between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida has more than 2,000 kilometers of coastal beaches and estuaries—many within a short day’s trip from Gainesville. Special features include the Florida Keys, which constitute an archipelago of picturesque subtropical islands, and the unique Everglades, or “river of grass,” which sprawls across the vast southern peninsula.
Who are we?
We are a highly collaborative research group with strongly international partners with projects spanning 8 countries. We are always open to collaboration and so please contact Scheffers lab members if you are interested in collaborating on research or joining the lab.
Graduate Research Development
I usually provide students with independence to discover research themes of their choice. I place
an emphasis on conceptual development and important and interesting questions and therefore so long as the taxa and study-scape can address the questions at-hand I generally give my support to student’s proposed projects.
The goal of graduate research is to become a master of a research theme. I typically tell my
students that by the end of the PhD they should have mastered a literature of 70-100 papers and
should have published 4-5 high impact papers on their specific research theme. A 4-5 year PhD
should be comprised, at a minimum, of 4-5 publishable chapters and a 2 year MSc should be
comprised of 2 publishable chapters.
My mentorship philosophy is to strike a balance between student self-discovery and academic
productivity. I typically give PhD students one year of discovery before requiring them to choose
a research topic.
Research in the Scheffers Lab
The Scheffers lab has broad interests in ecology and conservation biology spanning topics and
sub-disciplines from ecophysiology, theoretical ecology, biogeography, macro-ecology,
community ecology and conservation related themes such as climate change, habitat loss,
urbanization, invasive species, and the wildlife trade.
I have broad taxonomic interests and in the past 5 years my students and I have worked with
birds, epiphytic plants, butterflies, understory shrubs, ants, amphibians, reptiles, mosquitoes, and
aquatic diving beetles, among others. Our research includes terrestrial and freshwater systems in
both temperate and tropical regions.
Who should join the Scheffers lab?
We pride ourselves on being a hard-working group of people with a passion for understanding the natural world. So if you have grit, extensive field, lab, or data experience, a desire to learn about the natural history of plants and animals, work extremely hard, and if you are an easy going and light hearted person who enjoys a good joke and the company of fellow ecologist and conservation biologists, then the Scheffers lab is the right place for you.
Expectations in the Lab
My goal and challenge as a mentor is to adjust my mentoring approach to complement and
support each student’s work style and needs. You can expect that I take my goal and mentorship
duty very seriously and I am committed to each student in my lab to ensure they are as
productive as possible during their graduate tenure.
I expect each student to enter the lab with a determination for excellence and a philosophy that
they are the holder and bearer of their own productivity. I believe individual responsibility is
essential to a successful graduate degree and career. In other words, success falls on no other
person’s shoulders than the students. That said, my goal is to help each student navigate the
academic waters from inception of idea, to implementation, analyses, and writing. I will work
with each student to identify his or her strengths and weaknesses. I will support students to help
address weaknesses either through individual development via workshops and courses or by
putting students in touch with my collaborators who might fill this void. I learned this approach
from my PhD supervisor, Navjot Sodhi, and it has been a successful approach with my past and
I do not expect or want perfectionism in graduate research but I do expect 100% effort and
commitment from each student. Perfectionism, in graduate research, is a long dark hallway with
no clearly defined end – an academic purgatory – that should be avoided. I will work closely
with students to identify when research is sufficiently developed for publication. Striking this
balance is critical to getting research in the highest possible impact journals while also
Opportunities and how to apply
At the University of Florida, I can accept students through the Department of Wildlife Ecology
and Conservation or the School for Natural Resources and Environment.
Students interested in joining the lab are encouraged to apply for external fellowships (e.g.,
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Environmental Protection Agency STAR Fellowship, Ford Foundation Predoctoral Diversity Fellowship). If you intend to apply for one of these fellowships, please indicate this in your cover letter to me. All prospective students should contact me by email with the following materials:
a curriculum vitae
a description of research experience and possible graduate research topics
a short explanation highlighting why the Scheffers lab would be a good fit for this research
a short description of career goals