Searching for Opportunities in Ecology & Environmental Science for Recent Grads

So, you’re graduating with a biology or environmental science or marine bio degree! Hurray! You’ve finished your stint at college, and you’ve gained a lot of new skills. Maybe you’ve done some time in research, maybe not (!!!), but now that you’ve wrapped up, you want to find a job in the environmental sciences. Something that will give you research experience, and help you on your way to either a career or deciding whether you want to go into research.

OK, where do you go now?

I’ll be honest. For me, this was easy. I was lucky enough to have had experiences (and more to be honest) that channeled me into a top-notch research lab as an undergrad, which opened up further opportunities for an REU program at SML. The one-two punch of a great mentor and a great REU experience gave me a publication under my belt, and let me know, yes, this is what I want to do with my life. So I docked around for a year as a tech in different places, but I knew I was grad-school bound.

This is not always the case. I’m teaching a Marine Biology & Ecology course this year and my students, all seniors, vary greatly in background. For some, this is their first time taking marine bio or anything related, as we haven’t traditionally had a lot of regular offerings in the past. Others have done a lot of environmental science work, but don’t have much field experience on research projects.

But now they’re fired up. And they’re great students. And they want to know what to do next. Because they’re graduating.

Or I was recently approached by a friend who finished her undergrad years ago, and has been working in advertising (kinda sorta). But she’s been taking marine bio and other courses on the sly. And now wants to find a position that will give her a leg up and a last piece of experience to determine where to go next in her career path involving science.

She’s tremendously talented. Motivated. And doesn’t quite know where to turn next.

I have a few ideas on the topic, but, I tweeted out a query on the topic, and got far more.

So, without further ado, here’s the list of places to look when interested in a job just out of undergrad for more experience in ecology & environmental sciences. This list is by no means comprehensive, and if you have any suggestions, let me know. I plan to incorporate this onto my lab website as a resource in the near future.

  • Sign up for the Ecological Society of America’s mailing list. Lots of opportunities flow through there
  • The ESA Phys Ecology job board has a ton of jobs, and for far more than just physiological ecology work. Check out their staff and seasonal positions.
  • The same group also provides a great list of job boards worth checking out. Start there, and go down the rabbit hole of the wide array of positions available, although some are for more senior folk.
  • Birder? Check out the extensive listing at the Ornithological societies of North America job page.
  • To start to get into government research, see the USGS jobs page. Many of the listings are for research internships as well as government positions.
  • Texas A&M Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences provides a wonderful job and internship listing for positions around the world
  • One way to get into field work is to, well, work at a field station! The Organization of Biological Field Stations provides a listing of current positions.
  • One way many recent grads get involved in more management and conservation is with jobs and internships at the Student Conservation Association.
  • The American Society of Limnology and Oceanography maintains a job board that is a mix of tech-level positions and upper level positions. So, some filtering required
  • Environmental Career Opportunities posts a wide variety of job types.
  • For the more geography inclined, see The Society for Conservation GIS.
  • If you’re interested in education, museums, and wildlife, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has a wide variety of opportunities.
  • And last, for a ton of additional information for postgrad and beyond, Marissa Baskett maintains a superb website. It’s a bit beyond the scope of what we’re talking about here, and just academia focused, but it provides a great jumping off point.

Updated with more links from Sadie Ryan on 12/19/13

Here a Tau, there a Tau… Plotting Quantile Regressions

I’ve ended up digging into quantile regression a bit lately (see this excellent gentle introduction to quantile regression
for ecologists
[pdf] for what it is and some great reasons why to use it -see also here and here). In R this is done via the quantreg package, which is pretty nice, and has some great plotting diagnostics, etc. But what it doesn’t have out of the box is a way to simply plot your data, and then overlay quantile regression lines at different levels of tau.

The documentation has a nice example of how to do it, but it’s long tedious code. And I had to quickly whip up a few plots for different models.

So, meh, I took the tedious code and wrapped it into a quickie function. Which I dorp here for your delectation. Unless you have some better fancier way to do it (which I’d love to see – especially for ggplot….)

Here’s the function:

quantRegLines <- function(rq_obj, lincol="red", ...){  
  #get the taus
  taus <- rq_obj$tau
  #get x
  x <- rq_obj$x[,2] #assumes no intercept
  xx <- seq(min(x, na.rm=T),max(x, na.rm=T),1)
  #calculate y over all taus
  f <- coef(rq_obj)  
  yy <- cbind(1,xx)%*%f
  if(length(lincol)==1) lincol=rep(lincol, length(taus))
  #plot all lines
  for(i in 1:length(taus)){
    lines(xx,yy[,i], col=lincol[i], ...)

And an example use.

taus <- c(.05,.1,.25,.75,.9,.95)
plot(income,foodexp,xlab="Household Income",
     ylab="Food Expenditure",
     pch=19, col=alpha("black", 0.5))
rq_fit <- rq((foodexp)~(income),tau=taus)

Oh, and I set it up to make pretty colors in plots, too.

plot(income, foodexp, xlab = "Household Income", 
    ylab = "Food Expenditure", 
    pch = 19, col = alpha("black", 0.5))

quantRegLines(rq_fit, rainbow(6))
legend(4000, 1000, taus, rainbow(6), title = "Tau")

All of this is in a repo over at github (natch), so, fork and play.

Statistics Made Marvellous Through Dance

You all know I’m one for silly science videos. And silly statistics videos? Well, that’s like catnip to me.

But today my postdoc Alison introduced me to Dancing Statistics. And it is lovely.

In short, this troupe of dancers illustrates a wide variety of statistical concepts using naught but movement.

Now I just can’t wait until they get to p-values and Bayes’ theorem.

Wanna Join My Department? Tenure Track Job Posting in Disease Ecology/Evolution!

So, rolling into year two here in the Biology Department at UMass Boston, I have to say I’m having a delightful time. Fabulous colleagues (who I’m already co-authoring papers with – that’s just how we roll), a easy access to multiple field sites and stations, a deliciously nerdy intellectual scene throughout Boston, a brand-spankin’-new School for the Environment, and a nice waterfront setting.

Yep, this is us!

Yep, this is us!

So, I’m pleased to announce that we’re hiring a disease ecologist/evolutionary biologist type in our department. And by disease, we’re talking broadly – microbes, viruses, parasites, you name it! Into chytrid fungus? Awesome. Coral disease? Cool. Evolution of echinoderm wasting diseases and their interaction with ocean warming? Bueno. Crazy theoretical modeling of multi-host disease dynamics in wild arboreal cow and wolverine communities? Fantastico! (also, where can I find these wild arboreal cows?)

The text of the ad is below, and can be found here. The application form is at

The Biology Department at the University of Massachusetts, Boston seeks applicants for a full-time tenure track Assistant Professor in the Ecology/Evolution of Diseases in natural or domesticated populations starting in September 1, 2014. Successful applicants will be well versed in evolutionary and ecological theory of host-pathogen relationships, and engaged in research on the ecological circumstances and evolutionary processes associated with epidemics and their impacts on natural populations. Applications will be particularly welcome from candidates who are working on some aspect of global change, biodiversity, or evolutionary genomics and who utilize creative experimental approaches that investigate how host-pathogen interactions affect the structure, dynamics and function of communities and ecosystems (marine, terrestrial or aquatic). The successful applicant is expected to establish an externally funded research program, direct the research of students at the undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels, and interact with a dynamic group of ecologists and environmental biologists.

Excellence in teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels is expected. A Ph.D. and postdoctoral training (or equivalent professional experience) in population genetics, ecology or evolution is required.

The University has a strong faculty with substantial research and doctoral programs in Environmental Biology; Molecular, Cellular and Organismal Biology; and Environmental Sciences. Excellent opportunities exist to collaborate and engage in multidisciplinary research on campus, across the five UMass campuses and at UMass Boston’s Nantucket Field Station.

Application materials must be submitted online. Please include a statement of teaching and research interests and goals, curriculum vitae, and 3-5 representative reprints. Applicants should also arrange for three letters of reference to be sent to Ecology/ Evolution Pathogens Search, Biology Department, University of Massachusetts, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125.

For further information, visit the Biology Department website at, or contact Ron Etter, Chair of Search Committee, at or (617)-287-6613. Review of applications will begin on November 15, 2013 and will continue until the position is filled.

The application can be found at

Cocktail Week: Dark n’ Stormy Effects on Kelps

It is cocktail week over at Deep Sea News. And it has been glorious, with marine biology themed cocktails galore. As a cocktilian myself, I felt that I had to kick in, well, a real classic. I classic that, I daresay, may lay at the root of kelp forest ecology itself. And yet may be under threat.

“Wait, what?” I hear you saying. Let me explain.

Kelps are incredible. I mean, this is a clade of algae with members who can grow a foot per day, that form giant forests that rival the redwoods in beauty, that embrace diversity looking like everything from a mini-palm-tree to a majestic pair of antlers 60 feet high, to a lasagna noodle.

The awesomeness of kelps knows no bounds.

What is truly incredible about kelps is the way they feed the whole frackin’ shorline. Not only do they get nibbled on by all manner of snail, amphipod, urchin, and fish, but they also shed off prodigious amounts of sea-snot (a highly technical term) that can nourish rich productive bacterial communities. But they don’t stop there. This delicious mucilage and bits of kelp ripped off and churned up in the surf into tiny little bits can get recirculated by all manner of filter feeders hanging around on the sea floor. So, they feed grazers and filter feeders and bacteria, all at once, without breaking a… well, ok, maybe you can consider their mucous ‘kelp-sweat’, but, you get what I’m saying.

Would that only be the way they feed the world around them, it would have been enough. But kelps don’t stop there.

Rather, the lose a ton of their prodigious productivity all the time. They’re constantly sloughing off ends of blades, whole fronds, and in storms often whole individuals come loose and fly out into the ocean only to settle down and get eaten by all manner of scavengers. Heck, kelps are so awesome, that they turn many hungry grazer into passive little detritivores who sit and wait for kelpy manna to rain down on them. And not just in the ocean, but up on beaches, too! They feed the ocean, *and* the land.

Wooo!  Kelp in flow!  Food for all! From

Wooo! Kelp in flow! Food for all! From

(FYI, for a lot of the references on this, see excellent work by folk like Kira Krumhansl, Dan Reed and the good folk at the SBC LTER, Dave Duggins, and many more)

That storms are a major driver of kelp detritus getting shunted out in to the vasty deeps and sunny sands is a major paradigm in kelp forest research. We see correlations between wave heights and kelp loss in many systems, and the major kelp die-back of the year in many systems is often correlated with the biggest storm events of the year.

So the threat? A fascinating piece this week in Limnology & Oceanography by Bettignies et al. that details kelps in Australia eroding into detritus not because of storms, but rather potentially as a tradeoff for reproduction. As they reproduce, tissues become weaker and slough off. However, once sloughed, the smaller more svelte kelps are actually more resisitant to the high wave action that comes right afterwards. So, while a broad-brush look might make it look like kelp loss happens around the same time as big storms, a close look at timing, physiology, and kelp adaptations shows that the story is far more interesting.

Will this hold elsewhere? Time will tell. But in the meantime, let’s drink a glass to big intense storms and their kelp-removing powers. I speak, of course, of the Dark N’ Stormy.


I do not know the shrouded origins of this fine beverage, nor how it made its way into marine science. All I know is that at any marine lab I have visited, you will find passionate devotees. Long day in the field? Lab equipment break down on you? Stuck debugging R code while everyone else is in the fun and sun? Time for a Dark n’ Stormy evening. And if you have a favorite ginger beer? Be ready for some arguments.

And so, the Dark n’ Stormy (as taught to me maaaany years ago at a field station)

Dark n’ Stormy
2 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal rum
1/2 a lime
Ginger beer (I go with Reed’s and typically use 1/2 of a 12 oz. bottle)

Fill tall glass with ice. Pour over rum, juice of lime, and fill with ginger beer. Huck in your lime husk, stir, and sip. Contemplate the role of disturbance versus reproductive timing in kelp removal across the globe.