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2016 REU and Amphibian Conservation Technician Positions


The Maerz Lab at the University of Georgia is seeking applicants for two summer REU/Research Technician positions focusing on amphibian ecology and conservation. One positions is an NSF-funded REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in residence in the Appalachian Mountains at the Coweeta LTER in Otto, NC. The second position is a technician position based in Athens, GA involving a variety of projects around the state including time a sites in south Georgia and western North Carolina. Each position is described below. Applicants for the REU must be enrolled in classes for fall 2016 or immediate post associate or bachelor graduates (e.g, graduated May 2016). Applications are due by 5PM on April 22, 2016; and final decisions on hiring are expected by April 28, 2016.

Position 1: Appalachian Salamander REU, Coweeta LTER, Otto, NC

Duration: May 01 - August 12, 2016 (exact dates are negotiable, expectation is minimum 10 weeks in residence)

The National Science Foundation funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU program. REU Sites consists of groups of undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution. Each student is associated with a specific research project, where she/he works closely with the faculty and other researchers. Students are granted stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel. Undergraduate students supported with NSF funds must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions. An REU site may be at either a US or foreign location.

Now completing its 37th year, the Coweeta LTER (Long-Term Ecological Research) is the southern Appalachian Regional LTER based at the US Forest Service Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in Otto, NC. Coweeta is part of 26 NSF-funded LTER sites that serve as the largest, longest-running ecological network in U.S.

Nature of REU: Climate is a fundamental factor shaping the distribution and abundance of organisms, and has the capacity to alter ecosystem processes via its affects on consumer diversity abundance. The steep montane forests of southern Appalachia are characterized by extreme spatial gradients in precipitation and soil moisture. Southern Appalachia is also a global hotspot for salamander diversity. Salamanders are the most abundant vertebrates in forests and headwater streams, and they influence key ecosystem processes including decomposition and nutrient cycling. Salamanders are also highly moisture sensitive, and their abundance and associated influence on ecosystem processes is predicted to vary with precipitation and soil moisture. This REU student will work in residence and under the direct supervision of Co-PI Maerz and two senior Ph.D. graduate students to work on estimating patterns of salamander diversity, abundance, and fitness across an “expanded gradient” of precipitation and soil moisture within the Coweeta Basin. The student will assist in conducting seasonal surveys of salamanders on 96 forest plots within the Coweeta Basin. This will involve working with a team of researchers sampling salamanders within plots, identifying species, and measuring and aging individuals. In addition, the student will work on a long-term salamander capture-mark-recapture study to estimate the effects of inter-annual weather variability on salamander growth, fecundity and survival. The latter study is integral to ongoing work to create detailed demography models of salamander population responses to weather and climate change, and is being used to evaluate the potential for salamanders to serve as sentinels of climate change. This work involves sampling salamanders on long-term plots over three consecutive nights each month and measuring and marking individuals, maintaining animal databases, and working with students to analyze data. The student will assist with a long-term salamander removal experiment and measuring invertebrate responses to reduced salamander abundance.

As part of this experience, the student will be expected to develop her or his own complementary line of research under the direction of Co-PI Maerz. Focal areas of potential research include studies of salamander rehydration and field performance or patterns of phenotypic variation (morphological and behavioral) across climate gradients. The student will also be afforded time to assist other researchers at Coweeta and to interact with a diversity of research faculty, graduate students, and technicians. Coweeta hosts a large number of resident researchers each year from a variety of academic institutions, creating a highly engaging opportunity to interact with people with diverse interests and backgrounds in an academic environment. The student will participate in the Coweeta LTER Summer Meeting and Research Symposium where they will have the opportunity to listen to professional research presentations from the breadth of Coweeta investigators and present their own independent research. They will also participate in the Coweeta Intern Research Symposium.

Eligible applicants must be enrolled for Fall 2016 or immediately post associates/bachelors (spring 2016 graduates may apply). Students who are interested in future graduate studies are particularly encouraged to apply. The student will be afforded a budget of up to $1,500 to cover work-related travel, materials, supplies and other field expenses. The student will receive a stipend of $500/week for a minimum period of 12-weeks between May 01 and August 12, 2016. In addition, the student will receive free lodging at the Coweeta LTER dormitory. The student must live in residence at the Coweeta LTER in Otto, NC. Fleet vehicles are available for travel around study sites for research purposes. The student is responsible for his or her own transport to the Coweeta LTER and for personal travel around the region.

Fieldwork will require significant hiking, often at night, in steep forested terrain, long periods of night work, and work within rocky streams with dense midstory vegetation; therefore, applicants should consider the physical demands of the work.

Position 2: Amphibian Conservation Technician, Athens, GA

Duration: May 01 – July 31, 2016 (position is flexible. Minimum expectation of 20 hours and a maximum of 40 hours per week) for 10-14 weeks [depending on funding availability] at an hourly compensation of $10 per hour.

Job Description: This position is based at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA under the direct supervision of Dr. John Maerz and his Research Coordinator, Mrs. Vanessa Terrell. This technician will assist on three projects: (1) habitat specific survival and microhabitat use of captive reared Carolina Gopher Frogs at a restored Nature Conservancy site, (2) assessing the field sensitivity and exposure of native tadpole species to an invasive cyanobacteria, and (3) Appalachian salamander population ecology. Duties will include, but are not limited to, assisting with lab husbandry of captive reared and experimental tadpoles, measuring, marking, and radio tracking juvenile and adult gopher frogs, wetland sampling for tadpoles, conducting capture-recapture studies of released frogs in terrestrial release pens, scoping tortoise burrows for frogs, maintenance of in situ wetland tadpole enclosure studies, and night sampling for salamanders. When not traveling, the student will work out of the Maerz Lab located within the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Fieldwork will require regular overnight travel of 3–5 consecutive nights, nighttime fieldwork, and multi-overnight stays at field sites in southern Georgia and the Appalachian mountains. Dorms are available for work in the mountains, but some fieldwork may require camping at the field sites. UGA fleet vehicles are provided for travel and lodging will be covered. Fieldwork will periodically require significant hiking, often at night, in steep forested terrain, long periods of night work, and occasionally hot and humid weather. The applicant should be confident in field conditions and able to tolerate biting insects.

Application Process

Applicants should submit a cover letter, 1-2 page resume, and a list of 2-4 references (including contact email and phone numbers). For each reference, please indicate the nature of your relationship. Cover letters should clearly indicate each position for which you wish to be considered, and should address your specific interests in each project; relevant skills, experiences, and accomplishments; and how you envision the position contributing to your future career interests. Women and students from traditionally underrepresented groups including Native Americans are encouraged to apply. The University of Georgia is an equal opportunity employer, and all applicants will be given fair and equitable consideration.

Please email all materials as a single PDF file with your last name included in the file name. Email your application to Dr. John Maerz at jcmaerz@uga.edu and copy Vanessa Terrell at vkinney@uga.edu. Applications are due by 5PM on April 22, 2016; phone interviews are expected to take place between April 25-27, and final decisions on hiring are expected by April 28, 2016.


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