Amphibian Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

Amphibian Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

Duration: April 30 - August 11, 2018 (exact dates are negotiable, expectation is minimum 12 weeks in residence)

The National Science Foundation provides funds to create research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU program. Students work closely with the researchers, are granted stipends and budgets for independent research projects. Students may also receive assistance with housing and travel. Undergraduate students supported with NSF funds must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions.

The Maerz Lab at the University of Georgia ( is seeking applicants for one REU position focusing on southeastern amphibian ecology and conservation. The student will spend time in residence in the Southern Appalachian Mountains at the Coweeta LTER in Otto, NC and the University of Georgia in Athens, GA, with additional opportunities to work on various management sites in south GA. Project details, compensation, and applicant requirements and procedures are provided below.

The Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research project: Now completing its 41st 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 and habitat conversion are fundamental factors shaping the distribution and abundance of organisms, effecting ecological and evolutionary interactions between species, and altering ecosystem processes via its effects on consumer diversity abundance. The southeastern United States is a region of high amphibian diversity and undergoing significant changes in climate, residential and agricultural development, altered disturbance regimes. The southern Appalachian Mountains have steep gradients of precipitation and soil moisture, is a rapidly exurbanizing landscape, and a global hotspot for salamander diversity. The primary focus of this REU will be studying salamander population ecology across a climate gradient. The REU student will also spend time assisting with amphibian ecology and conservation projects focusing on wetland ecology and restoration within the Longleaf-Wiregrass ecosystem. These wetlands are habitat for a high diversity of amphibians including many threatened and imperiled species; however, many of these wetlands have been lost, and remnant wetlands have been degraded by persistent fire suppression or altered fire regimes.

This REU student will work under the direct supervision of Dr. John Maerz, Mrs. Vanessa Terrell, and graduate students to (1) estimate spatial variation in salamander demography along a gradient of precipitation and soil moisture, (2) assist with field and mesocosm experiments examining wetland restoration for priority amphibians, and (3) assist with the captive-rearing, reintroduction, and radio-telemetry of an endangered frog species. Specific activities will include seasonal surveys of salamanders on 96 forest plots within the Coweeta Basin, capture-recapture of salamanders at six long-term study plots, dipnet and acoustic monitoring sampling of amphibians in future restoration wetlands, mesocosm and field experiments, and husbandry of captive-reared animals. Students will learn standard techniques for sampling salamanders, identifying species, and measuring and aging individuals, maintaining animal databases, and working with students to analyze data. Over the course of the field season, the REU student is expected to assume greater autonomy in leading field work develop their own complementary line of research under the direction of Dr. Maerz focusing on Appalachian salamander ecology. The student will participate in the Coweeta Intern Research Symposium and – potentially - attend a regional or national meeting. Fieldwork will require significant hiking, often at night, in steep forested terrain or wetlands with dense mid-story vegetation, and potentially high temperatures; therefore, applicants should consider the physical demands of the work and their personal comfort working in challenging terrain and weather.

Eligible applicants must either be enrolled in undergraduate courses for fall 2018 or immediately post associates/bachelors (December 2017 & April/May 2018 graduates may apply). Students who are interested in future graduate studies, 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.

The student will receive a stipend of $6,000 paid in three installments for a minimum period of 12-weeks between May 01 and August 17, 2017 (start and end dates are flexible). In addition, the student will receive free lodging at the Coweeta LTER dormitory and Athens, GA, and a budget of up to $1,500 to cover work-related travel, materials, supplies and other field expenses. Fleet vehicles are available for travel around study sites for research purposes. The student is responsible for their own meals and personal travel around the region.

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. The cover letter should succinctly summarize your interests, relevant skills and experiences, and accomplishments. Cover letters must also address: (1) why are you motivated to pursue experiences in research, (2) what elements of the projects motivated your application and how does that fit with your broader professional interests, and (3) how will this REU opportunity enhance your pursuit of longer-term professional goals. We encouraged students to discuss any prior constraints on accessing research experiences.

Please email all materials as a single PDF file with your last name as the first part of the file name. Email your application to Dr. John Maerz at Applications are due by 5PM on Friday, March 16, 2018. Final decisions on hiring are expected by Monday, April 2, 2018.

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