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MSc position – Endangered darter/mussel microbiome research

Expiration Date: 

The Walker Lab at Middle Tennessee State University is currently seeking a MSc student to advance research on a project focused on characterizing the endangered duskytail darter nest/mussel microbiome community and its tentative function to gain an understanding of its role in innate immunity. The Southeastern US is a biodiversity hotspot for both mussel and nongame fish species, yet have the highest extinction and imperilment rates of any group of organisms (Benz and Collins 1997, Haag and Williams 2014; Jelks et al. 2008). As filter-feeding animals, mussels are important biological indicators and serve to improve ecosystem processes (Haag 2012). They require a host fish as part of their life cycle and are therefore reliant on healthy fish assemblages in stream systems (Vaughn 2012). More than 70% of mussels (Haag and Williams 2014) and 39% of fish (Jelks et al. 2008) are categorized as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. Multiple, often interacting, factors contribute to southeastern freshwater species’ endangerment (Benz and Collins 1997).  More recently and locally, pathogen-induced mussel declines in the Clinch River drainage and a suspected microbial pathogen of endangered duskytail darter (Etheostoma percnurum) nest clutches are thought to be linked to population declines. The prospective student will utilize high-throughput DNA sequencing to characterize the structure and function of healthy/diseased darter nest and mussel microbiomes. 

Prior experience or training in microbiology, mycology, or molecular biology is preferred. The MSc student will begin during the spring 2019 semester. Prospective students should inquire directly with Dr. Donald Walker ( and include your CV, a statement of interest, and unofficial transcripts in your inquiry.

Salary: Graduate assistantship of $14,000/year plus full tuition waiver

For more information about the Walker Lab:

For more information about the Middle Tennessee State biology program: