Undergraduate research opportunity to work as part of a team exploring the consequences of climate-induced species range shifts on ecosystem functioning (e.g., nutrient cycling) in subalpine ponds in the Colorado Rockies. The position provides a weekly stipend, housing, meals, travel to the site, and participation in a REU Training and Responsible Conduct of Research Program beginning as early as mid May and ending in mid August.
This research is motivated by the fact that species distributions around the world are shifting in response to a changing climate but we known little about how these shifts in elevation, latitude, or among local habitats will affect ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling. More than 25 years of continuous study of the distribution and abundance of aquatic animals in high-elevation ponds in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado has revealed that species common at low elevations are moving towards higher elevations, and within elevations, animals are moving into different habitat types (i.e., temporary to semi-permanent pond) as drying regimes become more extreme. The main research project focuses on a guild of case-making caddisflies (see left photo) that vary considerably in their contribution to ecosystem processes and their response to climate-induced changes in pond hydrology.
We are seeking an undergraduate student interested in exploring the contribution of additional animal species to nutrient cycling. Specifically, the REU will take a lead role in measuring nitrogen and phosphorus excretion rates of animals and nitrogen and phosphorus uptake by water column and benthic plants and microbes in subalpine ponds that differ in hydroperiod and animal community composition to explore the following questions: 1) How does nutrient supply via excretion by species in the biomass-dominant caddisfly guild compare to excretion by other pond species, such as midge larvae, zooplankton, and salamanders? 2) What proportion of nutrient demand by algae and other microbes is supplied by the focal guild of detritivorous caddisflies versus other pond animals?
The REU will work with a diverse group of undergraduates, graduate students, post-docs, and PIs from North Carolina State University (www.bradwtaylor.com), other universities, and will be immersed in a vibrant research and education community at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (see www.rmbl.edu). The position requires spending 8-10 weeks (mid-May to mid August) at this rustic and remote but premier high-elevation (3000 m) field station near Crested Butte, Colorado. The ideal applicant should demonstrate interest and experience in field ecology as well as experience or willingness to master meticulous analytical chemical analyses. Applicants should also be comfortable working in remote field settings that can have rapidly changing weather conditions, and that includes hiking 1-2 h to 3400 m elevation study sites. Preference will also be given to applicants who present a plan to work on writing and analyses as part of an independent study or senior thesis for eventual publication beyond the summer. The REU will have some flexibility to develop additional questions and hypotheses for which they will receive mentoring assistance with methods, data and chemical analyses, and writing.
Send a resume, 1-page statement of current and future scientific interests and experiences, and names and contact information for 3 references included in one PDF file to Brad Taylor: firstname.lastname@example.org by 10 March 2018. A commitment by 1 April is required.