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Two Graduate Positions - College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences

Graduate & Postdoc
Expiration Date: 

The Coastal and Estuarine Ecology Lab ( is seeking two students (masters or PhD level – see detailed descriptions below) interested in pursuing community ecology questions in aquatic (freshwater/marine) ecosystems at the College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences.  We conduct research grounded in theory to understand the factors that control the spatial distribution of aquatic organisms and the effect of community organization on ecosystem processes.  Our theoretical research occurs across a wide range of aquatic systems, but our field programs are focused in shallow water seagrass and macrophyte communities (tidal fresh to marine) and in coastal plains streams and rivers.  Research in the lab combines statistical modeling, spatial analysis, and field surveys, and experiments in the lab and field.  

For consideration applicants must apply online by January 6 ( and also send a letter of interest to me, Dr. Christopher Patrick, at  Include your CV, transcript, and GRE scores.  In your letter please tell me a little about your research interests and why you’re pursuing a graduate degree.  

Position 1 – Coastal Rivers Invertebrate Secondary Production and Food-Web Structure:  We seek a student to join a NSF funded multi-university team studying the role of rainfall gradients on the structure and function of coastal rivers.  The overall project consists of an observational time series study, paired with manipulative experiments, deployed in rivers distributed across a natural rainfall gradient in South Texas.  The project as a whole covers the ecosystems from basal ecosystem processes (GPP, ER) up through the structure and function of invertebrate and fish communities.  The student will work to develop an understanding of spatio-temporal patterns in invertebrate community composition, biodiversity (taxonomic and functional), food web structure, abundance, biomass, and secondary production.  The student will also work with graduate students working on other project components, a post-doctoral researcher, and the PI’s to integrate the datasets to develop a systems level understanding of mechanisms shaping the structure and function of the coastal rivers.  The position will be fully funded (RA and Tuition) through a combination of local funds and project funding from NSF and the National Academy of Science Engineering and Medicine.  Exact funding structure will depend on whether the student is at the masters or PhD level.

Position 2 – Chesapeake Bay Seagrass Meadows:  We seek a student interested in understanding the factors that control dynamics of communities and ecosystem processes in seagrass meadows in Chesapeake Bay.  The potential topics are broad, but interest in both vegetation and animal communities is desired.  Example ideas include understanding interactions between traits and the environment on macrophyte community assembly or evaluating how seagrass meadow structure and composition drives predation patterns.   The student would have opportunities for both collecting new data as well as leveraging an incredible set of existing assembled datasets including annual spatial maps of seagrass coverage, long term in-situ monitoring programs, and assembled trait data for constituent species.  There may also be opportunities to integrate projects with network projects associated with the Smithsonian Marine Global Earth Observatory (MarineGEO).  The position will be fully funded (RA and Tuition) through a combination of local funds, start-up, and funding from the National Academy of Science Engineering and Medicine.  Exact funding structure will depend on whether the student is at the masters or PhD level.

Qualifications: Interested students seeking a PhD position should preferably hold a M.S. degree in ecology or a related field. Potential PhD applicants with only a B.S. degree should have at least 2 years of research experience and evidence of strong writing and presentation skills.  Students seeking a M.S. position should have some prior experience working as a technician or an undergraduate researcher.  For both positions prior experience in field ecology, statistical analysis, computer coding (R, Python), and spatial analysis (ArcGIS, other) is preferred.  For the coastal rivers position, experience/expertise with identifying freshwater invertebrates to genus level is a requirement.  Prior experience with stable isotope analysis, gut content analysis, community analysis, and secondary production calculations is desired but not required.  For the seagrass position, prior experience working in seagrass ecosystems, identifying marine invertebrates, community analysis, and doing scientific diving is desired.

About VIMS: Located in Gloucester Point, VA, VIMS is a part of the College of William and Mary, one of the oldest educational institutions in the United States (  The institute has a wide variety of coastal programs and departments and maintains many useful resources including a research lab on the eastern shore of Virginia (, a fleet of vessels for research work, a dive operations program, and flowing seawater and freshwater mesocosm facilities.  Students have a variety of living options in the area including rural/small town living in Gloucester and a larger city feel in Williamsburg or Newport News.  Cost of living is very reasonable relative to the generous stipends and students have access to a wide array of local and regional activities with relatively close access to major cities (Richmond, Washington D.C.), the ocean, and the Appalachian Mountains.