M.S. Assistantship – Invasive Earthworms, Mycorrhizal Fungi & Plants in Tallgrass Prairies

An M.S. assistantship is available in Oklahoma State University’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, to be co-advised by Drs. Gail Wilson and Scott Loss. The research project will include both field and greenhouse components, and will include both observational and experimental investigation of associations between non-native earthworm invasions, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), and plant communities in Oklahoma tallgrass prairies.

Earthworms and AMF play critical roles in mediating plant health, productivity, and biodiversity in prairie ecosystems. Invasive Eurasian earthworms have become ubiquitous across North America, causing substantial harmful impacts to plants that are mediated by interactions with AMF. Despite the importance of invasive earthworm-AMF interactions, few studies have investigated how they affect plant growth and community composition, and none have done so in prairies. This project will include field sampling of earthworms, soil, AMF, and plants in Oklahoma tallgrass prairies, as well as a greenhouse study where earthworm and AMF communities will be manipulated to evaluate plant responses. There is also the potential of integrating a side field project looking at whether invasive earthworm-caused changes in vegetation affect wildlife (e.g., birds, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and/or other).

The position will begin in January of 2019, and full student support is available for 24 months, including a stipend of $1,292/month ($15,504/yr), plus health insurance, tuition waiver, and reimbursement for fieldwork-related travel. Of the 4 funded semesters, 2 semesters will be supported by a research assistantship and 2 will be supported by a department teaching assistantship that will require ~10 hours of work per week. The specific course TA assignments will be determined based on student interests and departmental needs, but will likely include at least one semester in the department’s Applied Ecology and Conservation field lab course.

Required qualifications: Applicants must possess a B.S. degree in Ecology, Natural Resources, Biology, Plant and Soil Sciences, or a related field; a strong work ethic and sense of self-motivation; the ability to work independently and with a small team in a management capacity; a strong interest in the ecology of invasive species, natural resource ecology and management, soil ecology, plant ecology, and/or conservation ecology; a strong desire to lead efforts to publicly present and publish the research; and a valid US driver’s license.

Preferred qualifications: Applicants will be especially competitive if they have one or several of the following skills and experiences: conducting, presenting, and/or publishing mentored research; coordinating and supervising field projects and crews; conducting soil, invertebrate, and/or vegetation sampling, greenhouse experiments and laboratory processing of soil and/or plant samples; and working with statistical analyses.

TO APPLY: send (by August 24th, 2018) applications consisting of a zip file or merged pdf file that includes: (1) a cover letter outlining how they meet the above required and preferred qualifications, (2) CV, (3) unofficial academic transcripts, (4) GRE Scores, and (5) contact information for three references to BOTH Dr. Gail Wilson (
gail.wilson@okstate.edu) and Dr. Scott Loss (scott.loss@okstate.edu).

For more information, see the following sites:
Gail Wilson’s microbial ecology lab – http://nrem.okstate.edu/faculty/gwilson
Scott Loss’s global change ecology lab – 
OSU Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management –