MS Position: Evolutionary Ecological Restoration

Subject: MS Position: Evolutionary Ecological Restoration

Local adaptation in restoration: scale and extent of local adaptation in native prairie species

A MS position in evolution evolutionary restoration ecology is available to adaptation to environment of native prairie plant species with Jill Hamilton at North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota and Marissa Ahlering, Lead Prairie Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Identifying the appropriate seed sources for restoration efforts can be challenging, particularly for geographically isolated populations where historical isolation or contemporary fragmentation may have contributed to differentiation in adaptive traits across a species range and in the face of changing climate. In this project we will map and collect seeds for a variety of prairie plant species to be used in restoration efforts. Select seeds sourced from a range of environments will be used in an experimental setting to examine the impact varying water availability may have on plant fitness. The interaction between seed source and changing availability of water across the Great Plains; including an increased frequency of extremes may have dramatic consequences to restoration success. This research will aim to identify genetic differences in physiological traits for seeds sourced from a range of environments across the Great Plains to inform selection of seed sourcing for future restoration.

The ideal MS student will be prepared to identify plants and lead field-based research mapping and collecting seeds across the Great Plains (ND, SD, and MN). In addition, the student will establish a greenhouse experiment to experimentally evaluate physiological trait variation in response to varying degrees of water availability in a variety of seed sources for one of the mapped species. There is plenty of room to pursue particular interests in adaptive trait variation depending on the interest and experience of the candidate. The student will also be involved in outreach activities associated with the project engaging local state and TNC stakeholders in applied research. Ability to work independently in the field, alongside basic botany identification skills and GIS expertise is required. Some experience in quantitative analysis in R, and previous experience evaluating physiological trait variation in a greenhouse is preferred.

For more information on the Hamilton Lab please visit the lab website at: and Lead Prairie Ecologist with The Nature Conservancy, Marissa Ahlering at More information on the Department of Biological Sciences at NDSU can be found at Fargo is the largest city in the northern Midwest and as ‘Gateway to the West’ is a vibrant, growing community that has access to numerous outdoor opportunities for all seasons.

Interested students are encouraged to contact Dr. Hamilton ( and Dr. Ahlering (mahlering@TNC.ORG) by December 17th.
Please include a brief description of your research interests, experience, and a CV in your email. Funding options are available for both US students and international students and include a full tuition waiver. Tentative start date is May 2019.