PhD student needed to evaluate the effects of prescribed fire on Box Turtles in Massachusetts

he Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) are seeking a PhD student to evaluate the effects of prescribed fire on Box Turtles in Massachusetts. The position announcement is below. However, the deadline for applications is rapidly approaching – December 1, 2021. The late deadline is because we’re hoping for the student to enroll in the evolutionary biology program, which offers additional support. The student would start in Fall 2022. There will be an intensive field component on Cape Cod.Michael T. Jones, Ph.D.State HerpetologistMassachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581p: (508) 389-7863 | e: | Student Opportunity (PhD level): Box turtle-Prescribed FireMassachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (MA Coop Unit)University of Massachusetts, Organismic & Evolutionary Biology Department, Amherst, MAReview of applications will begin 01 Dec 2021Position start date Summer 2022Position description Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) mortality during prescribed fire is amanagement concern in Massachusetts and other northeastern states. Observational and experimentalstudies have found that individual Box Turtles exhibit a range of complex behavioral responses to fire,and that early growing season fires may be more lethal under normal circumstances. It is clear that theeffect of fire is highly variable, and likely to influence populations differently based on habitat, landscapeconnectivity, population structure, season, fuel conditions, and weather. The Massachusetts Division ofFisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), the Massachusetts Army National Guard, and UMass Amherst arepartnering to develop a coherent, empirically-informed, locally-tested management protocol for BoxTurtles in the context of prescribed fire management in Massachusetts.Therefore, we are seeking applications for a PhD level graduate student position at the University ofMassachusetts, Amherst. We highly encourage people from historically underrepresented groups ornon-traditional backgrounds to apply. The successful candidate will enroll in the PhD program in theOrganismic & Evolutionary Biology Department ( and be part of the MACooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit ( that the position is contingent upon final funding details.Project objectives Potential objectives, which are subject to modification based on the successfulapplicant’s interests, include:● Gather standardized information on prescribed fires within Box Turtle habitat and fire-relatedBox Turtle mortalities● Implement an observational study of Eastern Box Turtles using radiotelemetry at Camp Edwardsand adjacent areas during the active season for each of four years● Characterize and model the behavioral response of live Box Turtles to fire through controlledexperiments● Evaluate the effects of season, fuels, weather, habitat, and turtle position on mortality and injuryrates, using “surrogate models”● Implement standardized post-burn surveys for Box Turtles following prescribed fires- requiresflexibility in terms of traveling to and from Camp Edwards with little notice● Use a spatially-explicit population viability analysis to evaluate the population-level effects of fireon priority populations● Facilitate—through Structured Decision Making—a workshop with stakeholders to appropriatelyminimize the effects of fire on Box Turtle population persistenceSalary/Benefits The graduate student will be provided:1. Research assistantship funding and teaching assistantship funding for at 5 years through theUniversity of Massachusetts, Amherst, which includes graduate student stipend (~$32,000 per yearfor 20 hrs/week), health benefits, and tuition waiver. More information about benefits is availablethrough the UMass Graduate Employee Organization ( Professional development experiences relevant to federal and state jobs but transferable toother conservation agencies.3. Mentoring, encouragement, and autonomy to ensure that they see and understand how theyand their perspectives are vital to achieving the goals of the project.ExpectationsThe following will be considered positive factors in choosing a successful candidate. We do not expectapplicants to have all of these qualities and is not meant to discourage applicants.– Evidence of a strong desire to learn (as supported by evidence of superior academicachievement, extracurricular activities, or life experiences)– Interest and/or experience conducting field work– Interest in population ecology and conservation– Interest in box turtle conservation and prescribed fires– A great deal of flexibility (e.g., being called a few days prior to a prescribed fire burn and beingready to travel to Camp Edwards at a moment’s notice)– Creativity (e.g., problem solving and creative solutions to answering objectives)– Practical field skills (e.g., standard auto transmission, GPS, radiotelemetry, fire safety, GISskills/experience).– Red card and/or previous experience using fire for restoration (formal or informal) is a plus.In addition, the graduate student will be provided training and support to learn and accomplish thefollowing:– Work alongside MassWildlife, USGS, and other stakeholders to accomplish the objectives of thisproject– Apply and obtain permits and IACUC approval– Collect and analyze data– Perform field work at Camp Edwards in Bourne, MA– Present research findings at quarterly meetings with stakeholders– Prepare at least three manuscripts for submission to peer-reviewed journalsEligibility– Minimum of a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent) for undergraduate students– Have graduated from undergrad by May 2022 to start graduate school in Fall 2022Application To apply, you will need to submit your application to 2 locations by Dec 01, 2021:(1) Please submit your UMass graduate school application to the OEB program here: More details on the application materials can be found here: Briefly, you will need the following:(i) All official undergraduate and graduate transcripts(ii) A Personal Statement(iii) At least three letters of recommendation(iv) A Curriculum Vitae(v) GRE scores are not considered.(2) Please also send the following materials in a single PDF with the following document name“YOUR LAST NAME-Box turtle app- 2021.pdf” in an email with the subject “Box turtle-prescribedfire application” to Dr. Graziella DiRenzo at The same personal statement submitted to the UMass graduate school. Ideally, thepersonal statement describes your interest in the position, past research experiences,interest in conducting fieldwork, desire to pursue graduate work, and any discrepanciesin your academic record;(b) A curriculum vitae or resume;(c) The contact information (name, position, relationship to applicant, email, and phonenumber) for three references;(d) Unofficial transcriptsYou must submit your application to BOTH locations by Dec 01, 2021 (UMass graduate school &emailed to Dr. Graziella DiRenzo) to be considered for the position. Please send questions to any of theproject investigators listed below.Project investigatorsDr. Graziella DiRenzo (, U.S. Geological Survey, MA Coop UnitDr. Tammy Wilson (, U.S. Geological Survey, MA Coop UnitDr. Michael Jones – State Herpetologist, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and WildlifeNondiscriminatory AA/EEO statement The University of Massachusetts provides equal employmentopportunities to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion,gender, gender identity or expression, age, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability,military status, genetic information, pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, or membership in anyother legally protected class. The University of Massachusetts complies with all applicable federal, stateand local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which the universityoperates.