Apply Now

Applications are accepted at any time; however, to receive full consideration for fellowships and financial aid, students should apply by December 15 for admission in the following fall semester.

To apply to the Ecology graduate program, students should first contact program faculty members with whom they are interested in working to find out if they have space in their laboratories. If you would like us to help you contact faculty members, please fill out our online pre-application form. Once an appropriate match between student and faculty member has been made, students should review the admission requirements of the Penn State Graduate School.

The following documents will be required as part of the Graduate School application process: 

  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement of motivations and goals
  • Curriculum vitae/resume
  • Transcript(s)

The graduate programs and Penn State Graduate School are committed to verification of application materials; therefore, please ensure that all of your documents can be readily verified as being accurate and authentic.

Admission is granted jointly by the Penn State Graduate School and the Ecology graduate program.

Apply to the Graduate School at Penn State

The diversity of our program is at the core of our innovation and strengthens our excellence. We seek to recruit diverse scholars from all backgrounds; including but not limited to diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and socio-economic background. In recruiting graduate students, we value both their research potential and the potential for students to contribute to our program’s diversity, equity, and inclusion through scholarship, outreach, and/or service to the institution.

Current Opportunities

1. Nutrient flux under climate-smart agriculture

Our ecosystem ecology and soil biogeochemistry group is seeking applicants for a PhD (or MS) position to begin in fall 23. The student will work in the area of climate-smart agriculture with a large interdisciplinary team. Research will focus on controls on nitrous oxide fluxes from agricultural fields to the atmosphere. This could include basic research on the nitrogen cycle or more applied studies identifying agricultural practices that reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Links to soil carbon sequestration and carbon dioxide fluxes are also possible. Students may apply to the Graduate Program in Soil Science or the Inter-College Graduate Degree Program in Ecology. The assistantship includes a competitive stipend, full tuition waiver, and health benefits. 

Contact Jason Kaye for questions and discussion about the lab/position. For Ph.D. students, either the Soil Science or Ecology degrees can be combined with the Biogeochemistry Dual Title Degree program.

2. Quantitative ecology (deer populations)

The Deer-Forest Study is long-term research investigating the role of deer herbivory, soils, and competing vegetation on forest plant communities. Four study areas in central and northern Pennsylvania have been monitored since 2013 with deer population surveys, deer fitted with GPS collars, hunter surveys, and permanent vegetation plots. In addition, deer harvest regulations were implemented to reduce deer densities on two study areas. We are seeking a student to develop an integrated population model using population surveys, harvest statistics, and population vital rates (survival, recruitment). These population estimates can then be linked to vegetation data or hunter surveys for the student to investigate multiple aspects of ecosystem response to deer harvest regulations. 

Contact Duane Diefenbach

3. Movement ecology of wild turkeys

I am seeking an M.Sc. student interested in developing movement models for wild turkey as part of a large-scale study in Pennsylvania. The student will have the opportunity to assess nesting location, success, and foraging behavior in relation to habitat characteristics. The project provides an opportunity to combine field data with computer modeling to inform habitat and harvest management for turkeys. The student would be joining an active collaboration with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Contact Franny Buderman

4. Remote sensing in ecology

We are looking for talented and highly motivated students who are expected to work on the following broad themes:

We are looking for talented and highly motivated students who are expected to work on the following broad themes: 

  • Quantifying effects of climate warming and remotely sensed habitat change on biodiversity change 
  • Understanding forest regeneration based on seed production and seedling recruits 
  • Model vegetation dynamics and their response to climate change and disturbance across different spatial and temporal scales
  • Developing data science approaches to process geospatial and ecological big data 

Qualifications: Strong quantitative and data science skills are required. Bachelor’s or master’s degree in remote sensing, ecology, engineering, environmental science, geoscience, or earth science is highly preferred. Proficiency in oral/written English is desired. Selecting an Ph.D. adviser that suits your interests is key to the success of your graduate school. Prospective students are thus encouraged to contact Dr. Tong Qiu to discuss potential projects before their applications. Please include your transcripts, CV, names, and contact information of up-to-three references, and a 2-page personal statement that describes your interests and qualifications that are relevant to the lab’s research theme. Please use the subject line: application for remote sensing of ecology Ph.D. Qualified applications will be reviewed upon receiving. 

5. Landscape genomics

We are seeking applicants for a PhD in fish landscape genomics to begin in fall 2023. The student will take the lead in two projects: 1) a riverscape genetics project characterizing the population connectivity and invasion dynamics of flathead catfish, and 2) a landscape transcriptomics project connecting brook trout gill transcriptomes to landscape variables such as water temperature. Several large genomic datasets will be available at the start and there will be opportunities to participate in further field collections of tissue samples, work on DNA and RNA extractions, develop better methods for analyzing the data, and develop experiments to validate the transcriptomic results. Students may apply to the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology. The student will be co-advised by Dr. Ty Wagner and Dr. Jason Keagy and be expected to contribute to an inclusive and equitable lab group. Contact Ty Wagner and Jason Keagy for questions about the position.

6. Cover crop mixture composition and its effects on ecosystem services

We are seeking PhD applicants interested in agroecology and sustainable agriculture to begin a PhD program in Fall 2023 PSU’s prestigious Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology. The student will be investigating how the composition of cover crop mixtures influences their provisioning of ecosystem services. The student will be co-advised by Dr. Carolyn Lowry (Plant Science) and Dr. Jason Kaye (Ecosystem Science and Management) and will have the opportunity to be exposed to diverse training experiences including research methods in molecular and plant ecology, as well as soil biogeochemistry. Students will be a part of a large network of diverse researchers involved in PSU’s long-term cover crop cocktails project. If interested, send your cv and cover letter to Carolyn Lowry

*Note that unlisted opportunities are available with other Ecology faculty. The postings above only indicate some of the available projects in the program. Please contact the listed faculty members for more details about each of these projects.