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Applications are accepted at any time; however, to receive full consideration for fellowships, campus interview, and financial aid, students should apply by December 1 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

We are recruiting agroecology MS or PhD students. One position will focus how (when, whether) cover crop species diversity affects a suite of ecosystem services. The second will focus on how rotations that include diverse perennials affect soil health and weeds. The field work will take place at our long-term cover crop diversity experiment a few miles from the PSU campus. This long-term research site is host to a vibrant and large, interdisciplinary research team, including undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs. Opportunities for outreach and on-farm research are abundant. Students Contact Carolyn Lowry or Jason Kaye for questions and discussion about the lab/positions.

Two Graduate Research Assistantships are available at Penn State beginning Spring or Fall 2024 to study how anaerobic soils affect carbon and nitrogen fluxes in forests. This NSF funded project includes a group of graduate students, postdocs, research support staff, and faculty from a range of disciplines including ecology, soil science, hydrology, and meteorology. Successful applicants will be encouraged to take full advantage of this interdisciplinary team. Research will take place in the Shale Hills catchment, near PSU, leveraging abundant instrumentation and historical data. Both PhD and MS applicants will be considered. Interested applicants should contact Jason Kaye, Ken Davis, Yuning Shi, or Jon Duncan.

Graduate Position Available in Aquatic Ecology at Penn State University

We are recruiting a MS/PhD student interested in restoration ecology to work on a new project funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust Pooled Monitoring Initiative’s Restoration Research Award Program. Stream restoration projects do not often achieve the desired ecological uplift of restoring benthic macroinvertebrate biodiversity, and our project seeks to evaluate the potential of using benthic macroinvertebrate translocations from pristine streams to restored streams in restoring macroinvertebrate biodiversity in a manipulative field experiment. The student would work with faculty at Penn State and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and project stakeholders at the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and Anne Arundel County. The student would have the opportunity to learn new techniques, or build upon existing skill sets, in using morphological methods to identify benthic macroinvertebrates and/or using novel methods of biodiversity assessment with eDNA metabarcoding.

Funds are available to fully support either a MS for two years or a PhD student for four years, including a competitive stipend and medical, dental, and vision insurance. The graduate student would be physically housed in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at Penn State and be co-advised by Daniel Allen and Jon Sweetman. The graduate student would begin enrollment in the Fall 2024, but we have funds to allow the student to begin working on the project beginning in Summer 2024, which is preferred.

We are offering a PhD graduate student assistantship to start summer/fall 2024 in the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (PACRU) in the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology at The Pennsylvania State University (PSU). The position is fully funded by the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) for up to four years. This is a collaborative effort between PACRU, PGC, and PSU to estimate black bear population density, space-use, and movement behavior across the entire state of Pennsylvania. This project will involve being the lead researcher in organizing and/or assisting portions of fieldwork for collaring up to 240 black bear in six regions of Pennsylvania with global system positioning collars. The candidate will then be responsible for compiling black bear survival, population, and movement data and and spatial data layers from across the state and among collaborators. The student will incorporate these datasets to model population size and movement behavior across various regions of the state. The student will be co-advised by David Walter and Franny Buderman.

Qualifications: Minimum of an MS degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science or related field with a background in spatial, demographic, and/or Bayesian analysis. Graduate research will focus on data analysis, with potential fieldwork depending on the candidate’s skillset.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in lentic invasive snakehead populations: identifying gene expression signatures of toxicity with implications for human consumption advisories

We are seeking applicants for a MS in ecology to begin fall 2024. The successful applicant will lead a project that studies the nexus between ecotoxicology and invasive species ecology. Specifically, the project aims understand how per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) accumulate in the invasive northern snakehead (Channa argus) to better quantify risk and potential adverse ecological and human health outcomes. The project will also identify gene expression signatures of toxicity to help inform fisheries management and human health risk assessment efforts. Students may apply to the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology. The student will be co-advised by Ty Wagner and Jason Keagy, and will be expected to contribute to an inclusive and equitable lab group. Contact Ty Wagner and Jason Keagy for questions about the position.

Global change ecology at the Pennsylvania State University

The Qiu lab at the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management is recruiting a Ph.D. student interested in synthesizing remote sensing with ecological monitoring network to study forest ecosystems in a changing climate. The position is fully funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for up to four years. The student would conduct field work in Pennsylvania’s forests. The student would develop novel approaches that can derive habitat from multi-scale (crown, landscape, continent) and multi-source (LiDAR, hyperspectral) remote sensing. The student would also be involved in developing data-model synthesis framework that can quantify the regeneration potential of forests.

Qualifications: experience with remote sensing data processing in R, python, or Google Earth Engine; a bachelor’s or master’s degree with a background in ecology, geography, statistics, computer science, and environmental science. Any questions should be sent to Tong Qiu.

The Lieurance Invasion Ecology Lab is currently recruiting one PhD student to conduct research on the ecology of invasive species starting Fall 2024. Topics could include but are not limited to plant herbivore interactions, chemical ecology of invasive plants, consequences of climate change for invasive species and species interactions, invasion pathways, and exploring species traits to improve risk assessment and other decision support tools. Interested applicants should contact Deah Lieurance.

*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.