I am always looking for motivated students to join my lab. Interested applicants should read through some of my recent publications to evaluate fit, and contact me to discuss opportunities.

Opportunities for Fall 2022.  I am recruiting a PhD student to study the interactive effects of fire and grass invasion in temperate forests. With their extensive distribution and vigorous competitive ability, nonnative invasive grasses pose serious problems for forest managers. Nonnative grasses act as a physical barrier to seedling establishment and reduce the growth of young trees, resulting in the suppression of both natural and artificial regeneration. They also increase fire intensity by altering surface fuel characteristics and tend to recover from fire more quickly than native species. This can critically undermine the expected benefits of prescribed fire by reducing post-fire tree survival and converting the understories of closed-canopy forests to stable, grass-dominated systems. In stark contrast, our recent research indicates that frequent fire in grass-invaded forests can alter nutrient dynamics to suppress invasion. Fire frequency may thus be a key variable for regulating invasion and sustaining the production of quality timber. Yet few studies have addressed the interaction between fire frequency and grass invasion in eastern forests and key knowledge gaps remain.

The candidate will strive to advance fundamental understanding of relationships between grass invasion, fire frequency, and nitrogen cycling to improve prediction of tree regeneration and growth. Research tasks will include field work in southern Illinois, lab analyses, and empirical modeling.

Qualified applicants should have a M.S. (or equivalent experience) in ecology, biology, environmental science or a closely related field. Applicants should be able to work independently, but also cooperatively with forest managers and other researchers. Applicants should have a strong work ethic, ability to problem solve, demonstrated writing and quantitative capabilities, and a record of leadership. The position is available starting Summer 2022 and will be supported through a combination of research and teaching assistantships (including stipend, tuition waiver, and health insurance).

To apply, please contact me directly at jmf@illinois.edu by November 18th with a CV and cover letter addressing your motivation to conduct a PhD in forest ecology at the University of Illinois.

Students may choose a degree program through either the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES) or the Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology (PEEC). Official applications to these graduate programs are due December 1 and interviews typically occur in early February.

The University of Illinois is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. We encourage a diversity of applicants to apply. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, or any other category legally protected by federal or state law.