Tailored opportunities: Masters and PhD scholarships in conservation sciences at the Universiy of Tennessee, US


The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is expanding its research program in Conservation Science. We seek applications from outstanding prospective graduate students in this topic, who wish to pursue a research-based Masters or PhD degree. We have funding to admit a new cohort of students. While we encourage students to pursue independent funding opportunities, EEB’s policy is to admit students only when we are confident we have funding support available for the full duration of their studies. We provide funding to both Masters and PhD students, regardless of their citizenship. Our goal is to recruit a diverse pool of students on a range of metrics, including background, career stage, and research interests.
Our ecology program is among the top 10% for research impact in North America (Keville et al., 2017). Our recent Conservation Science graduates have an excellent record of placement, with students taking leadership positions within conservation NGOs and public agencies and post-doctoral positions in internationally renowned research
groups. Our students’ research projects are published in top-tier journals and deliver products that our practitioner partners use and value. Our students study globally important conservation questions, commonly working in overseas field systems alongside in-country practitioners.  We anticipate having a “cohort-model” where students interact with each other and multiple faculty members. However, students typically have one lead faculty advisor. Ensuring a good match between this advisor and the student is a central feature of our recruitment process. Interested students should reach out to potential advisors by email (given below) to explore possibilities

  • Paul Armsworth (p.armsworth@utk.eduarmsworthlab.com)– ecological modeling, ecological economics, spatial optimization, conservation finance.
    How can we increase conservation organizations’ flexibility to direct available funding to places and times where it will do the most good in terms of protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services? Can we improve the effectiveness of conservation programs using optimization tools that integrate ecological and socioeconomic data?
  • Mike Blum (mblum@utk.edueeb.bio.utk.edu/people/michael-j-blum)– aquatic conservation, coastal sustainability, urban socioecology and public health.To what extent is coastal erosion moderated by genotypic variation in foundational plants? To what extent does evolution determine the future of coastal ecosystems? What are the socioecological outcomes of counter-urbanization? How do socioecological interventions following disasters shape zoonotic disease risk in affected communities?
  • Orou Gaoue (ogaoue@utk.eduvolweb.utk.edu/~ogaoue)– Sustainable harvest, population dynamics modeling, plant-human interactions.
    How do local people use their ecological knowledge of the environment to design and implement sustainable use strategies? How do disturbances like harvest, fire, and fragmentation affect plant communities, and what are the implications for sustainable use of forest resources?
  • Xingli Giam (xgiam@utk.edugiamlab.com)– Land-use and climate change impacts on aquatic communities, macroecology, human dimensions of conservation.
    How do human activities affect the environment, and what are the implications of such environmental impacts on human livelihoods? How would future demand for food and bioenergy impact biodiversity conservation? Can we change human attitudes toward conservation and climate change by modifying the way we frame these issues?
  • Charlie Kwit (ckwit@utk.educharleskwit.com)– threatened species management, land use change impacts on biodiversity and mutualisms.
    What are the effects of land management and land-use change on biodiversity and species of greatest conservation need? How do land management and land-use change affect mutualistic biotic interactions (esp. pollination and seed dispersal)?
  • Daniel Simberloff (dsimberloff@utk.edueeb.bio.utk.edu/people/daniel-simberloff)– impacts and management of biological invasions, invasive species denialism.
    What accounts for lag times in invasion impacts?  Under what circumstances do invasions spontaneously collapse?  How can non-target impacts of biological control be minimized?  Under what circumstances do native species act like non-native invaders?

The following faculty members do not anticipate recruiting Conservation Science students as lead advisor in the current recruitment round. They are all very active in our research community and will interact with applicants via the cohort dynamic described above.

  • Nina Fefferman (nfefferm@utk.edubio.utk.edu/people/nina-fefferman) – (Re)emerging infectious diseases, wildlife health, disease spill-over.
    What underlying theories explain whether spread of a newly introduced infection through multi-host ecosystems will alter community dynamics to drive some populations extinct? Can we improve predictive models of multi-pathogen, multi-host disease dynamics to improve endangered species management? Can we predict which currently thriving species may become endangered under disease threat from various categories of pathogens?
  • Mona Papeş (mpapes@utk.edumonapapes.wixsite.com/biodivmatters) – ecological niche models, shifting species distributions, remote sensing.
    How can we make ecological niche models relevant to conservation practitioners? How often are future projections of species’ distributions integrated into management plans? What are possible new ways of making use of remotely sensed data in conservation action?
  • Kimberly Sheldon (ksheldon@utk.eduwww.biogeographyresearch.org) – climate change and species range shifts, integrating ecophysiology into conservation planning, local knowledge.
    How can we accommodate species range shifts in conservation planning? What is the best way to integrate physiological data into biodiversity planning? How can local knowledge and scientific understanding be integrated for effective conservation?


In addition, other colleagues in EEB (e.g. Gary McCrackenSusan Kalisz) may recruit students as part of this effort.



All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment and admissions without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, or covered veteran status. Eligibility and other terms and conditions of employment benefits at The University of Tennessee are governed by laws and regulations of the State of Tennessee, and this non-discrimination statement is intended to be consistent with those laws and regulations


Applications are due 1st January 2019 for enrolment in August 2019, but applicants are strongly encouraged to contact prospective advisors now


Detailed information about this opportunity is also given here 

If you need any support in making an application, post your question in the comment box below.

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Author: African Academic/Researcher

Science and Research by Africans for Africa

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