For Fall 2022-2023, we are recruiting 2 PhD students interested in the behavior, ecology, and physiology of pinnipeds
Project overview: We are seeking 2 PhD students to work on a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project entitled “Rules of death across ontogeny in sexually dimorphic mammals”. We will study elephant seals at Año Nuevo Reserve, a 30-minute drive from the UCSC campus, to explore the tug-of-war between natural and sexual selection. For sexually size dimorphic species, it is unknown how ecological processes such as starvation and predation act upon the disparate physiological and behavioral phenotypes of males and females. This project aims to determine how male and female body size differences throughout ontogeny lead to divergent use of the risk-reward landscape and complete niche segregation as adults. Male and female northern elephant seals will be anesthetized, measured, weighed, instrumented, and sampled from weaning through age four. The resulting data will link three biological disciplines: physiological measurements of diving development and energy demands, behavioral partitioning of 3-dimensional space use and diet due to physiological constraints, and ecological consequences of variation in physiology. A meta-analysis across all seal, sea lion, and walrus species will be used to evaluate how sex-specific mortality rates correlate with the degree of polygyny and sexual size dimorphism more broadly. Together, these aims will determine how ecological risk and reward interact with physiological constraints to drive the ontogenetic development of behavioral strategies in sexually dimorphic mammals.
The positions will begin Fall 2022. Three years of funding (stipend + tuition) are available for each student, with the remaining quarters funded by internal or external fellowships and Teaching Assistantships. Dissertation chapters will reflect project deliverables and can also be tailored to student interest and expertise. One student will lead the movement, diving, and diet components, including stable isotope analysis and 3-dimensional spatial modeling. The other student will lead the morphological and physiological components, including O2 store and body condition measurements, prey capture analysis, and bioenergetics model creation. Both will be trained in animal sedation and analytical techniques, and gain valuable experience mentoring undergraduate students in field and laboratory activities as well as outreach activities. In addition to data collected during the project, students will have access to an unparalleled 5-decade demographic and biologging elephant seal dataset led by Dan Costa.
About us: The candidates will be expected to collaborate extensively with each other and with members of the Beltran Lab. We study the ecology, physiology, behavior, and population dynamics of large marine vertebrates. The lab sits within the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at the University of California Santa Cruz. We work closely with students, postdocs, and researchers in the Costa Lab. Our goal is to develop a supportive and respectful community that fosters curiosity and exploration, produces high-quality original science, and launches productive and passionate independent scientists. We expect members of the lab to share our values for enthusiasm, communication, and collective excellence. Lab expectations are available on our website.
UC Santa Cruz is a Hispanic-Serving Institution with a high proportion of first-in-family undergraduate students and is renowned for fostering student social mobility. Our department commits to and advocates for equity, anti-racism, and inclusion in every facet of our work. We welcome candidates who understand the barriers facing traditionally underrepresented groups in higher education, and strongly urge candidates who have engaged in teaching, research, professional and/or public service contributions that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion to apply.
Qualifications: Candidates must hold a Bachelor’s degree in biology, physiology, ecology, statistics, or a related field. The successful candidates for these positions will have a strong working knowledge of wildlife and/or marine ecology, excellent verbal and written communication skills, and analytical expertise including but not limited to spatial analyses of animal location data. Extensive experience with mammal handling are strongly desired. Skills relevant to the project components will be viewed favorably. Applicants with a MSc degree and/or first-author publication are especially encouraged to apply. Fieldwork will require long hours outdoors. International students are welcome to apply.
Application Instructions: To apply, please fill out this Google Form with the following materials:
- A cover letter or statement of purpose highlighting what motivates your research, your short and long-term career goals, and which component of the project interests you most.
- A curriculum vitae / resume that outlines your academic and professional experience.
- A writing sample. This could be a technical report, academic paper, or class research project.
- Copies of unofficial transcripts or a list of classes taken, as well as your undergraduate GPA. Please do not send GRE scores.
- Names and email addresses of 3 references.
For more information contact Roxanne Beltran (firstname.lastname@example.org).