We are seeking a mature, energetic PhD student to work within the Global Change Ecology Lab at the University of Alabama on a Natural Climate Change Solutions project at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, South Carolina. The student will have the opportunity to work with a multi-institutional group including scientists from University of Georgia, U.S. Forest Service and Savannah River National Labs. The student will develop their own study focused on carbon, water, and energy dynamics, and be supported by a combination of research and teaching assistantships.

In this study we propose to engineer an alternative longleaf ecosystem, where prescribed fire is replaced with annual harvest of a native understory biofuel crop of big bluestem and Indiangrass. This engineered longleaf ecosystem will thereby provide landowners an opportunity for annual profits while maintaining the integrity and development of the forest. We will determine the success of this project by comparing this engineered site with two other longleaf-loblolly forests representative of the region, where prescribed fire is applied biannually: a 100+ year-old remnant forest, and reclaimed forest planted with these native grasses. We will determine how variation in climate interacts with legacy effects to impact carbon, water and energy exchange over space and time while testing the viability of native grasses as biofuels to aid in mitigating fossil fuel emissions.

The position will entail:
1. Monthly trips of 3-6 days of field work at SRS
2. Maintaining eddy covariance tower operations
3. Processing and analyzing eddy covariance data
4. Coordination with our biofuels project at SRS

The applicant should be highly motivated with a have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is preferred, in ecology, atmospheric sciences, atmospheric chemistry or related field. R programing skills and a good quantitative background are needed for this project. Experience with eddy covariance techniques and Campbell Scientific loggers is a plus. Funding consists of an annual stipend of ~$26K per year plus tuition waiver. During the fall and spring semesters, the student will receive a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (0.5 FTE). During summer, the student will receive a Graduate Research Assistantship.

Interested candidates should contact Gregory Starr (gstarr@ua.edu) and send a CV, letter of interest, and research statement.

Application deadline is Feb 28, 2023

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