The Integrative Ecology Lab at Temple University has two PhD student positions available for Fall 2023 to work on our invasive spotted lanternfly projects. These positions will provide students with the exciting opportunity to work in the epicenter of a recent invasion using combinations of field research, data science, and statistical modeling methods.
The invasive spotted lanternfly, which originates from China, was first introduced to the United States in Berks County, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, in 2014. Since then, it has spread to at least 9 surrounding states. The spotted lanternfly invasion is a fascinating study system for invasion ecology: lanternflies feed on a wide range of host plant species, thrive in urban landscapes yet are also agricultural pests, disperse through a mix of natural and human-assisted dispersal, and appear to have few natural enemies within their invaded range.
Due to their predicted economic impacts in the form of agricultural and forestry damage on the order of $324 million annually to PA alone, research on spotted lanternfly ecology is badly needed and will directly inform management. Therefore, the Integrative Ecology Lab is researching the factors that influence how the spotted lanternfly is spreading in collaboration with researchers from Penn State, Purdue University, the USDA, and others. This is a great opportunity for students interested in invasion ecology, quantitative ecology, and/or urban ecology who want to conduct research that has a societal impact. The available positions are:
PhD in invasion ecology and habitat selection ecology
Under the mentorship of Dr. Jocelyn Behm, the student will investigate how habitat quality influences spotted lanternfly habitat selection and population growth. At present, we know very little about what habitats spotted lanternfly uses. The student will conduct field and GIS assessments of habitat quality using cutting edge small satellite data to assess habitat use with the goal of informing spotted lanternfly management. Students interested in this position should familiarize themselves with Dr. Behm’s work including this recent manuscript on lanternfly habitat use and contact Dr. Behm directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
PhD in invasion ecology under climate change
Under the mentorship of Dr. Matt Helmus, the student will investigate how spotted lanternfly population dynamics and range limits are influenced by climate change. This will involve quantitative analysis of existing large datasets on spotted lanternfly occurrences linked to mechanistic models of population growth. Students interested in this position should familiarize themselves with Dr. Helmus’s work including this recent manuscript on predicting lanternfly spread and contact Dr. Helmus directly (email@example.com).
Qualifications and expectations
Students selected for either position will be expected to develop specific research questions for their PhD that align with their personal interests under the larger research themes. Applicants must have prior research experience and a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in biology, environmental science, or other related fields. Ideal applicants are those with prior ecological research experience plus familiarity with GIS, statistics, and R. Because our research methods are highly quantitative, strong quantitative skills, or at the very least an interest in quantitative methods, is needed. Most importantly, the successful applicant will be well-organized, able to work both independently and in a team setting, and motivated to learn. Above all, we are looking for applicants who are excited to join an interdisciplinary team conducting interesting research on an invasive species of high concern.
Full applications are due to Temple’s Graduate School on December 15 (November 15 for international applicants). However, interested applicants should initially contact either Jocelyn Behm (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Matt Helmus (email@example.com) well in advance of the deadline. Include in this initial contact your CV, unofficial transcript, and a brief statement of interest that describes your relevant background experiences, why you are interested in the position, and questions you have about the research, etc. Applicants are highly encouraged to check out our lab website, our spotted lanternfly research dashboard and Temple Biology’s graduate program information.
The Integrative Ecology Lab is located within Temple’s Center for Biodiversity and housed in a new LEED-Gold certified building on Temple’s main campus in historic Philadelphia. Temple University, founded in 1884, is a public R1 university with a diverse student body of ca. 40,000 students. Within the US, it is the sixth largest provider of graduate school education and is within the top 4% of research institutions.
Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States, filled with numerous attractions (e.g., Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Zoo, Academy of Natural Sciences), amazing food, and a quick train ride to New York City and Washington DC. Philadelphia is nestled within an extensive national/state trail and park system, and is very close to Valley Forge National Park, the Pocono Mountains, the unique New Jersey Pine Barren ecosystem, and the beaches of the Delaware and New Jersey shores.
Temple University is an equal opportunity, equal access, affirmative action employer committed to achieving a diverse community.