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Laboratory of Holly Ernest

PhD position Opening: Wildlife Population Genomics

PhD position Opening: Wildlife Population Genomics


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A PhD student position is available to work on wildlife population genomics and health at the University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie. The position will be primarily lab-based within the Ernest Wildlife Genomics and Disease Ecology Laboratory in the Department of Veterinary Sciences with course work and degree granted in the UW Graduate Program in Ecology (PiE). Research will use genomic and other genetic tools to study wildlife populations in the Rocky Mountain West and/or California, especially large mammal species, and with intersections with disease ecology.

The Ernest Wildlife Genomics and Disease Ecology Laboratory is a dynamic and highly collaborative lab at UW with University of California affiliation and works with other academic institutions, as well as state, federal, and non-governmental agencies. There are many opportunities to work with recognized leaders who apply excellence in science toward wildlife conservation and management. Quality mentorship of trainees of all educational levels, including this PhD student position, is a priority for the laboratory. University of Wyoming hosts excellent wildlife and ecology science and a collegial academic atmosphere. Laramie offers easy access to the Rocky Mountains and outdoor activities including skiing, hiking, climbing, birding, and fishing & hunting.

In addition to research and course work, responsibilities will include teaching (TA-ing), lab maintenance tasks, and mentoring other students. The work includes reading and interpreting very small print and subtle visual differences such as in data readouts, lifting of objects up to 30 pounds, rabies vaccination for work on carnivores, and occasional field work involving hiking and work in potentially harsh outdoors environments will be required (see below, under requirements).

To apply for this position please submit an electronic application via email in PDF format (preferably as a single pdf file) by email to with subject line including “Wildlife Genomics PhD student application” and include a cover letter stating research and education interests, C.V., transcripts and GPA for undergrad and MS grad program, GRE scores (exam taken within 5 years) including both percentiles and specifically list how the “required” and any of the “preferred” qualifications are met, and the contact information (name, position, email, phone, institutional affiliation, and research area) for at least three research/academic-related references including MS adviser(s) to Dr. Holly Ernest, Professor Wildlife Genomics and Disease Ecology; Wyoming Excellence Chair. Preferred start date is for Fall 2017 semester (considerations also might be made for Spring 2018 (January 2018). Applications reviews will begin as soon as received after June 1, 2017, and the position may remain open until filled.  This position is not funded (not available) for an international student.

Qualifications: The successful candidate will have:

1) An MS degree in wildlife biology, ecology, genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, GIS, or related field with research experience involving laboratory data generation and population-level data analysis. MS may have involved wildlife, domestic animals, plants, or humans. Population genetics course work and research are desirable.

2) Good grades (GPA above 3.3 desirable) and GRE scores (preferably >75%ile). GRE required taken within past 5 years.

3) Demonstrated experience in the following areas: sample handling and archiving, research laboratory skills, and  skills with organization of files and data in a research setting.

4) Quantitative skills as demonstrated through documented experience with R software environment, and software used in population genetic analysis.

5) Passion for applied conservation-oriented research in wildlife genetics, non-invasive DNA analysis, population genomics, and ecology of wildlife and their pathogens.

6) Track record of collegiality and interpersonal skills, effective communication, creative leadership, and problem-solving abilities that promote a positive team atmosphere. Ability to work both independently and in teams, and ability to respond and adjust to difficult situations. Demonstrated ability to work with and communicate with wide diversity of stakeholders, staff, students, field biologists, and members of the public.

7) Evidence of conference research presentations and peer-review science publication (in press, submitted are desirable as well) in population genetics.

8) Demonstrated ability to conduct occasional field work that may involve harsh environmental conditions (cold, hot, windy, steep, rocky, etc.), sampling wildlife (blood, tissues, feces, potential for exposure to disease organisms that can cause illness in people, etc.), and hiking over rough terrain with heavy gear.

9) Ability to work or travel occasionally for short periods of time (such as a few days or up to a week) and including weekends, holidays, and evenings; a valid driver’s license.

10) Willingness to get vaccinated for rabies and/or blood test for adequate rabies titer if rabies-vaccinated prior. Funding for vaccination and blood test will be provided if necessary for student’s work after starting the position.


Desirable skills, knowledge, and abilities include any of the following:

  1. Next Generation Sequencing DNA library preparation techniques and equipment (such as RADseq, or similar techniques for SNPs or whole genome sequencing and equipment (Illumina sequencers, tape station or fragment analyzer, Pippin size selection, etc).
  2. Bioinformatics for genomics: Linux-based computing and bash programing; RADseq analytic programs such as STACKS and others; programming language used in genetic and/or genomic data analysis (such as Python, Perl).
  3. Geographic Informations Systems (GIS) knowledge, skills, and abilities including ESRI Inc. programs such as ArcGIS and/or other geospatial analysis packages in R; data analysis, map and publication-quality figure creation using GIS.
  4. Experience with wildlife field work that involved repeated handling of free-ranging wildlife animals in challenging environmental conditions.
  5. Wild mammalian mark-recapture study design, field work, telemetry data analysis, tracking, and/or non-invasive DNA analysis.
  6. Quantitative skills in mark-recapture analysis (such as MARK, SECR, and/or CAPWIRE and similar programs), statistics, and computational modeling.
  7. Demonstrated knowledge, skills, and abilities in any of the following areas: Quantitative (real time) and/or digital PCR, laboratory and computational analysis of genotypic DNA data, immunogenetics, non-invasive (fecal, hair, etc.) DNA laboratory techniques, and/or construction and maintenance of SQL/relational databases for large data sets.
  8. Knowledge of ecological modeling, including Bayesian approaches.

Contact Dr. Holly Ernest at

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