PhD & Post-doctoral Positions in Forest Community & Ecosystem Ecology

The Bisbing Forest Ecosystem Science lab at the University of Nevada – Reno (UNR, seeks highly motivated, independent candidates for PhD and post-doctoral work on Great Basin forest stand dynamics and ecosystem response to climate change. Research will investigate woody plant functional trait variation across mountain environmental gradients to identify thresholds of tolerance to climate, disturbance, and extended drought. We will evaluate relationships between species and functional diversity at within- and among-community scales to allow for identification of mechanisms of species’ establishment and success for predicting forest ecosystem dynamics and response to climate change.

Long-term permanent plot sampling will be paired with common garden trials, manipulative greenhouse experiments, and predictive modeling to address the following questions:

1) How and why do woody plant functional traits change across natural climatic gradients and over varying spatial scales in the arid Great Basin region?

2) What is the relative importance of microsite versus macroclimate variables in controlling trait variation within and among these communities?

3) How does trait variation influence ecosystem function, such as C sequestration, nutrient cycling, and decomposition rates?

4) Given species’ and community tolerances, what species and associated traits will be maintained under the predicted warmer and drier conditions of the future?

Sampling will occur along elevational gradients in four Great Basin Mountain Ranges (Spring, Sheep, Snake, and Ruby Mountains). Research will require extensive time in the field at high elevation, across rugged terrain, and in extreme arid environments. The successful candidates must have field experience and be comfortable spending extended periods of time traveling to and from remote field sites and working in the backcountry. Ideal candidates will have experience with dendrochronology, greenhouse work, and/or biogeochemical research. Applicants should have an excellent academic record, a strong interest in forest and landscape ecology, and a desire to improve quantitative and writing skills.

PhD Position: The primary responsibilities of the PhD candidate will be establishing field sites, collecting annual ecological data, and maintaining common garden and greenhouse experiments. The successful candidate must apply to the PhD program in Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology ( Preference will be given to applicants with a Master’s degree, evidence of success in establishing a scientific study, and strong quantitative skills. Applicants should have a BS and/or MS in ecology, biology, environmental science, or related field. This position is funded through a combination of research & teaching assistantships.

Post-Doctoral Position: The post-doctoral scholar will assist in study establishment, training of graduate student researchers, and grant and manuscript writing. Ample opportunities exist for pursuit of independent research questions within the project framework.

Anticipated start date of January 2018 but with flexibility up to June 2018.

To apply, please send (1) a letter of interest, including: research interests, career goals, and relevant past experiences; (2) a CV; (3) GRE scores (PhD only); (4) unofficial academic transcripts; and (5) contact telephone numbers and email addresses for three references. Submit application materials as a single pdf file to Dr. Sarah Bisbing at Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.

About Reno: Located in the picturesque Truckee Meadows at the base of the Sierra Nevada, UNR is located 45 minutes from Lake Tahoe, world-class climbing and skiing, and within four hours of San Francisco, the Napa-Sonoma wine country, and Yosemite National Park. If you ski or climb, this is the place to be!


Glacier Bay NP Succession Re-Visit (through the eyes of a geologist)

Science-ing in Glacier Bay National Park with our Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network Team (The three Dr. B’s from L to R: Dr. Allison Bidlack, Dr. Sarah Bisbing, & Dr. Brian Buma)


Check out the recent blog post by Wooster Geology Prof Greg Wiles. He details our adventures in Glacier Bay, and I couldn’t have detailed it better myself! Thanks, Greg!

Ecological great-grandfather’s plots re-discovered and re-measured: William S. Cooper’s Community Succession Plots.


Sitting where my ecological great-grandfather sat before me in Glacier Bay National Park.

In summer 2017, Dr. Brian Buma led a group of scientists (myself included) on a sea-kayaking adventure to re-discover William S. Cooper’s lost plant succession plots in Glacier Bay National Park. William S. Cooper is actually my ecological great-grandfather (through my PhD advisor Dr. David Cooper) & great-great-grandfather (through my MS advisor Dr. Paul Alaback), so it was thrilling to be invited to participate. It was truly the scientific excursion of a lifetime. Our adventure fueled excitement and rapid turnaround of science. Our findings on the 100 year re-measurement are now published in Ecology.

Buma_et_al-2017-Ecology by Buma et al.


Introducing the Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network!


I’d like to formally introduce you to the Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network!  This diverse group of terrestrial and aquatic researchers is collaborating to understand the current and future ecosystem dynamics of the forest to ocean gradient characteristic of global coastal temperate rainforests. Our network will address research related to hydrologic, biogeochemical, and ecological interactions across these systems and influencing nutrient flux on these landscapes. We will support: 1) network exchange of information, 2) research and outreach working groups, and 3) the development of protocols to inform land management and policy decisions.

Community Engagement: Cambria Monterey pine forest health


Fiscalini Ranch Preserve field tour and forest walk led by Dr. Bisbing. Photo credit: Robert Cichowski

A key piece of successful forest management is in providing local communities with the information they need to make appropriate and ecologically-based decisions. Our lab recently led a forest walk for the Friends of Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria, California. Dr. Bisbing provided a short field-lecture on the ecology and biology of the species followed by a tour of the lab’s permanent plot network. The Preserve is contemplating the extent and intensity of management they will undertake to address drought mortality and reduce hazard for local visitors. Our research is tracking mortality across the Cambria Monterey pine forest and providing details for informed management.

Changing with the Times: The Future of Forestry Degrees?

IMG_2324Our forestry program at Cal Poly, along with many other programs nationwide, is looking to the future and working to identify programatic changes that will support the ever-evolving industry while also engaging the students these industries will be dependent upon in the future. Forestry programs have seen diminishing enrollments over the last few decades despite the ample job opportunities available to graduates. So, what gives? Well, cultural, social, and political drivers along with an increased understanding of ecosystem dynamics is challenging forestry programs to be innovative and to alter the structure of the curriculum.

At Cal Poly, we are working to identify the drivers of student interest and hoping to make changes based on these interests. Please help us make progress and positive change by participating in this survey: