Graduate Opportunities

CLICK HERE for a comprehensive list of open graduate studies projects for fall 2017. 

Further details on specific projects can be found below.

Coupled Natural-Human Systems MS/PhD research opportunity: Northern Arizona University

Applications are invited for a student in the PhD program in Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability (ESES) or the MS Environmental Science & Policy (ES&P) program at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability. The student will work on a National Science Foundation-funded Coupled Natural-Human Systems project to study connectivity between protected areas and surrounding socio-ecological systems. The successful applicant will lead the ecological field data collection component of this project, working closely with an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional group of PIs as well as with undergraduate and graduate students from different institutions and disciplines. The successful applicant will perform summer fieldwork in several national parks across the US, collecting vegetation and habitat data. Current funding will cover research costs as well as two years of stipend and tuition for the successful applicant, and we will work with the applicant to develop a funding plan to cover the remainder of the student’s graduate program.

The ideal candidate will have:

  • Strong willingness to work independently and collaboratively with interdisciplinary colleagues from diverse backgrounds
  • Experience conducting ecological research
  • Ability to perform strenuous physical activity, particularly hiking to reach sampling sites
  • Comfort camping in the field during data collection season
  • Interest in interdisciplinary, coupled-systems quantitative modeling
  • Completed a Master of Science degree (strongly preferred)

Interested applicants should send an email addressed to Clare Aslan ( In addition to the preferred qualifications for these positions, potential candidates must meet the admission standards and be fully accepted into the ESES PhD or ES&P MS program. After discussing interest with Dr. Aslan, applicants must submit: online application; transcripts; test scores; three letters of recommendation; and a statement of your interests in and goals for the graduate program, and your reasons for pursuing an advanced degree. Application materials are due January 15, 2017 for Fall 2017 admission. You can access the application portal and view graduate school requirements here:

Understanding the socioecological effects of non-agricultural tree planting by landowners in rural Costa Rica

Applications are invited for two graduate students (one with a social science emphasis and one with an ecological science emphasis) to study the socioecological effects of tree planting by landowners in rural Costa Rica (Coto Brus canton). This interdisciplinary study is aimed at understanding: (1) whether ongoing tree planting could provide resources for seed dispersers and seed sources for forest regeneration, (2) the social drivers behind the practice, and (3) benefits and barriers landowners may face (e.g., policy, economic). Students will be involved in fieldwork in Costa Rica, where they will gain a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between landowner practices and ecosystem functions. Although the student with an emphasis in ecological sciences will focus on objective 1 and the student with an emphasis in social sciences will focus on objective 2 and 3, the students will collaborate closely and be expected to embrace an interdisciplinary graduate research experience. Volunteers will be instrumental in data collection for this research effort, which is funded and supported by Earthwatch. Students will therefore work with, train, and supervise volunteers throughout data collection.

Preferred qualifications:

  • Comfortable working with people with diverse backgrounds and skill levels
  • Conversational Spanish

For more information, please send an email addressed to both Kerry Grimm ( AND Clare Aslan (

Degree title: MS Environmental Sciences & Policy

Arctic Glacial Lakes, Catchments and Climate Linkages

We invite applications from prospective graduate students to join our NSF-funded project focusing on glacial-lacustrine sedimentation to investigate past and future climate change. This interdisciplinary project is aimed at understanding the major processes that govern sedimentation in Arctic lakes in glaciated catchments. New glacier, hydrology, limnology, and sediment modern-process studies will provide the input data to calibrate and test process-based earth system models. Students will be involved in Arctic fieldwork, where they will gain a more comprehensive understanding of how glaciers, hydrology, and lakes relate to the Arctic system. 

Please contact Darrell Kaufman or Nick McKay for more information, or visit the project website:

Degree options include:

               • MS Geology

               • MS Environmental Sciences & Policy – Paleoenvironments emphasis

               • PhD Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability – Climate and Environmental Change emphasis

Sedimentary records of annual- to millennial-scale Holocene climate in southern Alaska

Applications are invited for graduate students to study Holocene climatic variability in southern Alaska based on proxy climate evidence from lake sediments. Field sites include both glacial-fed and non-glacial lakes from which sediments can be analyzed for a variety of biological and physical properties and used to infer hydroclimatic variability on time scales ranging from annual to millennial. Volcanic ash layers and annually laminated sediment provide the basis for precise geochronology.  These new records will build on a strong regional network of proxy proxy climate records from tree rings glacier ice and other sources to improve the understanding of how shifts in the mean state of climate during the Holocene were associated with changes in north Pacific climate variability. Contact Darrell Kaufman for more information.

 Degree options include:

               • MS Geology

               • MS Environmental Sciences & Policy – Paleoenvironments emphasis

               • PhD Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability – Climate and Environmental Change emphasis

More Opportunities

  • Professors Paul Umhoefer and Mike Smith are looking for 1-2 MS students to join a regional scale project on the stratigraphy, provenance, and tectonics of the Pennsylvanian to Permian of the greater Southwest.  These new graduate student positions are dependent on funding that should be known by the end of 2016.
  • Professor Deborah Huntzinger is recruiting 1 PhD and 1 MS student for the fall of 2017. Her research focuses on improving the understanding of complex environmental systems and our ability to forecast their future variability. Current research projects focus on advancing the understanding of land-atmosphere carbon exchange and how the terrestrial carbon cycle impacts and is influenced by climate.

SESES Graduate School Program Inquiries, please contact Amy Wolkowinsky, Graduate Program Coordinator