Appalachian Laboratory

Graduate Research Assistant in Stable Isotope Ecology

The stable isotope ecology lab of Dr. David Nelson at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Appalachian Laboratory is seeking applications for a M.S. Graduate Research Assistant. The successful applicant will join an interdisciplinary research team (including scientists from USGS and the University of Wisconsin Madison) seeking to inform management and recovery of a threatened native species (spotted owls) by understanding movement and population-expansion dynamics of an invasive competitor (barred owls) in western North America. The student will have opportunity to perform hydrogen isotope analyses and associated geospatial analyses of those data to estimate subpopulations of origin and dispersal distances of barred owls, with the goal of parameterizing range-wide demographic models to help identify the spatial extent across which management of barred owls will most benefit rapidly declining populations of spotted owls. This research will have real-world application by informing the conservation of declining spotted owls through management of barred owls, as noted in a recent study, which is providing many samples for this work.

Start Date: Summer or Fall 2022 

Location: The UMCES Appalachian Laboratory provides a unique and research-focused educational experience for graduate students studying terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems throughout the world. The lab is in Frostburg, Maryland, a small college town with a low cost of living and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities. See

Qualifications: (1) BA or BS in biology, ecology, wildlife biology, or related field and (2) Interest in conducting interdisciplinary research related to wildlife conservation.

Description: The assistantship will include a tuition waiver, benefits and a 12-month annual stipend of approximately $26,000. 2.25 years of support are available through a research assistantship.  

Program: The student will matriculate through the M.S. program in Wildlife/Fisheries or Applied Ecology and Conservation Biology at Frostburg State University, which is located adjacent to the Appalachian Laboratory.

How to express interest in position: Please complete this form ( Select applicants will be contacted by Dr. Nelson to discuss the position and the candidate’s application. A subset of these applicants will be invited to formally apply. Inquiries received before November 1, 2021, will receive priority consideration, but the position will remain open until filled. Dr. Nelson is enthusiastic about increasing the diversity of science and scientists and strongly encourages students from STEM-underrepresented populations, including but not limited to first generation students and veterans, to apply. Inquires may be sent to Dr. Nelson (

Information about AL and UMCES can be found at: UMCES is an affirmative action, EOE. Individuals with disabilities, veterans, women and minorities are encouraged to apply.

Appalachian Laboratory