Prospective students

PhD assistantship, Pinyon Jay habitat use and movement ecology

Location – Athens, GA with fieldwork in Utah and New Mexico

Salary - $30,000 per year plus tuition, fees, and benefits

Start Date – January 10th, 2022 (preferred)

Last Date To Apply – September 24th, 2021


We are currently seeking applicants for a PhD assistantship (4 years, fully funded) available in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia to study Pinyon Jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) habitat use and movement ecology in response to piñon-juniper woodland treatments. Students from under-represented groups in wildlife fields are strongly encouraged to apply.

Piñon-juniper woodland treatments are common throughout the western United States, though the effects of these treatments on Pinyon Jays, a species undergoing rapid population declines across its range, are poorly understood. This study will provide land management agencies critical information about impacts of woodland management on Pinyon Jays, as well as produce significant, novel data about habitat use, movement, and life history of the species. These data will allow land managers to better understand the needs of the species and inform how future management practices can be implemented to reduce or mitigate negative impacts.

The selected student will be expected to conduct fieldwork at multiple locations throughout the state of Utah and northern New Mexico. Fieldwork will include: conducting grid-based point counts, capturing and banding jays, deploying tracking tags using conventional harness-style attachments, and possibly performing colony counts. The student will also be expected the analyze multiple types of data using modern statistical methods and communicate project results to multiple audiences, including the scientific community, agency staff, and the general public.

Preference will be given to candidates who can enroll for the spring 2022 semester. The successful applicant will receive a $30,000 per year stipend (12-month). Tuition is also covered and the student will receive either direct bill payments or a stipend supplement to cover at least 75% of the student portion of university fees and health insurance. The student will be advised by Dr. Clark Rushing at the University of Georgia, while working closely with collaborators at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the US Fish & Wildlife Service.


  • B.S. degree in wildlife biology, management, ecology, or related discipline

  • M.S. degree in wildlife biology, management, ecology, or related discipline strongly preferred. GRE scores are not required

  • Demonstrated experience capturing and banding birds, including attachment of tracking tags

  • Demonstrated experience collecting and analyzing ecological data

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

  • A strong interest in quantitative techniques and spatial ecology

  • Experience in R is strongly preferred

Note that this position will require the ability to legally operate state-owned vehicles in off-road conditions.

Interested applicants should submit the following documents as a single PDF or word document to Dr. Clark Rushing ( by September 24th, 2021:

  • 1.5-page (max) cover letter summarizing your interest in the position, qualifications, and experience, as well as research and career aspirations

  • Curriculum Vitae

  • An applicant-led writing sample (e.g., thesis chapter, publication)

  • Unofficial academic transcripts

  • Names and contact information for three professional references

As always, students with their own funding are welcome to reach out to me about joining the lab. I am happy to advise students working on a variety of topics related to ornithology, quantitative ecology, and conservation.

A note on quantitative skills for prospective students

Ecology is an inherently quantitative field and it is becoming nearly impossible to be a practicing ecologist without some training in statistics and programming. The research done in my lab reflects these realities and I want all of my students to graduate with a toolbox of quantitative skills that will allow them to be successful professionals. I do not, however, require new students to arrive on campus with extensive experience in these areas. More important to me is a desire to learn quantitative skills and apply them to exciting scientific questions. At the end of the day, if you can formulate good questions and are willing to put in the time to learn how to answer them, you will be a successful scientist. So if you’re interested in the types of questions that we ask in the Rushing lab but don’t consider yourself a quantitative ecologist, don’t hesitate to contact me about joining the lab.