Careers at Virginia Tech

Postdoctoral Associate

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Work type: Research Faculty
Senior management: Natural Resources
Department: Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Location: Blacksburg, Virginia
Categories: Research / Scientific, Natural Resources

Job Description

A postdoctoral associate with a passion for conservation science and/or social-ecological science is sought to contribute to a 3-year social-ecological study of sea level rise and land use decisions. The postdoctoral associate will be co-mentored by Drs. Ashley Dayer (social scientist) and Elizabeth Hunter (ecologist) at Virginia Tech and be part of their dynamic labs, as well as part of a project team with a remote sensing professor and PhD student. The university values diversity and continually strives to maintain and promote an inclusive learning and research environment that embrace all students, faculty, and staff. We are particularly interested in applications from persons identifying with groups currently underrepresented in natural resources fields, including but not limited to Black, Indigenous, people of color, people with disabilities, and underrepresented genders. This would include cis women, trans women, trans men, non-binary people, and those who are otherwise marginalized.

The research project is funded by the NASA Land-cover and Land-use Change program. We are studying sea level rise in mid-Atlantic coastal landscapes, especially agricultural and forestry lands, as linked socio-ecological systems. Specifically, we are exploring the interplay of ecological responses to SLR and human decision-making and whether natural ecosystems (e.g., marshes, tidal flats) will migrate upslope as a response to SLR. This postdoctoral associate will focus on the component of the project understanding how coastal landowner decisions on working lands may influence land cover of natural ecosystems. We will conduct targeted surveys to identify how the degree of change influences behaviors and decisions, as well as what other factors modulate or constrain those decisions (e.g., tax rates, market value for products). We will integrate both components (remote sensing model and analyses of landowner behaviors and decisions) in a predictive agent-based model (ABM). We will create scenarios of SLR and economic pressures on landowners and project ABM estimates of relationships between landcover and landowner decisions to predict the type and degree of landcover change. By making these social-ecological connections, we will be able to make better predictions of how land cover will change as a function both of direct SLR impacts and human responses to them.

The postdoctoral associate will: 1) Coordinate project logistics and team activities; 2) Design and lead qualitative and quantitative social science research; 3) Support other research activities in the projects as needed & aligned with the postdocā€™s skills and interests (e.g., social-ecological predictive modeling); 4) Mentor undergraduate and graduate students; 5) Publish peer-reviewed articles; 6) Communicate activities and results throughout the project to the coastal conservation community ; and 7) Be an active member of the Hunter and Dayer Labs and a growing post-doc community in the Global Change Center.

The position requires travel to conduct field work in coastal areas of the East Coast of the US and conferences in the US and internationally

Required Qualifications

- Ph.D. in natural resources; social-ecological sciences; social sciences related to conservation, natural resources, and/or wildlife management; or ecological science. PhD must be awarded no more than four years prior to the effective date of appointment with a minimum of one year eligibility remaining.
- Knowledge of social science (e.g., psychology, sociology) concepts, principles, and methods as applied to wildlife or other natural resource management sufficient to contribute to project design, data analysis and science communication.
- Demonstrated skills in collaborating with others on teams to accomplish shared objectives.
- Excellent communication skills and organizational skills.
- Experience writing peer-reviewed publications

Preferred Qualifications

- Experience in project coordination and management.
- Experience communicating scientific results and methods to conservation professionals.
- Experience mentoring undergraduate or graduate students or interns.
- Experience with social-ecological science.
- Experience studying private landowners, agricultural producers, or forest landowners.
- Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Knowledge of sea level rise and/or marsh migration


Appointment Type


Salary Information

Salary Range of $50,000-$56,000

Review Date


Additional Information

The successful candidate will be required to have a criminal conviction check.

About Virginia Tech

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech pushes the boundaries of knowledge by taking a hands-on, transdisciplinary approach to preparing scholars to be leaders and problem-solvers. A comprehensive land-grant institution that enhances the quality of life in Virginia and throughout the world, Virginia Tech is an inclusive community dedicated to knowledge, discovery, and creativity. The university offers more than 280 majors to a diverse enrollment of more than 36,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in eight undergraduate colleges, a school of medicine, a veterinary medicine college, Graduate School, and Honors College. The university has a significant presence across Virginia, including the Innovation Campus in Northern Virginia; the Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Roanoke; sites in Newport News and Richmond; and numerous Extension offices and research centers. A leading global research institution, Virginia Tech conducts more than $500 million in research annually.

Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or military status, or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or the compensation of other employees or applicants, or on any other basis protected by law.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Jennifer Phillips at during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to the event.

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