I am currently accepting applications for a PhD Assistantship focused on wildlife responses to small-scale disturbance in saltmarshes.


The Gulf Coast of Florida represents one of the largest extents of undeveloped coastal marsh in North America. This highly dynamic system is subject to a number of disturbances (e.g., tidal inundation and fire) that drive vegetation zonation. Specifically, disturbance-dependent plants (e.g., Spartina alternaflora and Distichlis spicata) that are out-competed by more widespread Juncus romerianus appear to be important components of the habitats of a number of threatened species including the Florida saltmarsh vole and eastern black rail. As sea levels continue to rise, management approaches that facilitate the landward transgression of these important successional communities will become increasingly important. This project aims broadly at mimicking 2 types of small-scale disturbance (herbivory and wrack deposition) to improve and expand habitat for Florida saltmarsh vole and eastern black rail.


Project Description:

We seek a phd student to implement experimental treatments, monitor wildlife responses, inventory food resources (tidal macroinvertebrates) and investigate coastal disturbance dynamics more broadly. Currently one year of funding as a Research Assistant is available, with successive years covered by a Teaching Assistantship. However, students seeking more emphasis on research will have opportunities to pursue additional research funding (for example via the NSF Graduate Research Funding Program: https://www.nsfgrfp.org/). Regardless, the student will develop both research and teaching expertise in the disciplines of field ecology, coastal conservation, and remote sensing. The student will be based at the University of Chapel Hill, but will spend considerable time in Florida assisting with field work, particularly in the first year. The student will regularly engage with collaborators at the University of Florida and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service.

The selected applicant will receive a stipend of $20,000/yr, in addition to tuition, fees, and health insurance. 



At a minimum, applicants must have completed a Bachelor’s Degree in a relevant discipline (e.g., geography, ecology, earth science, etc.). In addition, applicants must be able to 1) demonstrate how their research interests align with that of the lab and 2) how this position fits within the applicant’s professional goals and trajectory.

Ideal candidates will be able to demonstrate expertise and/or ability in at least some of the following areas:

  • Field ecology methods (plants or animals)

  • Data management and statistical analysis

  • Geospatial data processing and analysis

  • Technical writing

  • Public speaking or teaching

  • Problem solving

  • Boat driving and trailering


To apply:

Those interested in applying should prepare a 1-page cover letter detailing how this position fits with your interests/goals, a complete CV chronicling past experience, and a list of 3 references. The application materials should be contained within a single document (.doc or .pdf) and emailed to ptaillie@unc.edu with “Disturbance PhD application” in the subject line. Applications will be reviewed as received, and a candidate will be selected by early November. After inital interviews, the selected candiate will need to apply to the UNC Graduate School by December 13th. In the meantime, please feel free to email me with questions about the position.


A typical saltmarsh along the Gulf Coast with a specially designed camera trap for monitoring small mammals in tidal environments