For prospective graduate students

I would like to have 1 or 2 new students join us next summer (2017). I currently have 2 second year students (Laura and Catie).

I generally take students through the EEOB program in the Dept. of Biology (this is a PhD-only program) but can also take students via the Curriculum in Environment and Ecology (which offers both an MS and a PhD).
I am looking for experienced (an MS degree in ecology or an equivalent amount of research as a undergrad / post bac), mature, creative, positive, and cooperative and collaborative yet independent people for my lab. Being comfortable with R (stats), handling data, the publishing and funding process, and international travel (and all the hassle that goes with it), is essential. 
We combine field ecology (generally macroecology with some experimentation) with a quantitative approach to tackle both basic and applied problems.  Some of my own interests are in coral reef conservation, however, I place a very strong emphasis on theoretical ecology and evolution and expect students doing applied work to do so with a conceptual perspective.  
There is tons of advice online about applying to grad school, being a graduate student, and being a marine biologist:
Also see this great new piece on applying to grad school by Casey Dunn.
The take home is more or less: Getting into any ecology graduate program requires very good grades, solid GRE scores, heaps of research experience, ideally a publication or two, and very strong recommendations from people you’ve done field research with. You don’t need to be a genius or work 80 hours a week to be successful in gradate school (or as a scientist). But you do need to be extremely resilient, adaptable, organized, positive, and goal oriented. You’ve got to be driven by intellectual curiosity; the excitement of discovery, and analyzing new data, and NOT because you love dolphins, the ocean or coral reefs. PhD students and scientists spend a lot of time reading and writing, so… And perfectionists: I’m sorry to break it to you but perfectionism and science really don’t mix.  

The deadline for applications is December 6, 2016. Applications cannot be accepted after this date. Once applications are received, we evaluate them to determine who we will invite to visit our campus and interview.  Both CEE and Biology organize on campus interviews in March for competitive students.

Are you still taking new graduate students? Yes, 1 or 2.
How are your students funded? In a variety of ways including NSF and EPA fellowships, TAships (which are plentiful), and College fellowships. Student research funding generally comes from a mixture of small and large external grants obtained by the students (PADI, Waitt, NatGeo, etc.), from internal funds from departments and other campus organizations, and via NSF or other funds to me.
What projects are you working on now? The best way to learn about the work in my lab is to read some of our recent papers. There is also a lot of info on my blog, web page, twitter account, ResearchGate profile, etc. What we will be doing over the next few years will largely be determined by what the students in my lab chose to work on, but generally, we work on marine ecology and conservation, mainly impacts of ocean warming and some aspects of fishing and fisheries management in the Caribbean. I am also very interested in metabolic scaling and biodiversity. The projects you would be working on would be up to you. I don’t hand out / assign canned projects to students, although I share ideas for projects with them and in some cases they would collaborate with me on work I am doing.
What is your advising/mentoring philosophy?  I try to be adaptable to student needs and goals – some students want a lot of input and guidance, others are very independent. I have an open door policy and interact with students fairly regularly, usually weekly, and sometimes daily. Although, generally I think I am becoming a more hands-off advisor. I certainly don’t micromanage students. I have very high expectations in terms of work ethic and work output, i.e., publications. In my view, if it isn’t published, it isn’t science (because peer review is a fundamental part of the scientific process). I treat students like the colleagues they are and not as underlings/minions, i.e., as peer scientists (hence the expectation to publish their work). I don’t usually set deadlines, but I will apply pressure if students are not making progress on their research (especially in writing/submitting/revising papers).
How long does it take to get a PhD at UNC? Ideally and normally 4-5 years. But that’s largely up to the student.
Are you supportive of students targeting non-academic track careers?  Of course. Many of my former students are work for NGOs, in government, etc.


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