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Graduate research opportunities

EEB graduate student opportunities in research labs for Fall 2015.

Please refer to the EEB graduate faculty website to learn more about the research of EEB graduate faculty.  Many of our faculty are looking for new students every year. Below is a list of faculty who are looking for students in specific areas with their personal statements. Funding is often available on their research projects.

In addition to the list below, please check the EEB graduate faculty directory for graduate advisors.

Mark Bee

My lab investigates the mechanisms and evolution of animal communication. A major goal of our research is to understand how auditory systems solve the difficult problem of extracting evolutionarily important information from vocalizations in noisy social environments. Frogs are excellent animal models for such questions. For Fall 2015, I will be recruiting a new PhD student interested in working on the perceptual and neural mechanisms of auditory perception in frogs as they relate to vocal communication.

Ran Blekhman
My lab studies the interaction between the human host and the trillions of microbes that colonize each of us. We generate genomics data, and develop computational and population genetics approaches, to understand how we interact with our microbial communities, and how the symbiosis between us and our microbiome evolved throughout human history. I will be recruiting one graduate student to start in Fall 2015. More information on our research can be found in our lab website,

Kathryn Bushley

Research in my lab addresses the roles of fungal secondary metabolites in shaping the interactions of fungi with plants, insects, and other organisms.  Using a combination of comparative genomics, phylogenetics, natural products chemistry, molecular genetics, and metabolomics, we examine the evolution, diversity, and functions of fungal secondary metabolites, particularly nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs) and polyketide synthetases (PKSs).  Most projects involve a combination of computational and experimental work.  Some current projects in the lab include a population genomic analyses of NRPS evolution and investigation of insect pathogenicity across strains of the beetle pathogen Tolypocladium inflatum, a comparative genomics and transcriptomics approach to identify genes, metabolites, and regulatory networks that allow fungi in the genus Beauveria to interact with distinct hosts, and 3) investigation of the role of metabolites produced by endophytic and insect pathogenic fungi in mediating herbivory and resistance to nematodes and other insect pests.  Seeking to recruit one student for fall of 2015.

Emma Goldberg

Research in my lab uses theory to address a wide range of questions in macroevolution and evolutionary ecology, especially regarding biogeography and plant mating systems.  I am particularly interested in advising students who strive to think clearly about related topics by developing mathematical models, though complementary empirical work is also possible. I hope to recruit one student to join the lab in 2015. http://www.umn/edu/~eeg

George Heimpel

I am recruiting a student to work on the ecology of an invasive parasitic fly in the Galapagos Islands that is attacking Darwin’s finches.  Aspects of the project include invasion genetics, community ecology and conservation. The project includes field work in the Galapagos and/or in mainland Ecuador; Spanish proficiency is preferred.  Other projects - involving host-parasitoid interactions and biological control -  may be available as well.

Forest Isbell

My lab investigates the anthropogenic causes and ecosystem consequences of changes in plant diversity. Much of our field work is done at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. We are currently investigating the reversibility of nitrogen-induced changes in community structure and ecosystem functioning, and temporally lagged changes in community structure and ecosystem function following habitat fragmentation. I am recruiting one PhD student to begin during Fall 2015. For more information on our research, visit

Suzanne McGaugh

My lab will have openings for one-two graduate students starting in Fall 2015. Major projects in the lab focus on understanding how gene-flow, recombination, selection, and drift have shaped the evolution of Mexican cavefish from surface fish. Other projects include investigating the drivers of recombination rate variation in a variety of taxa and comparative genomics in reptile populations. Most projects in the lab will have a computational component, though a significant amount of freedom will be allowed for pursuing individual projects and interests.

Craig Packer

I will be looking for a mathematically-minded gradute student to explore the basis of lion sociality and predator-prey dynamics.

Allison Shaw

My research uses mathematical theory to study questions in evolutionary and behavioral ecology. I am currently recruiting graduate students who are interested in developing primarily theory projects, or theory-empirical projects jointly with a co-advisor. Possible topics include interactions between movement, climate change, parasites and infectious diseases, and/or sociality, or other topics of mutual interest.

Andrew Simons

I am interested in the phylogenetic relationships of fishes, phylogeography, and the evolution of trophic morphology. Current projects in the lab include phylogenetic relationships and evolution of trophic shifts of blennies, evolution of niche shifts in herrings and anchovies, and co-evolution of mussels and their fish hosts. I am interested in recruiting one student for fall of 2015.

David Stephens

My lab works at the interface between behavioral ecology and animal psychology.  We are interested in how evolutionary and ecological processes have shaped animal information processing abilities.  We are interested in all forms of behavior plasticity, but we have focused recently on the experimental evolution of learning (in Drosophila) and the economics of signaling (in blue jays). Our work is experimental and conceptually driven.  We maintain a colony of captive blue jays and starlings. We are hoping to recruit a new student this year, and encourage email enquiries and applications. The ideal student in our group has some background in both evolutionary biology and psychology.  Quantitative skills, such as mathematical modeling and computer programing are also desirable.

Robert Sterner

My group is focused on ecological stoichiometry, which in plain English means we are interested in how the nutrient composition of organisms shapes their ecology.  Along the way we also do a fair bit of basic biogeochemistry of lakes.  For 2015, I will be looking for one or two students to work with me at the Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minnesota Duluth ( on projects involving plankton-nutrient interactions in Earth's largest lake. 

Marlene Zuk

We use insects to study the evolution of mating behavior and secondary sexual characters in natural populations. Recent studies from the lab have focused on how conflicting natural and sexual selection pressures shape behavior and morphology in Pacific field crickets, work that takes advantage of a case of extremely rapid evolution. We also study how insects defend themselves against parasites.  Finally, I am hoping to start a project examining same-sex behavior in Laysan albatross.  I am interested in recruiting one or two students for the upcoming year. For more information, please see