Graduate Opportunities

Updated 6/25/14


Ph.D. Graduate Research Assistantship/Teaching Assistantship in Fish Population Dynamics

Responsibilities:  Assistantship will focus on the role of introduced blue catfish populations in tidal portions of Atlantic coast rivers. The most qualified applicant will have a strong quantitative background, strong interest in fish population dynamics and simulation modeling. Duties will include proposal writing, manage and analyze large data-sets, mentor undergraduate students, coordinate with other investigators, and prepare reports and presentations for scientific audiences.

Qualifications: Applicants must have an M.S. in Fisheries, Biology, or similar area for entrance in the program.

Please email a letter of interest, names and contact information of three references, unofficial transcripts, and CV to:
Dr.Donald Orth ( and Dr. Yan Jiao (
Selected applicants will need to apply to the Virginia Tech Graduate School before acceptance.
For more information, please go to the websites of the PIs:
Donald Orth
Yan Jiao

Salary: The assistantship covers tuition, a stipend of $23,000 per year, and student health benefits.
Start Date: Fall Semester 2014
End Date: 8/1 or until filled

Ph.D. Assistantship in Freshwater Mussel Restoration Ecology and Management

Project and Responsibilities: Support is available for a student to pursue a Ph.D. degree in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech. The student will be funded through the Department of Interior's (DOI) Office of Restoration and Damage Assessment (ORDA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to evaluate the accomplishments and effectiveness of two multi-million dollar Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) projects to restore freshwater mussels in the Powell and Clinch Rivers of southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee. The project goal is to gather information from these two cases to better inform assessment and restoration strategies, settlement discussions and restoration project design and implementation for future NRDAR cases involving freshwater mussels.

Key questions related to the assessment-side of each case, include: (1) how to assess injury to mussels, (2) how to establish an ecological baseline for mussels, and (3) how to determine replacement costs and lost services of affected species. Further, the role of adaptive management will be evaluated to determine when corrective action is necessary to change ineffective restoration strategies.

Key activities related to the restoration-side of each case, include:  (1) assessing mussel propagation, culture, and release efforts for each species, including assessment of adaptive management actions taken to increase survival of mussels in hatcheries and at release sites, (2) conducting monitoring at release sites in both rivers to determine mussel survival and growth, (3) conducting an economic evaluation of both NRDAR cases, and (4) summarizing major project accomplishments of each case.

The Ph.D. student will help ORDA and NRDAR program managers answer key questions for each case, including: (1) Have mussel resources been made whole in both rivers by the restoration actions conducted in each restoration plan? (2) Were adequate financial resources recovered to make affected mussel populations whole again? (3) Where are mussel populations and their age-class structures on the ‘recovery curve’, back to baseline, below baseline or above it?

The Ph.D. student will be expected to manage and analyze a variety of data types, prepare reports and manuscripts, present research at professional meetings, hire and mentor undergraduates to conduct field work and data recording, and complete coursework pursuant to a Ph.D. degree. This is excellent opportunity for a student to interact and work cooperatively with biologists and economists at DOI’s Offices of Policy Analysis and Restoration and Damage Assessment, USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center, USFWS and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Qualifications:  MS in Fisheries, Conservation Biology, Environmental Sciences  or a closely related discipline; strong data analysis and statistical skills; fieldwork in streams; mussel sampling and identification; excellent technical writing ability as demonstrated by preparation of project reports and publications; excellent public speaking skills.
Stipend:  $19,000/year plus tuition
Closing date: Until a qualified applicant is selected.
Starting date: August 15, 2014 or until a qualified applicant is hired.
Contact: Email letter of interest, resume, names of three references, GRE scores, and unofficial transcripts to: Dr. Jess Jones, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0321; Phone: 540-231-2266; email: Selected applicant will need to apply to the Virginia Tech Graduate School before acceptance.


M.S. Graduate Research Asst. in Fisheries Population Dynamics and Conservation

Responsibilities: Conduct population dynamics and stock assessment modeling in fisheries. Duties will also include preparing reports and presentations for scientific audiences, coordinating with other investigators, and submitting manuscripts based on his/her work to peer-reviewed journals.

Qualifications: Applicants must have a B.S. in fisheries, ecology, statistics, or related field. The most qualified applicant will have a strong quantitative background, and a strong interest in population dynamics. Knowledge of computing languages will be an asset for appropriate candidates.

Contact: Please email a letter of interest, CV, unofficial transcripts, GRE test scores, and the names of 3 faculty references to Dr. Yan Jiao at below email. Selected applicants will need to apply to the Virginia Tech Graduate School before acceptance.

Salary: The assistantship covers tuition and a competitive stipend ($20,000-$22,000) per year. Expected starting date: Fall Semester 2014.
End Date: 7/30 or until filled


Virginia Tech has a strong commitment to the principle of diversity and, in that spirit, seeks a broad spectrum of candidates including women, minorities, and people with disabilities. Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of race, sex, disability, age, veteran status, national origin, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.