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Open PhD position in Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management

November 1, 2017

Keywords: climate change adaptation planning, parks and protected areas, visitor use managment, socio-ecological systems, wildland-urban interface, GIS, geovisualization.

Seeking a PhD student who is eager to work in an interdisciplinary setting on research related to climate change planning and recreational visitor use management in parks and public lands of the Sierra Nevada.

Possible research tasks that the graduate student may assist on include a combination of the following: 1] geovisualization of future climate change scenarios given trade-offs between different land use management practices (e.g. adaptation, restoration, passive) through image alteration, cartographic editing techniques, and other comparative methods (experience with Photoshop a plus); 2] carrying out surveys about the changing landscape of the wildland-urban interface, specifically related to the social and economic impact from climate induced disturbances like wildfire, tree mortality, and  variable snow pack and hydrological conditions on tourism dependent communities that rely on climatic certainty; 3] assessing environmental education curriculum and developing natural resource communication materials for use in National Park youth outreach, including historically underrepresented populations; 4] conducting literature reviews on coupled socio-ecological systems, wildland-urban interface land use planning and policy at various scales, cognitive processes and biases associated with complex environmental change, and protected areas management; 5] analysis of archival material (e.g. photos, text, maps) from parks, forests, and other agencies to better understand changing environmental conditions, socioeconomic factors, and shifting management priorities; 6] collection and analysis of geographic information systems (GIS) data layers to model changes in infrastructure and development, along with provisioning of environmental services and benefits in the Sierra Nevada.

The successful candidate will have a strong background in geography or a closely aligned field such as environmental studies or planning, proficiency with geographic information systems analysis and other interdisciplinary social science methods, and experience working with stakeholders from a diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives. A Master’s degree or professional equivalent is strongly preferred. Additionally, preference will be given to those who have experience with public lands and natural resource agencies, professionally, academically, recreationally, or otherwise.

The doctoral training will be anchored in the Environmental Systems graduate program ( and cross over with opportunities and resources in the Management of Complex Systems department ( The assistantship provides a 9-month stipend, in-state tuition waiver (residency must be acquired in 1-year), and health insurance through a combination of research assistantships and teaching assistantships. Normative time for a Ph.D. is approximately 5 years, and students must be willing to independently seek out and apply for fellowships to support individual research opportunities during the summer months and later years of the program.

The Ph.D. student will work under the direct supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Jenkins as part of a research group. The application deadline for Fall 2018 is January 15th, 2018. Interested students are encouraged to get in contact at their earliest opportunity ( with cover letter of interest highlighting relevant experience, C.V., GRE status/scores, and transcript information (if available) before applying.

For background about the University of California’s growing Merced campus please see the 2020 Plan (, for further details about graduate study please see the Graduate Division website (, and for information about ongoing faculty research throughout the region please see the Sierra Nevada Research Institute (