Postdoctoral Research Associates, Institute on Ecosystems
University of Montana - Missoula, MT

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The Montana Institute on Ecosystems (IoE) is a community of scholars and partners with a shared vision to advance integrated environmental sciences and related fields. We draw on the extraordinary landscapes of Montana and beyond to better understand complex ecosystems including the interconnectedness of people and nature . This statewide effort is led from operational hubs at both Montana State University and The University of Montana ( ). Supporting this statewide collaborative approach, a cohort of IoE Postdoctoral Research Associate positions are being advertised through both universities.

Montana and the region provide one of the best and most visible natural laboratories on our planet for science on ecosystems. From the Crown of the Continent to the Upper Missouri to Greater Yellowstone to the High Plains, Montana’s ecosystems provide world-class settings for research and education. Leveraging place and outstanding faculty and students across the Montana University System, the Institute is coordinating and facilitating inter-institutional, interdisciplinary activities in ecosystem and environmental science research, education, and engagement efforts, providing linkages to related activities underway at tribal colleges, and drawing on the expertise and experience of diverse partners. Montana State University and The University of Montana are building the IoE, together.

The University of Montana in Missoula and Montana State University in Bozeman are Montana’s flagship research universities and premier educational institutions. Based in growing and vibrant communities within the “Last Best Place,” each university has diverse faculty and programmatic strengths in the environmental and ecosystem sciences, as well as a sound foundation of scholarship focused on Montana’s extraordinary landscapes. By combining the strengths of these two universities and working across disciplinary, institutional, and geographic boundaries, the Montana Institute on Ecosystems is the place to advance interdisciplinary research on mega-ecosystems, transform education through place-based experiences, and connect relevant science to people and their communities.


The Montana Institute on Ecosystems (IoE) catalyzes and sponsors interdisciplinary research, transformative education, and solution-driven engagement on the environment, focusing on mountain and high plains ecosystems in Montana and globally. Support is now available for a cohort of Postdoctoral Research Associate positions to join collaborative statewide IoE teams studying ecosystem-climate linkages through the integration of microbial, terrestrial, aquatic, and climate sciences. Funded by the Montana NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (MT EPSCoR) Track-1 program, each Postdoctoral Associate will join teams working in and across three broadly defined focus areas (see below). The research framework utilizes four benchmark ecosystems in Montana (the Crown of the Continent, High Plains, Upper Missouri, and Greater Yellowstone), as a globally relevant natural laboratory for understanding climate and land-use change. More information on the EPSCoR research agenda can be found at

Up to six 2-year Postdoctoral Research Associate positions, with possible extension, will be hired by the IoE. The successful applicants will be stationed with 3 post-docs at Montana State University and 3 post-docs at The University of Montana. Post-docs function within the framework of the broader research team but will be co-supervised by the IoE Faculty Fellows overseeing the research of the Focus Area from both universities. All post-docs will be expected to work collaboratively with researchers from other institutions, including those from federal and state agencies and tribal colleges . Postdoctoral Associates will work with focus area teams to develop their specific contribution to the research agenda and their broader engagement within the IoE community. In addition to salary, funds will be available for supplies and travel. Postdoctoral Associates are expected to contribute to IoE-related educational activities and other programs, as appropriate for career development, including participation in the IoE research seminar series.

Duties and Responsibilities

Focus 1: Feedbacks between microbial dynamics and ecosystem processes.

Research area: Examine the microbiology of ecosystem function along moisture gradients spanning from hill slopes to riparian zones (Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest) and in saturated flood plain environments (Nyack Flood Plain, Flathead River), and possibly in large subalpine lake environments (Yellowstone and Flathead Lakes). Postdoctoral research focus is to tie microbial community composition and function to ecosystem processes (greenhouse gas cycling). For more information, contact Drs. Tim McDermott ( ) and Maury Valett ( )

Focus 2: Linkages among landscape patterns and ecosystem processes

Research area: Investigate linkages between physical and ecological watershed processes and system feedbacks and resilience. Postdoctoral research focus is to (1) examine the spatial and temporal patterns of biogeochemical processes that emerge from and are constrained by the dynamic physical template (e.g., water availability, temperature) of stream networks and their catchments; and (2) link insights gained from watershed hydrology and reach-scale hydro-geomorphic models to examine how stressors (e.g., climate change, land-use change) affect material fluxes (e.g., water, sediment, nutrients) at multiple scales. For more information, contact Drs. Geoff Poole ( ) and Andrew Wilcox ( ).

Focus 3: Assessing landscape scale vulnerability of ecosystem responses to climate change .

Research area: Build and apply an ecosystem and climate-change vulnerability model for the northern Rocky Mountain region, requiring integration of remote sensing data, ecosystem biogeochemistry, spatial climatology and dynamic landscape vegetation models in a geospatial computational framework. The framework will be used to evaluate where the changing climate will alter geography and functioning of Rocky Mountain ecosystems. Postdoctoral research focus is on (1) climate variability and climate influences on biogeochemistry and ecosystem processes; and (2) modeling responses of vegetation communities and plant species to climate change. For more information, contact Drs. Andy Hansen ( ) and Steven Running ( ).

Required Skills

Experience and skills for leading research and synthesis activities in one of the three focus areas identified above.
Ph.D. degree in a discipline relevant to one or more of the three focus areas.

Within specific focus areas:
Focus 1: Evidence of skills and experience in molecular microbial ecology or biogeochemistry, with the expectation that skills will be enhanced through IoE team activities

Focus 2: Evidence of skills and experience in statistical analysis and hydrologic, geomorphic and/or ecosystem processes modeling.

Focus 3: Evidence of skills and experience in statistical analysis, ecological theory, and systems modeling.

Preferred Qualifications:
Experience working with interdisciplinary teams and/or cooperatively with faculty, graduate and undergraduate students.

Evidence of obtaining external funding to support research.

Evidence of strong writing and communication skills.

Focus 1: Demonstrated experience in quantitative PCR and pyrosequencing-based metagenomics, field solute and gas sampling, tracer and nutrient releases, and microcosm bioassays

Required Experience

The Successful Candidate Will:
Have effective interpersonal skills including the ability to collaborate successfully with a diverse team of researchers, students, and staff.

Maintain effective attention to detail, meet deadlines, and prioritize competing demands.

Display an aptitude for problem solving and facilitating the work of others.

Take initiative and work well independently.

Willingness to travel between Bozeman and Missoula, MT and to field sites and professional meetings.

Must possess or have the ability to obtain a valid Montana driver’s license.

Physical ability to participate in some field work in remote settings, including hiking in difficult terrain and carrying up to 30 lbs of weight in a backpack.


Screening of applications will begin on September 4 , 2012 and will continue to be accepted until the positions are filled. The initial appointment is for two years but with possible extension. The position is available immediately but the start date will be flexible contingent on the needs of the preferred candidate.

Upload the following materials: *Please note: only five (5) attachments are allowed per application. Please combine documents accordingly.

A cover letter describing your research interests and qualification

Curriculum Vitae

Names and contact information for three references

Criminal Background Investigation is required prior to Offer of Employment
In accordance with University policy, finalists for this position will be subject to criminal background investigations.
ADA/EOE/AA/Veteran's Preference
Reasonable accommodations are provided in the hiring process for persons with disabilities. For example, this material is available in alternative format upon request. As an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer, we encourage applications from minorities, veterans, and women. Qualified candidates may request veterans’ or disabilities preference in accordance with state law.
References * References not listed on the application materials may be contacted; notice may be provided to the applicant. Testing Individual hiring departments at UM-M may elect to administer pre-employment tests, which are relevant to essential job functions. Employment Eligibility. All New Employees must be eligible and show employment eligibility verification by the first date of employment at UM, as legally required (e.g., Form I-9).

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