PhD position: Disturbance Regimes, Penn State

Dr. Jennifer Balch, at Penn State University is interested in taking Ph.D. students who propose to work at the intersection of disturbance dynamics, ecosystem thresholds, and coupled human-natural systems.

Dr. Balch’s research group examines how global environmental change – including shifting fire cycles – alters plant communities and ecosystem function. Her research balances cutting-edge fieldwork with analysis of global ecological data to examine how human changes to fire patterns are encouraging forest-savanna transitions, degrading ecosystems, and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Together with an international community of collaborators, we work across disciplines and scales – from individual organisms to entire ecosystems.

There are two opportunities for Ph.D. graduate work with Dr. Balch: in either geography (enrollment deadline Dec 16) or ecology (enrollment deadline Jan 15). Please take a look at both programs:

To Apply: If you are interested in working with Dr. Balch, please email her at with the following:
1. A paragraph or two telling her a bit more about what type of science makes you most excited and what types of research questions you are interested in (please take a look at her published papers and research themes to see what aspect of my her interests you specifically),
2. your c.v.,
3. an “unofficial” transcript,
4. a writing sample,
5. and a brief description of your career goals or what you hope to get out of graduate school.

There are possible opportunities for highly competitive students to get support via teaching and/or research assistantships. But I also strongly encourage my future students to explore opportunities for outside funding. Please see external funding opportunities listed by the Penn State Graduate School.

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