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Ph.D. Assistantship in Plant-Vertebrate Herbivore Interactions

A position is available for a Ph.D. student to understand molecular, physiological, behavioral and demographic interactions between toxic plants and vertebrate herbivores. This multidisciplinary project will identify how the dietary quality of plants (availability, nutrients, chemical defenses) interacts with the gut microbiome and host physiology to influence the foraging behavior, physiological function, health and population dynamics of avian and mammalian herbivores in arid and arctic systems. The Ph.D. student will work as part of our collaborative team of universities who work closely with wildlife agencies in the USA, Norway, and Iceland that includes, but is not limited to, the Bureau of Land Management, the US Geological Survey, US Forest Service, the Peregrine Fund, Norwegian Polar Institute, University of Oslo, and the Icelandic Institute of Natural History.  The student will participate in: 1) field work that involves field observations of animal behavior and collection of biological samples across Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, Norway, and/or Iceland (15% of data collection) and 2) Laboratory work that involves genetic, molecular, microbial, chemical, and/or physiological assays of collected samples and analyzing big data (genomic, metagenomic, proteomic, and metabolomic data, 85% of data collection) at Boise State University. Training for both field and laboratory activities will be provided by team members who offer expertise in genetics, ecology, physiology, bioinformatics, and chemistry.


Competitive students will have: 1) a Master’s degree in Biology, Chemistry, or a related field; 2) evidence of strong writing (e.g., grant proposals, publications) and quantitative skills (e.g., bioinformatics, coding, modeling); 3) direct experience conducting genetic, chemical, or molecular assays; and 4) interest in understanding the molecular mechanisms influencing plant-herbivore interactions. Please address your qualifications for each of these points in your cover letter. The position starts Fall (August) 2020 with potential support as a paid field and laboratory technician on the project starting as early as April 2020.

Stipend and tuition and fees

This position includes support in the form of a graduate assistantship (renewable, 12-month at $25,000), tuition and fee waiver, and health insurance.

About the program and Boise

The Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior PhD is a new and modern graduate program at Boise State University. This program brings together faculty from across multiple academic departments including biological sciences, geosciences, anthropology, and the human-environment systems group to offer relevant courses and provide unique mentorship and training opportunities.  This particular project will draw on molecular, chemical and bioinformatic resources and expertise available through the Biomolecular Research Center ( and affiliated NIH supported INBRE and COBRE programs and two NSF awards (with Forbey as PI and Co-PI) focused on understanding the genomics that explain phenotypes in plants and herbivores. Further, we have created a network of valuable connections in academia, local relationships with federal and state agencies, nonprofits and NGOs, as well as partnerships with international organizations all dedicated to providing students with transformative research and educational experiences for diverse career opportunities. These centers and established networks help students gain diverse skills sets and collaborators to prepare them for broad career opportunities. To learn more about the EEB program, please visit:

Students in this program enjoy living in the beautiful city of Boise, which strikes a perfect balance with close-by outdoor recreational activities as well as a vibrant downtown life. Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the capital of the State of Idaho, Boise is frequently featured as a top-ranked metropolis. The city has ample opportunities for world-class outdoor activities year-round and a thriving arts and entertainment culture. In 2017, US News and World Report ranked Boise the 12th best city to live in the United States. To learn more, please view “Visit Boise” link at:

To Apply

Please send via email in a single file attachment (include your last name in the file name): 1) a cover letter that states qualifications and career goals; 2) a CV with the names and contacts for 3 references (they do not need to provide a letter of recommendation at this time); 3) copies of transcripts (unofficial are okay); and 4) GRE scores and percentiles (not combined) to Dr. Jennifer Forbey (email: Please put “PhD Plant-Vertebrate Herbivore Interactions” in the subject line.

Applications will be reviewed as they are received until 1st of December 2019. If you do not have GRE scores by this deadline your application cannot be considered.  Top candidates will be interviewed in early December and asked to formally apply to Boise State’s EEB program by 15th of January 2020.  All admission decisions must be approved by the Graduate Dean.

Along with Boise State University, my research team embraces and welcomes diversity. Accordingly, applicants who would add to the diversity and excellence of my group and our academic community are encouraged to apply and to identify how they would contribute to diversity and inclusivity in my research group, our PhD program, our campus, or local community in their cover letter. Specifically, those representing under-represented groups are encouraged to co-apply to the LSAMP – Bridge to the Doctorate Program. This grant will provide a stipend and additional programming support. More details are found here:

Bridge to Doctorate Fellowship