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PhD Position

Developing a Systematic Approach to Farmland Protection Planning (FPP) based on Ecosystem Services, Climate Resiliency, and Social Acceptability

Thanks to grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture, faculty affiliated with the Human-Environment Systems program at Boise State University are seeking to support a graduate assistant interested in pursuing PhD training in the social sciences, with a degree to be awarded in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.

The American West has the fastest rate of population growth in the U.S., and what were once open rural and agricultural landscapes are being converted to urban, suburban and exurban land uses. This development of agricultural landscapes has a wide range of implications, including environmental, social, economic, and cultural. 

A Ph.D. position is available to join a trans-disciplinary team working to develop a systematic, data-driven approach for prioritizing where and how to protect farmland in regions facing increasing development pressures. This project will involve the development of a Farmland Protection Planning (FPP) framework where we 1) map ecosystem services using spatial modeling approaches, 2) identify priority areas for protection based on ecosystem services, productivity and climate resilience using optimization algorithms, 3) measure social factors influencing farmland protection using qualitative social science methods, and 4) create a “Farmland Protection Planning Handbook” for practitioners that integrates the spatial maps of prioritized farmland with insights gained from the social science component. This position will focus on objective 3. The ideal student for this position will have a primary interest in social science training as it relates to agriculture and land use change, as well as experience with and interest in interdisciplinary training and approaches related to agriculture and/or land use change. 

The student will have the opportunity to collaborate closely with a wide variety of stakeholders, including local land trusts, The Nature Conservancy, American Farmland Trust, and farming and ranching organizations. The entire project team will develop a “Handbook for Farmland Protection Planning” for a practitioner and policy-maker audience. The products of the research have high potential to influence on-the-ground conservation.

Dr. Jen Schneider (School of Public Service, Public Policy and Administration) and Dr. Rebecca Som Castellano (Sociology) will co-advise the student. The student will also be a part of the Human-Environment Systems community ( The student will pursue a PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior.


We are seeking students who have expertise in one or more of the following: social science and/or policy expertise related to: the environment; agriculture and food systems; land use change; and/or social-ecological systems. Interest and experience in spatial analysis, remote sensing, and modeling would be a plus. Competitive students will have a Master’s degree and research or job experience related to the previously stated topics. 

Stipend and tuition and fees

This position includes support in the form of a graduate or teaching assistantship (renewable, 12-month at $25,000 + cost of housing adjustment), tuition and fee waiver, and health insurance. The positions start Summer (May) or Fall (Sept) 2022.

To Apply

Please send via email ( in a single file attachment (include your last name in the file name): a cover letter that states qualifications and career goals, a CV with the names and contacts for 3 references, and copies of transcripts (unofficial are O.K.). Please put “PhD application-Farmland Preservation” in the subject line. Applications will be reviewed as they are received until November 15, 2021. Top candidates will be asked to formally apply to the graduate program.  All admission decisions must be approved by the Graduate Dean.

 Boise State University embraces and welcomes diversity in its faculty, student body, and staff. Accordingly, applicants who would add to the diversity and excellence of our academic community are encouraged to apply.

About Boise

Boise State is 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: