Seeking a postdoctoral researcher with expertise in grassland ecology, plant ecology, and/or ecological modeling with a strong interest in technology development for agro-ecological systems. The appointment will be for one year with the possibility for renewal and will be supervised jointly by Dr. Megan O’Rourke (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Ben Tracy in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech.
Project Background: This position will support an interdisciplinary, joint NSF-USDA cyber-physical systems project focused on using robotics and drone technologies to monitor and manage cattle grazing systems. Current grazing systems in the southeastern US can be highly inefficient and taxing on the environment with cattle frequently left to graze in open pastures for most of the year. This can lead to the emergence of weed problems, and the erosion of plant and pollinator biodiversity. In collaboration with engineering experts, we have proposed to deploy drones and ground robots to remotely monitor pasture plant communities to create more efficient and pollinator-friendly rotational grazing systems. Specific goals of the project include: 1) developing and ground-truthing protocols for drones and robots to assess pasture species composition, biomass, and quality; 2) estimating efficient frequencies and intensities of remote pasture monitoring based on current forage models; and 3) measuring flowering plant dynamics in rotational grazing systems that are of high value to pollinators.
Responsibilities: The project post-doc will work within an interdisciplinary team of ecologists and engineers who focus on plant-pollinator-grazing interactions, robotics/drone technologies and deployment modeling. The post-doc will be expected to: 1) provide insights into which characteristics of plants should be remotely measured to differentiate between functional groups and/or species; 2) conduct plant surveys to ground truth remotely sensed data; 3) review forage models from the literature for further development; and 4) analyze data and write scientific publications.
About Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech is a public land-grant university, committed to teaching and learning, research, and outreach to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world. Building on its motto of Ut Prosim (that I may serve), Virginia Tech is dedicated to InclusiveVT—serving in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence. We seek candidates who adopt and practice the Principles of Community, which are fundamental to our on-going efforts to increase access and inclusion, and to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members. Virginia Tech actively seeks a broad spectrum of candidates to join our community in preparing leaders for the world.
To Apply: Application review will begin April 8 and will continue until a suitable candidate is selected. The preferred start date is June 2019 but can be negotiable. Please submit application materials to http://listings.jobs.vt.edu/postings/95889
A Ph.D. in Ecology or closely related field
Experience in plant identification and field surveys
Ability to review forage modeling literature
Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate and collaborate across disciplines
Interest in technology development and remote sensing
Ability to provide project deliverables in a timely fashion
Interdisciplinary research experience
Some knowledge of pollinator ecology
Valid driver's license
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