Thomas Newsome

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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Graduate Assistantship (PhD) Opportunity


An exciting opportunity exists for a PhD student to study wolf-cougar interactions in Washington State, U.S.A.

For details on how to apply for the fully funded position please read carefully the position description below.


University of Washington


Seattle, WA

Job Category

Graduate Assistantships (PhD)



Full support (stipend, tuition, and medical benefits) provided for 4 years.

Start Date


Last Date to Apply



After an 80-year absence, the gray wolf is naturally recolonizing the Pacific Northwest of the United States, dispersing from populations in the Rocky Mountains and British Columbia. This process has raised questions about how wolves might interact with other predators and prey as well as the their economic impacts in managed landscapes where logging, cattle ranching and hunting are permitted. One interesting scenario is that wolves could alter the behavior of the region’s other top predator, the cougar, and as a result modify patterns of predation on native ungulate populations. Our goal is to explore this possibility using a natural experiment that compares movements and foraging behavior of cougars before and after wolf recolonization.

We seek a highly motivated doctoral student who will have the opportunity to 1) capture, handle, and deploy GPS collars on cougars; 2) inspect cougar kill sites to quantify prey selection and kill rates; 3) undertake spatial and statistical analyses of cougar behavior prior to and after the arrival of wolves; and 4) collaborate with a diverse group of researchers.

This project falls under the umbrella of a larger study led by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) whose overarching goal is to understand whether and how the return of wolves is affecting native ecosystem dynamics and, in particular, ungulate populations. Thus, the student will work closely with WDFW and collaborate with other researchers exploring ungulate behavior and demography while completing a Ph.D. in Environmental and Forest Sciences ( at the University of Washington under the co-supervision of Associate Professor Aaron Wirsing (University of Washington), Dr Thomas Newsome (Deakin University / University of Sydney / Oregon State University), and Dr Brian Kertson (WDFW). The student will conduct field research at sites in Washington State where data on cougar movements and foraging were collected by WDFW prior to the return of wolves. The fieldwork will involve travel in large trucks with trailers, use of snowmobiles, extensive hiking, capturing of cougars with the assistance of hounds or via the use of cage traps, anesthetizing cougars for GPS collaring, and tree climbing. The doctoral student will also be responsible for training and supervising field technicians and volunteers.


Applicants must have a M.S. degree in wildlife science or a closely related discipline. Preference will be given to those who have experience 1) capturing, handling, and collaring cougars, or other large carnivores; 2) inspecting kill sites; 3) working with and analyzing large data sets; 4) analyzing GPS and kill site data; 5) using resource selection/utilization analysis tools; and 6) working in remote locations under sometimes challenging conditions. Given that this project is part of a larger multi-species effort, we will also prioritize applicants who are interested in both predator-predator and predator-prey interactions. A current valid (U.S.) motor vehicle license is required for this position, as is a driving record that will merit approval to operate State government vehicles.

Full financial support (stipend, tuition, and benefits) will be provided for 4 years. The student will be expected to secure teaching assistantships to cover the remainder of their tenure if it extends beyond this time frame.

To apply for this position please send a 1-page cover letter that outlines your experience undertaking large carnivore research and analyzing large datasets, as well as your long-term career goals. Please also include a CV (maximum of 2 pages) that includes 1) GPA and GRE scores; 2) publications, awards and grants; 3) work and research experience; and 4) current contacts for 3 professional or academic references.

Please submit your application as a single PDF document named with the following format: Lastname_Firstname.

Applications should be emailed to: Associate Professor Aaron Wirsing at and please cc Dr Thomas Newsome at

Please note that the student must be willing to start the project by 09/28/2016 (the beginning of the autumn quarter at UW). Only those who have been shortlisted (up to five people) will be contacted. The shortlisted candidates may be required to conduct Skype and/or face-to-face interviews.

Review of applications will commence on 04/16/2016.

Contact Person

Aaron Wirsing

Contact Phone

(206) 543-1585

Contact email