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Ecology/Ecosystems Research Opportunities

The below list features profiles of USGS scientists who are looking for interns to assist with their research in different areas of ecology and adjacent fields of study. Interested students should reach out to the individual researcher via the contact information provided. 

Man standing in front of snow covered background

Joseph Eisaguirre, Research Wildlife Biologist


My current areas of research include spatiotemporal statistical methods for studying changes in wildlife distribution and abundance, statistical methods for using movement data to better understand wildlife population ecology and demographics, and expanding wildlife populations in Alaska.  I currently have projects on caribou and golden eagle movement ecology and survival, sea otter spatiotemporal population dynamics and survey design, and barred owl range expansion.  I have broad interests in movement ecology and statistical ecology and aim to design research in those areas to better inform the management of wildlife.  I encourage students with similar interests to reach out to discuss potential opportunities to design projects related to my ongoing or other similar work.  I also collaborate on a range of projects and potentially have access to other datasets.

Wide view of a lone tree in a grassy field with a woman standing underneath the branches


Ian Pearse, Research Ecologist


I study the ecology of plants and insects.  I conduct ecological experiments and surveys, mostly outdoors, but sometimes in a lab or greenhouse.  Much of my work asks basic questions.  How do plants defend themselves against herbivores?  How and why do trees time their reproduction?  Most of my work has applications to address major environmental concerns.  How can we reverse the loss of declining bumble bees?  How can we best manage public lands to cope with invasive species?  I enjoy working with students and figuring out our shared interests.  



Woman in USGS gear standing next to a swamp with trees and cypress knees

Beth Middleton, Research Ecologist 

Contact:; 337-262-7618

Geographical trends in ecosystem function and biodiversity of wetlands and climate change

Science Issue and Relevance:  Extreme drought, flooding and temperatures in the southeastern United States may become more frequent in the future and are likely to have effects on wetland ecosystem function. This study looks current trends in swamp responses to environment across the southeastern United States to make predictions of future changes in production, regeneration, carbon storage, and emissions.

Methods for Addressing the Issue: These studies are conducted in the North American Bald Cypress Swamp Network (NABSCN), which is a long-term study network located throughout the southeastern United States along the Mississippi River Alluvial Valley from southern Louisiana to southern Illinois, and the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Texas to Florida and Maryland/Delaware, respectively (70 wetlands total). The network has replication at the landscape level, with five replicate swamps per geographical area from Illinois to Louisiana, Texas to Florida, and Florida to Delaware..

Within each wetland, production, growth and regeneration are studied. Annual estimates include above- and below-ground production, decomposition, soil carbon content, tree growth, and seed banks. Environmental measurements include water, sediment and salinity dynamics; many sites have water level recorders and Sediment Elevation Tables. 

Interns will be able to design their own studies utilizing long-term data sets on ecosystem function from 2002-2022. Interns can also design their own short term manipulative study within the study network. There are opportunities for collaboration on paleoecology and threatened and endangered species.


Arial view of a stream running through trees with hills and sky in the background

JoAnn Holloway, Research Biogeochemist


Watershed-scale mining impacts

I develop interdisciplinary research teams that address watershed-scale legacy mining impacts in the Salmon River Mountains of Idaho using an array of tools: water chemistry, soil characterization, ecotoxicology, and geospatial analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of natural attenuation as a component of mining remediation. Another objective is to evaluate stakeholder perception of the balance between mining, remediation, subsistence land-use, and recreation through ecosystem services modeling. Students with NSF funding and interest in either of these areas are encouraged to contact me. This research opportunity is flexible due to the interdisciplinary nature of this work. 


Woman in a coat standing on a plain with mountains in the background. She is holding something in a net.

Toni Lyn Morelli, Research Ecologist


Toni Lyn's research focuses on the impacts of global change in species and ecosystems in the U.S. and beyond. She uses a variety of techniques to do this, from fieldwork to ecological modeling, usually involving stakeholder engagement using the process of translational ecology.  Her previous NSF graduate students have investigated moose range shifts, Arctic ground squirrel occupancy, red squirrel genomic diversity, cognitive behavior in the field, bird acoustics, and invasive vs. native plant trade.  She has a large, diverse, and vibrant lab that provides an enriching and supportive community, exemplified by this publication produced by her students:…;


leafless trees growing above a body of water

G. Lynn Wingard, Research Geologist (Conservation Paleobiology)


Our projects focus on several aspects of restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, and we work with resource managers to provide science that supports decision-making.  One component of our work develops salinity estimates for south Florida’s estuaries circa 1900 CE, prior to significant alteration of the hydrology.  This research applies modern analog data to analyses of sediment cores to interpret past salinity patterns and species distributions.  The results of our paleosalinity estimates are used by resource managers to set targets for restoration of more natural salinities in the estuaries.  Data on species distributions (both fossil and living) are also used to identify indicator species for monitoring the success of restoration.  The second component of our work examines the impacts of coastal storms, sea level rise and anthropogenic alteration on resiliency of the south Florida coast. We employ a variety of tools to assess these changes, including sediment core analyses, remote sensing, and on-site monitoring (surface elevation tables, mangrove monitoring plots).  Our sediment core analyses indicate that climate variability alone, without significant sea level rise, can cause coastal inundation and transgression.  The results of our studies can assist resource managers with planning for future coastal resiliency over the coming century. 


woman standing in front of palm leaves

Helen Sofaer, Research Ecologist


I’m a quantitative ecologist who does research focused on invasive species and climate change. I study a variety of taxa, including birds, plants, and beetles, and do research from local to macroecological scales. Research projects can focus on analyses of existing datasets, often studying patterns and drivers of invasions across space and time, or can integrate with on-the-ground research in Pacific Island systems. Quantitative projects include working with large spatial datasets in R and applying modern statistical methods to answer questions in population, community, and landscape ecology with the aim of informing management strategies.







marsh-like body of water with trees

Greg Noe, Ecosystem Ecologist: Wetlands, Streams, and Restoration


Research Interests: Wetland ecosystem ecology, focusing on the interactive influences of hydrology, geomorphology, climate, and biology on nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, and sediment biogeochemistry and transport in wetlands, streams, and watersheds, as well as plant community ecology and restoration ecology.