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USFS Postdoctoral Fellowship in Food Web Ecology

USFS Office/Lab and Location: A postdoctoral fellowship is available at with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service's (USFS) Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station in Juneau, Alaska. The fellow will report to the Research Fish Biologist (Aquatic Ecologist) at the Juneau Forest Sciences Lab and will collaborate with a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, managers, and Tribal representatives across multiple organizations, who have direct working relationships with rural communities. The fellow will also have the opportunity to collaborate and publish with a team of Alaska-based postdocs exploring different aspects of wild food systems and watershed science in the region. Although the preference is to select a candidate who can participate locally, remote participation will be considered for this opportunity.

At the heart of the U.S. Forest Service's mission is their purpose. Everything they do is intended to help sustain forests and grasslands for present and future generations. Why? Because their stewardship work supports nature in sustaining life. This is the purpose that drives the agency’s mission and motivates their work across the agency. It’s been there from the agency’s very beginning, and it still drives them. To advance the mission and serve their purpose, the U.S. Forest Service balances the short and long-term needs of people and nature by: working in collaboration with communities and our partners; providing access to resources and experiences that promote economic, ecological, and social vitality; connecting people to the land and one another; and delivering world-class science, technology and land management.

Research ProjectThis project will examine human-centered subsistence food webs in southeast and southcentral Alaska. The Tongass and Chugach National Forests support productive “wild food systems” that are critical to the nutritional, cultural, and economic well-being of rural communities. These wild food systems extend from alpine ridgetops downstream to marine ecosystems and include numerous species of fish, wildlife, plants, fungi, invertebrates, and seaweed. The fellow will analyze and synthesize wild harvest information from one of the largest and most comprehensive subsistence harvest databases on the globe, which includes close to forty years of harvest data from ~50 communities across the region. The project will employ theory and tools from food web and ecosystem ecology to quantify food web structure and explore the resilience of human-centered food webs across communities and through time. 

Learning ObjectivesThis research will provide a valuable (and rare) example of how to explicitly include humans into food web models. Research findings will provide critical information on how forests and watersheds support underserved rural and indigenous communities and will help identify strategies to support the integrity of wild food systems in a changing world.

MentorThe mentor for this opportunity is Ryan Bellmore ( If you have questions about the nature of the research please contact the mentor.

Anticipated Appointment Start Date: May 1, 2023.  Start date is flexible and will depend on a variety of factors.

Appointment LengthThe appointment will initially be for two years, but may be extended upon recommendation of USFS and is contingent on the availability of funds.

Level of ParticipationThe appointment is full-time.

Participant StipendThe participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience. The current stipend will be $70,000 per year for 2 years. This appointment offers a health insurance allowance, a travel/training allowance, and $4,000 for relocation costs.

Citizenship RequirementsThis opportunity is available to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), and foreign nationals. Non-U.S. citizen applicants should refer to the Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens Details page of the program website for information about the valid immigration statuses that are acceptable for program participation.

ORISE InformationThis program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and USFS. Participants do not become employees of USDA, USFS, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits. Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. Health insurance can be obtained through ORISE.

Questions: Please visit our Program Website. After reading, if you have additional questions about the application process please email and include the reference code for this opportunity.


The qualified candidate should have received a doctoral degree in one of the relevant fields (e.g. Natural Sciences, Ecology, Biology, Environmental Science, Fisheries and Wildlife), or be currently pursuing the degree and will reach completion by the start date of the appointment. Degree must have been received within five years of the appointment start date.

Applicants with quantitative experience developing food web models and analyzing large data sets are particularly encouraged to apply.

The participant will be involved in preparing, processing, and performing statistical analyses on large datasets, and preparing manuscripts for peer-reviewed publication. Strong candidates for the fellowship will have:

  • A Ph.D. in natural sciences (ecology, biology, fisheries and wildlife, or similar)
  • Extensive knowledge of theory, concepts, and statistical/analytical approaches in food web and ecosystem ecology.
  • Experience working in multi-disciplinary teams, including other natural sciences, social scientists, managers, and the public
  • Programming experience in R, Python, or possibly with GoogleEarth Engine.
  • A record of publishing scientific articles in peer-review journals.
  • Ability to communicate highly technical information to non-technical audiences.
  • Strong organizational skills and the ability to balance multiple projects simultaneously. 
  • Ability to effectively synthesize scientific information, to generate new ideas and methods to accomplish project goals, and a willingness to learn new techniques.
  • A collegial and collaborative working style.