Research Assistant/Ph.D. Student (Remote Sensing of Ecosystems) via AGU

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madison, WI, US

Ph.D. Student Position / Ecological Remote Sensing – University of Wisconsin – Madison

Hyperspectral remote sensing and foliar function

A 4-year PhD research assistantship is available to study how foliar functional traits vary across biomes and time at the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) sites (see The student will link hyperspectral and lidar imagery collected by NEON’s aerial observatory with field measurements of foliar biochemical and structural traits to generate maps of key vegetation properties such as leaf nutritional and water status, photosynthetic capacity and levels of chemical defenses. This assistantship will include summer fieldwork at the NEON sites, and will begin with the 2017 field season (late May/early June 2017) with coursework starting Fall, 2017.  

We are seeking an outstanding student to pursue a PhD in remote sensing of foliar traits in terrestrial ecosystems using imaging spectroscopy. The student’s dissertation thesis will involve studying patterns spatial and temporal foliar traits using remote sensing methods and field spectral measurements. The student will be co-advised by Forest & Wildlife Ecology professors Phil Townsend ( and Eric Kruger, in collaboration with faculty at the University of Florida, Purdue University and other institutions. Note that additional field or modeling components could be added depending on shared interests and funding opportunities. Funding for a 12-month research assistantship and tuition remission is available for four years, pending satisfactory progress. This position will be funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation MacroSystems Biology and Early NEON Science Program.

Prospective students should have:
– Solid working knowledge/experience in remote sensing, GIS and statistics; and
– A master’s degree in ecology, geography, biology or related environmental sciences (BS considered with equivalent demonstrated experience/expertise).
– Students with backgrounds in optics, computer science or modeling and an interest in biological applications are also encouraged to apply.
– Excellent English writing and verbal communication skills, as well as the ability to work and lead a research team, are essential.

Current annual stipend levels are $22,081 per year before taxes, plus tuition remission and health care benefits.  A start date of approximately May 30, 2017 is envisioned.

Application Process:
Applications will be reviewed upon receipt and review will continue until a suitable candidate is chosen. Applications received before December 1, 2016 will be given full consideration.  The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  We promote excellence through diversity and encourage all qualified individuals to apply.  The position is open to both US citizens and international candidates.  
Interested applicants are asked to e-mail the documents listed below to our Student Services Coordinator, Sara Rodock ([email protected]) (in ONE PDF file please).
– Our departmental graduate application cover sheet (
– Letter outlining research interests, academic and professional backgrounds
– Resume or CV
– Copies of transcripts (unofficial copies acceptable at this point)
– GRE scores
– Names and contact addresses of three references
– In the subject line of your email, please put “Townsend/Kruger PhD Student Application” 
Questions about the position (but not your application) should be directed to Dr. Townsend ([email protected]) or Dr. Kruger ([email protected]).

University, Department, Labs:
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the major research universities in the United States ( It ranks 2nd in research expenditures among all U.S. universities and first among public universities. Total student enrollment is 41,500, out of which 8,800 are graduate students.  Employees include 2,000 faculty. UW-Madison has a long history of excellence in ecology, conservation biology, and wildlife biology.  The Townsend and Kruger Labs maintain state-of-the-art facilities for remote sensing research, including computation power, as well as a broad range of field spectrometers, calibration equipment, and ecosystem measurement instrumentation.
Madison, Wisconsin consistently ranks as one of the best places in the United States to live, work, and study.  It is Wisconsin’s capital city, with a vibrant metropolitan population of approximately 500,000 that combines small town charm with a nice variety of leisure and cultural opportunities.  For more information on campus and town see: