USFS Fellowship in Mapping Past, Present, and Future Hydro-Ecology, Fire, and Vegetation for Oak Ecosystem Restoration

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Delaware, OH, USA 🇺🇸


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Reference Code


How to Apply

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A complete application package consists of:

  • An application
  • Transcript(s) – For this opportunity, an unofficial transcript or copy of the student academic records printed by the applicant or by academic advisors from internal institution systems may be submitted.  Selected candidate must provide proof of completion of the degree before the appointment can start.  Click Here for detailed information about acceptable transcripts.
  • A current resume/CV
  • Two educational or professional recommendations. At least one recommendation must be submitted in order for the mentor to view your application.

All documents must be in English or include an official English translation.

Application Deadline

10/1/2022 3:00:00 PM Eastern Time Zone


*Applications will be reviewed on a rolling-basis.

USFS Office/Lab and Location: A research opportunity is available with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service (USFS) at the Forestry Sciences Laboratory located in Delaware, Ohio.

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 ProjectFire-maintained woodlands and savannas in the east-central US have declined in area and quality or disappeared since Euro-American settlement, resulting in bottleneck and failures in forest regeneration (e.g., oak, pine), loss of herbaceous diversity and layers, and habitat degradation for declining wildlife species. Substantial resources are being devoted to restoring fire-maintained woodland and savanna ecosystems across the broad climate and vegetation gradient from the Appalachians to the Ouachitas on unglaciated and, typically, dissected terrain. At the management unit scale, terrain-driven hydro-ecological processes are important determinants of vegetation characteristics. Often, pre-settlement vegetation that was created and maintained to a greater or lesser extent by frequent Native American burning (on a 5-10 year interval) serves as the desired condition. Overlying the regional gradient is climate change that has already had effects in the region and will: 1) determine whether desired conditions are feasible, 2) influence how desired conditions will shift across the regional gradient, and 3) drive fire regime change and the potential for novel communities to form. 

We are using a combination of process-based hydro-ecological modeling and topographically-resolved historical vegetation and fire databases to improve the quality of the information used to determine and communicate restoration objectives that guide management activities. Our project will be advanced through research at a collection of study sites distributed across the regional gradient. A core focus will be on supporting the multiple national forests across the USFS Region 9 Southern Tier Oak Restoration Initiative (STORI). 

Learning ObjectivesIn collaboration with an ORISE Fellow, we will address the following questions:  What were the prevailing fire regimes before Euro-American settlement, particularly in parts of the region where fire history studies have not been conducted to date? What did fire-maintained vegetation communities and landscapes look like in terms of structure (closed-canopy, woodland, savanna) and composition (both herbaceous and woody)? How do the desired conditions that guide management compare with new historical fire and vegetation data and how is climate change expected to affect the feasibility of maintaining desired conditions into the future? Hydro-ecological models allow us to understand how landscape, water, climate and vegetation are linked. The ORISE Fellow will collaborate with the research team to implement the Regional Hydro-Ecological Simulation System (RHESSys) and it’s fire functionality across the regional gradient under past, present, and future climates.

MentorThe mentor for this opportunity is Matthew Dickinson ([email protected]). If you have questions about the nature of the research please contact the mentor.

Anticipated Appointment Start Date: September 2022.  Start date is flexible and will depend on a variety of factors.

Appointment LengthThe appointment will initially be for six months, 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.

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 [email protected] and include the reference code for this opportunity. 


The qualified candidate should have received a doctoral degree in one of the relevant fields. Degree must have been received within the past ten years.

Candidates with demonstrated experience implementing the RHESSys model including it’s fire regime and fire effects (WMFire) and automation functionality are encouraged to apply.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Degree: Doctoral Degree received within the last 120 month(s).
  • Discipline(s):
    • Earth and Geosciences ()
    • Environmental and Marine Sciences ()





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