Job Opportunities


USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Center for Resilient Landscapes Fellowship Application - 2018


The Center for Resilient Landscapes, a joint venture of the USDA Forest Service (FS) and Rutgers NJ Agricultural Experiment Station is pleased to announce this opportunity for summer funding for graduate research. Fellowships will be offered to currently enrolled students interested in exploring research in collaboration with Forest Service scientists and local organizations associated with the project opportunities identified below.
Fellows will be part of a team of faculty and USDA-FS scientists who are studying urban natural resources stewardship and the development of social-ecological system resilience, from short-term recovery, to longer-term restoration, to fundamental system re-organization.  The fellows may be based in New Brunswick, NJ on the Rutgers Cook Campus, in Philadelphia, or in New York City depending on the project. The research and collaborative team is expected to have a regional focus and will develop programmatic linkages throughout (but not limited to) the Silas Little Experimental Forest; the USDA-FS Urban Field Station network; the Rutgers campuses in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden; and other regional university programs, as opportunity allows. Centrally located between the USDA-FS Urban Field Stations of Philadelphia and New York City, there will be opportunities to form collaborative relationships across and between locations. For this reason, fellows may be required to travel throughout the region. The specifics of different projects will be addressed during the interview process.
Applicants with a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds will be considered, including geography, computational sciences, entomology, ecology, plant pathology, forestry, horticulture, environmental sociology, planning, and natural resource management. The fellowship is a one year program but most of the work is expected to happen during the summer. Fellows are expected to work at the FS Field Stations for 12 weeks, though there is flexibility based on the awardees’ schedule and project.  During the remainder of the year, students will continue any remaining data analysis or writing required to meet their goals (e.g. publication or poster presentation). For most of the projects, fellows will not be required to have a car but they will need to have a valid driver’s license and be able to drive safely.
The fellowships are open to currently enrolled Rutgers graduate students. The fellowship is designed for early-career graduate students to develop their fellowship project in tandem with their thesis or dissertation proposals, as well as offer the opportunity for a late-career graduate student to add another chapter or paper to their CV.

Expectations for Fellows
Exploring – Each fellow should expect to conduct and provide a literature review related to their project.
Researching – Each fellow will develop their own research questions and project within the framework of an existing project. Fellows are expected to spend time at the preferred locations and to attend occasional Field Station team meetings.
Contributing – Each fellow is expected to spend substantial time working with their mentors on data collection or analysis of existing data. This may vary considerably for each project, but most students should expect to spend the majority of the summer working with FS scientists and partners. These interactions will serve as an opportunity for fellows to develop relationships with researchers and practitioners in their area of interest. A project statement, short progress report at end of summer, and continued communication with the CRL team is required to maintain the program web site, in addition to any possible graduate committee or USDA FS team reporting requirements.
Sharing – Develop a poster or oral presentation for use at conferences and Field Station programs, including a CRL Fall Symposium held in September 2018. In addition, we expect each fellow to share the work that they have done either through a regularly maintained blog, twitter feed, webinar, PowerPoint presentation, or paper. We encourage students to try to publish their results and we will help support that if your results lend themselves to publication.

What you can expect from USDA Forest Service and our partners
Funding - $5,000 Fellowship award
Mentoring - Mentorship from Forest Service scientists and help with project visibility and career development. Mentors will also help with developing research questions, finding relevant literature, and communicating your experience and work to others.
Linking - Access to local organizations, community groups, and practitioners

Application Requirements
Applicants must be currently enrolled at Rutgers. Graduate students from any department are welcome and encouraged to apply. Applicants need to submit:

1. A CV or resume.
2. Two letters of recommendation (one of which should be from a faculty member).
3. A statement of interest describing which project you would like to apply for, what you hope to learn from this fellowship, why you are interested in this topic, and how this fellowship fits into your professional or academic goals.
4. A brief description of how you will communicate your work to others (e.g., blog, twitter, presentation, poster, publication) and what kinds of outreach efforts could be applied to the project (e.g., work with high school teachers and students, present at a conference, present at public forum, create a web tool).

Applications will be accepted until December 15, 2017 by e-mail to: Title the subject line as follows: name_ CRL_ application materials.

A selection committee will be convened in January to develop interviews in January/February with applicants, the committee, and the relevant research team.

2018 Potential Fellowship Project Opportunities:

Temporal dynamics of urban tree canopy

Advising: Lara Roman (US FS Philadelphia Field Station), Jason Grabosky (Rutgers)

Context: Many cities across the United States have mapped their urban tree canopy (UTC) to understand the spatial distribution of trees in cities and to plan where to plant moving forward. Some cities have set ambitious tree cover goals, such as Philadelphia’s aim to increase from 20% tree cover in 2008 to 30% by 2025. To figure out how cities might achieve their UTC goals, it is helpful to look retrospectively at UTC changes over the past several decades, to evaluate rates and drivers of change. However, to examine past UTC, high-resolution data such as LiDAR is not available. Rather, manual interpretation of aerial imagery has been used to assess UTC change at decadal time scales, using random points across the landscape. Such analyses are often limited in sample size (e.g., 500-1000 points across an entire city), meaning that smaller geographic units within the city cannot be analyzed separately. Yet having a higher saturation of points can enable analysis of smaller geographic units, such as neighborhoods, planning districts, park systems. In Philadelphia, we are producing a dataset with 10,000 points, recording land cover classes every decade from 1970-2010. Data collection will be completed in early 2018. Preliminary analyses indicate a modest UTC gain over 40 years, with most gains in the park system as well as neighborhoods in the northeast, northwest, and southwest; other neighborhoods appear to have relatively stable UTC. We invite a Rutgers CRL fellow to mine this very unique data set for further investigation. Possible avenues of research include: (1) historical and archival research into human and ecological drivers that may explain the UTC trajectories observed, or (2) statistical modeling to analyze predictor variables for 40-year UTC change. The expectation is that a student will select one avenue or the other (but not both) based on skills and interests. Students may also propose other novel research ideas to take advantage of this unique data set.

Fellow Responsibilities: For research avenue (1) the student would be responsible for developing a narrative history to explain potential drivers of UTC change from 1970-2010. This will require reading secondary literature about the history of city planning in Philadelphia, and digging into primary historical documents at the Fairmount Park Archives and the McLean Library of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. An initial list of primary and secondary resources has already been compiled to give the student a jump start, and local contacts for leads on potential historical drivers are readily available. For this task, the student will need to be physically present in Philadelphia at least 2 days per week during the summer.
For research avenue (2) the student would be responsible for statistical analysis to assess the association of various potential predictor variables that could explain UTC spatial patterns. Data sets to pull into the analysis include US Census and American Community Survey socio-economic data, as well as built environment data (e.g., parcel size, housing age). A potential statistical technique to use is Generalized Additive Models (GAMs), which have been applied to species distribution modeling. For this task, the student will need to have a faculty mentor at Rutgers to advise on the appropriate modeling approaches (and the FS mentor can also connect the fellow with other scientists experienced with GAMs). The student will need to be physically present in Philadelphia 1 day per week during the summer, and can otherwise work on the analysis remotely.

Research questions: For both research avenues, the overarching research questions are: What social and ecological drivers explain 40-year UTC gains in some Philadelphia neighborhoods, and stabilization in others? Are there specific, documented interactions between social and ecological factors that shape UTC change over time? What events and processes over the past 40 years have left legacies shaping the UTC spatial patterns observed today?

Literature Cited:
Cutler WW & H Gillette. 1980. The divided metropolis: Social and spatial dimensions of Philadelphia, 1800-1975. Praeger.

Eitzel MV et al. 2016. Challenges and opportunities in synthesizing historical geospatial data using statistical models. Ecological Informatics 31: 100-111.

Guisan A et al. 2002. Generalized linear and generalized additive models in studies of species distributions: Setting the scene. Ecological Modelling 157: 89-100.

Parmehr EG et al. 2016. Estimation of urban tree canopy cover using random point sampling and remote sensing methods. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 20: 160-171.

Roman LA et al. 2017. Growing canopy on a college campus: Understanding urban forest change through archival records and aerial photography. Environmental Management (in press).

Silcox HC & FW Hollingsworth. 2013. Northeast Philadelphia: A brief history, 2nd ed. The History Press.




Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW-MAP)

Advising: Erika Svendsen (USFS NYC Urban Field Station), Lindsay Campbell (USFS NYC Urban Field Station), and Michelle Johnson (USFS NYC Urban Field Station)

Context: The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW-MAP) seeks to answer the question: What are the social and spatial (geographic) interactions among people and groups that conserve, manage, monitor, advocate for, and educate the public about their local environments (including water, land, air, waste, toxics, and energy issues)? Stewardship is one of the ways that both informal and more organized groups contribute to the care of their local environments (Svendsen and Campbell 2008, Fisher et al. 2012). These groups work alongside or independent of public agencies and private businesses in managing urban places. STEW-MAP was initially completed for NYC in 2007 and has been repeated in 2017, enabling an analysis of stewardship over time. STEW-MAP includes a survey of stewardship organizations that involves mapping organizations’ areas of activity (or turfs) and their social networks with which they collaborate. This survey is then followed up by interviews of willing survey respondents. Previous STEW-MAP projects in NYC and other cities have deepened our understanding of civic environmental stewardship in terms of networked governance (Connolly et al. 2013, Connolly et al. 2014), spatial extent and focus (Romolini et al. 2013), and group professionalization (Fisher et al. 2012).

Fellow Responsibilities: The Rutgers Fellow for this project would assist the STEW-MAP team with one or more of these aspects of STEW-MAP, depending upon their interests and/or skills in survey analysis, interviews, spatial analysis, social networks, and/or organizational sociology. The Fellow would be expected to identify their own research question incorporating the NYC STEW-MAP datasets from 2017 and/or 2007. Some travel would be expected to the NYC Urban Field Station in Bayside, Queens, and/or lower Manhattan over the course of the fellowship.

Literature Cited:
Svendsen, E., & Campbell, L. K. (2008). Urban ecological stewardship: understanding the structure, function and network of community-based urban land management. Cities and the Environment (CATE), 1(1), 4.

Fisher, D. R., Campbell, L. K., & Svendsen, E. S. (2012). The organisational structure of urban environmental stewardship. Environmental Politics, 21(1), 26-48.

Romolini, M., Grove, J. M., & Locke, D. H. (2013). Assessing and comparing relationships between urban environmental stewardship networks and land cover in Baltimore and Seattle. Landscape and Urban Planning, 120, 190-207.

Connolly, J. J., Svendsen, E. S., Fisher, D. R., & Campbell, L. K. (2013). Organizing urban ecosystem services through environmental stewardship governance in New York City. Landscape and Urban Planning, 109(1), 76-84.

Connolly, J. J., Svendsen, E. S., Fisher, D. R., & Campbell, L. K. (2014). Networked governance and the management of ecosystem services: The case of urban environmental stewardship in New York City. Ecosystem Services, 10, 187-194.



Testing woody plant adaptation to high metal load soils

Advising: Frank Gallagher (Rutgers), Rich Hallett (USFS), Allyson Salisbury (Rutgers), Jason Grabosky (Rutgers)

Context: Novel assemblages often referred to as “urban wildlands” appear to function and be resilient in spite of the environmental stressors associated with legacy soils from past industrial activities. They developed unique patterns of species diversity/distribution; models of primary productivity (Gallagher 2008ab, Dahle et. al. 2014); and carbon sequestration (Renninger, et. al. 2012) that are driven by threshold tolerances, as well as develop along nontraditional guild trajectories (Gallagher. 2011). In addition, the ecological risk associated with uptake and transfer of various contaminants appears not to follow traditional biomagnification scenarios (Gallagher et al., 2008a; Qian et al., in review). Vegetative assemblages that naturally occur on sites like these benefit from natural selection pressures and are likely to be tolerant of conditions that normally induce plant stress. This project will take advantage of different management histories for two well-known urban brown fields by propagating naturally occurring tree species growing on soils with a high metal load and testing their success on another site with high metal loads. 
In 1995 under contract with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the United States Army Corps of Engineers collected and analyzed soil samples for the 125 priority pollutants (NJDEP 1995), from the abandon rail yard within Liberty State Park (LSP). One composite sample was collected by split spoon from the A and C1 horizons from 98 sampling points. Soil metals were analyzed using graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (GFAA). A second soil metal data set was collected in 2005 by NJDEP in 32 of the plots from the 1995 study. Three samples were collected at each plot with a soil borer at a depth of 10 to 25 cm (C1 horizon), the depth of greatest root density (Gallagher et al. 2008a). Sixteen additional sites were used to further define areas of unusually high metal concentrations. A total metal load (TML) index was developed for each study plot in the site (Gallagher et al. 2008b). TML is a rank-sum index based on total soil metal concentration. These data were then kriged to develop a TML map for the entire site. Seven of the sites sampled in 2005, those with established early successional hardwood forest assemblages, were again sampled in 2014/15 to assess changes over the past decade (Salisbury et al., 2017).
These data appear to indicate that the soil’s total metal load exerts a threshold effect on the plant assemblages. Above a certain level productivity and diversity diminish significantly (Gallagher, et. al. 2008) Such findings raise the question, are plant assemblage responses to anthropogenic soils site specific or can common trends be identified through the use of a standard metric of soil conditions? 
Freshkills Park (FP) in Staten Island, New York offers a prime opportunity to explore such questions within the same geographic region however having a different industrial history. Fifty-three soil samples were collected in Summer 2014 from randomly selected spots across the site from a sample depth of 0-10 cm. Plant available elements were estimated using a 1.25 M ammonium acetate solution and a mechanical vacuum extractor. A preliminary TML was also created for the site.
A comparison of soil metal concentration at both the single element and aggregated levels indicates that both sites have soil metal loads associated with metal induced abiotic stress within postindustrial landscapes.  
Liberty State Park has vegetative assemblages which include native tree species that are not showing signs of physiological stress related to a metal load gradient (unpublished data). Species like Willows and Poplars can be vegetatively propagated and tested for their ability to root and grow in soils collected from individual sites via a phytorecurrent selection process (Zalesny & Hallett, 2014).

Fellow Responsibilities: A student fellow would be expected to collect genetic material from trees growing at Liberty State Park across a soil metal gradient and design a greenhouse study to identify tolerance levels of that material to soils collected from both Liberty State Park and Freshkills Park. In addition, these genotypes can be tested against genotypes of the same species currently being used in restoration projects and not sourced from high metal load sites. The best performing genotypes from this selection process will be planted at the Freshkills and Liberty State Parks site in a common garden experimental design.

Literature Cited:
Gallagher, F. J., Pechmann, I., Bogden, J. D., Grabosky, J., and Weis, P. (2008a). ͞Soil metal
concentrations and vegetative assemblage structure in an urban brownfield.͟ Environmental
Pollution, 153(2), 351–361.

Gallagher, F. J., Pechmann, I., Bogden, J. D., Grabosky, J., and Weis, P. (2008b). ͞Soil metal concentrations and productivity of Betula populifolia (gray birch) as measured by field
spectrometry and incremental annual growth in an abandoned urban Brownfield in New Jersey.͟
Environmental Pollution, Elsevier Ltd, 156(3), 699–706.

Gallagher, F.J., Pechmann, I. Holzapfel, C., Grabosky, J.  2011. Evidence for the Alternate Stable State Theory within the Vegetative Assemblages of an Urban Brownfield. Environmental Pollution. 159 1159-1166.

Qian, Y., Feng, F. H., Gallagher, F.J., Zhu, Q., Wu, M., Liu, C.J., Jones, K., and Tappero, R. In review. Risk assessment and interpretation of heavy metal contaminated soils on an abandoned urban brownfield site. Chemosphere.

Salisbury, A. Grabosky, J.C., Gallagher F.J., In edit 12/16. Soil Metals as an Abiotic Filter of Urban Soils. Soil Science.

USDA Forest Service, 2001.

Zalesny, R., Hallett, R., Falxa-Raymond, N., Wiese, A. H., & Birr, B. (2014). Propagating native Salicaceae for afforestation and restoration in New York City’s five boroughs. Native Plants Journal, 15(1), 29–41.



Advancing urban bird conservation through citizen science

Advising: Susannah Lerman (USFS Springfield, MA Field Station), Peter Marra (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center), Caren Cooper (North Carolina State University)

Context: The conversion of wildlands into residential land-uses is one of the primary drivers of biodiversity loss on a global scale. Though private lands predominate within urban and suburban areas, the impacts of management decisions of individual households (e.g., inclusion of native plants and nest boxes, applying pesticides, or outdoor pet ownership) on bird populations remains largely unexplored. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird center, together with the US Forest Service, partners with local citizen scientists across seven cities (including the Springfield, MA hub, led by the US Forest Service) in private yards to deliver Neighborhood Nestwatch (NN), an innovative mentored citizen science project. Research objectives include scientific inquiry on the presence and performance of common yard birds along urban and latitudinal gradients. The project also provides a platform for researching the motivations driving participation in citizen science and whether the project achieves conservation and education goals through citizen science engagement. The Fellowship opportunity focuses on the citizen science research.

An important component of the NN design involves activities that put people in contact with the natural world and foster a sense of excitement for interacting with nature. There is a long history of studies finding positive association between nature-based experiences and subsequent pro-environmental behaviors, thus citizen science experiences in yards could be important precursors to pro-environmental behaviors. The mentored, place-based experiences are unique attributes of NN and hold great potential for participants to acquire transformative experiences, and shift perceptions of their yard as bird habitat. If NN participants further modify their yards to benefit birds, then existing and emerging social networks have the potential to support cumulative neighborhood level effects required for effective bird habitat conservation.   

Fellow Responsibilities:
The Rutgers Fellow would assist the Neighborhood Nestwatch team in developing and delivering survey instruments (e.g., semi-structured interviews, focus groups) to assess whether participating in a citizen science program leads to changes in perceptions of the yard as habitat. The Fellow is expected to identify a specific research topic to address this question. Potential topics include (but not limited to) identifying the additional suite of projects and engagement activities that NN citizen scientists participate in that help shape yard management decisions, motivations for yard management behaviors, sense of place / place meaning, and environmental literacy. Some travel to Springfield / Amherst, MA is required.

Literature Cited
Cooper, C., L. Larson, A. Dayer, R. Stedman, and D. Decker. 2015. Are wildlife recreationists conservationists? Linking hunting, birdwatching, and pro-environmental behavior. The Journal of Wildlife Management 79:446–457.

Dwyer, W. O., F. C. Leeming, M. K. Cobern, B. E. Porter, and J. M. Jackson. 1993. Critical review of behavioral interventions to preserve the environment research since 1980. Environment and Behavior 25:275–321.

Evans, B. S., T. B. Ryder, R. Reitsma, A. H. Hurlbert, and P. P. Marra. 2015. Characterizing avian survival along a rural-to-urban land use gradient. Ecology 96:1631–1640.

Goddard, M. A., K. Ikin, and S. B. Lerman. 2017. Ecological and social factors determining the diversity of birds in residential yards and gardens. Pages 371–397 Ecology and Conservation of Birds in Urban Environments. Springer International Publishing.

Lepczyk, C. A., M. F. J. Aronson, K. L. Evans, M. A. Goddard, S. B. Lerman, and J. S. MacIvor. 2017. Biodiversity in the city: fundamental questions for understanding the ecology of urban green spaces for biodiversity conservation. BioScience 67:799–807.

Zaradic, P. A., O. R. Pergams, and P. Kareiva. 2009. The impact of nature experience on willingness to support conservation. PLoS One 4:e7367.




Independent Ideas

Advising: To Be Determined (contact Forest Service colleagues at one of the locations listed at

If a potential candidate has a research idea that they would like to propose as a potential CRL Fellowship Project, the idea can be submitted for consideration under this project title. The project must be appropriate to the mission of the Center for Resilient Landscapes and must be reasonable in scope to correspond with the available funding. The project must address some aspect of landscape resilience with implications for both New Jersey and the Northeast Region or beyond in the management and stewardship of environmental resources, social connection to such resources or ecological function in changing environments, or disturbances. The applicant is expected to reach out to one or more Forest Service scientists with their project idea prior to applying for the CRL fellowship.



You can read about the CRL fellowship projects completed in 2017, 2016, and 2015, on the “Research” page.




Rutgers Center for Resilient Landscapes