Akçakaya Lab
Applied Ecology and Conservation Biology

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Information for Prospective Students

If you are interested in joining my lab, please read the following carefully.

I am always on the lookout for motivated graduate students who share my interests. If you are interested in joining my lab as a graduate student, please contact me well before you send in your official application (the deadline for the official application is usually in early December). If I do not receive the information described below in a timely manner, I will not be able to support your application.

Before contacting me, please read about my research, as well as some of my publications, to see if my interests coincide with yours. I would accept students working on a variety of topics, in different systems, and with a variety of methods. Although I do not do field or experimental work myself, I not only accept but also encourage my students to include field or experimental work in their theses.

For my own research, I often use quantitative approaches, especially modeling, which require a wide range of quantitative skills, such as mathematics, programming, statistics, GIS and spatial analysis. I expect my students to become familiar with, even proficient in, these approaches, even if these are not the primary focus of their research.

I also encourage my students to consider the broader implications of their work, especially in terms of applicability to current environmental problems. In addition, unlike some academics, I do not consider nonacademic careers as a secondary option for weaker students. The real work of applied ecology (e.g., conservation, resource management, and environmental planning) is mostly done in governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations, and there is a need for well-trained and creative scientists in such places. Whether your goal is an academic position or an applied job, I'll do my best to help you prepare for it by developing your research skills and building a solid grounding in quantitative methods.

When you contact me, please send a 1- or 2-page document describing one or two specific research questions that interest you, how you would address these questions (i.e., the methods and approaches you might use), and any study species or project locations you may have in mind for your Ph.D. work. I realize that these are likely to change in the course of your dissertation research, so I will not expect you to follow this course closely. I just want to develop an understanding of your research interests, and your ability to form research questions and connect them to particular methods.

This understanding is important for me because I ask my students to define their own research problems. Of course, I'll do my best to help you define a feasible and interesting research, but I will not simply hand you a thesis topic. Doing so would be a disservice, because your Ph.D. work will very likely to be your only chance at self-directed research before your first permanent job (this is because most post-doc positions involve a specific project).

In addition, please send a resume and briefly list any quantitative skills, training or experience you have (e.g., with different types of modeling, statistics, mathematics, databases, GIS, remote-sensing, programming, etc.), as well as your GRE scores and, if your native language is not English, your TOEFL scores (please send separate scores for subcategories, such as verbal and quantitative for GRE and written, spoken, etc. for TOEFL). Also, please let me know if you will be in the area in the near future, and whether you'd be interested to visit the department and my lab.

Please note that students apply for, and are admitted to, the program. Even if I support someone, his or her application must pass the rigorous admissions process. In addition, individual faculty members do not make private assurances of financial aid to applicants before admission. Please keep this in mind when contacting me regarding your interest in applying to our program.

Good luck!