Positions: We are seeking to recruit 2-3 PhD students, to be based at Oregon State University, in the areas of disease ecology / evolutionary ecology / mathematical modeling, and ecological / metabolic ecology. Students with background in biology (and quantitative aptitude) or in mathematics (and strong interest in biological applications) are encouraged to apply to OSU’s department of Integrative Biology ( We take pride in the diversity of students we mentor, and will continue to promote excellence in students of different nationalities, cultural identities, races and genders.
We are looking for talented, highly motivated team players to staff this exciting, recently NSF-funded project. We offer cross-disciplinary training opportunities with an international team of investigators, in the context of a field-based study that informs empirically-driven mathematical models of disease transmission in host population networks (more detail on our study below). Graduate positions in the Integrative Biology department at OSU are funded for five years through graduate teaching and / or research assistantships, and competitive fellowships. OSU is located in Corvallis, a small college town in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, with access to supreme outdoor adventure / recreation opportunities.

Project Overview: Natural host populations often occur as fragmented metapopulations - networks of populations linked by host dispersal and migration. Fragmented population structure may occur naturally, due to patchy distribution of suitable habitat, or result from anthropogenic transformation of the landscape. Understanding how changes in population network topology affect disease transmission is an urgent priority, as humans continue to launch inadvertent experiments manipulating landscape connectivity.
Our work will combine empirical data from wild desert bighorn sheep (DBH) with theoretical approaches to investigate how the spatial relationships between interconnected host populations shape infection risks in different locales, setting the stage for genetic adaptation of immune defenses in the hosts. Differences in immune responses among host populations in turn are likely to affect the populations’ vulnerability to emerging infectious diseases.
We will generate metagenomic data from fecal samples to discover landscape-level parasite community patterns in desert bighorns across three metapopulations in California. Focusing in on the Mojave metapopulation, we will combine longitudinal observational data and experimental approaches to assess the role of parasite interactions in structuring within-host parasite communities. We will measure immune responses and survey immunogenetic profiles of sheep to estimate the selective pressure underlying immunogenetic differences across bighorn populations. We will then use our empirical data to parameterize and test mathematical network models exploring how ecological and host evolutionary processes shape disease dynamics in bighorn in particular, and across population networks in general.

Team & Locations: The field portions of this work will be performed in the Mojave National Preserve, Death Valley National Park, and the Peninsular Ranges / Anza Borrego in California, USA. Graduate and postdoctoral positions will be based at Oregon State University (faculty: Beechler, Epps, Dalziel, Dolan, Jolles, Sanders, Sharpton) in the United States, and at the Universities of Cardiff (Lello), Warwick (Gorsich) and Edinburgh (Pedersen) in the UK, and will have the opporunity to connect with collaborators at the California Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (Buchalski, Munk, Prentice).

Contacts: Most graduate positions on this project will involve mentorship from several faculty on the research team. For more information, please contact Anna Jolles at, who will share your enquiry with the relevant investigators, depending on your interests.

PhD position
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon
United States
Closing date
December 15th, 2019
Posted on
November 21st, 2019 19:25
Last updated
November 21st, 2019 19:25