Prospective Students

We are currently accepting applications from students interested in pursuing a Masters or a PhD on the projects listed below. Qualified individuals will have opportunities to:

1) Conduct cutting-edge research on global change, long-term climatic variability, and ecological responses
2) Participate in field work on the spectacular landscapes of Alaska and western North America
3) Interact with a large group of students and scientists with a diverse array of expertise from multiple institutions
4) Design his/her own research project within the broad scopes of the descibed projects

Prospective students should have (1) a BS or MS in biology, geology, environmental science, or related fields, (2) strong verbal and written communication skills, and (3) excellent interpersonal skills. For additional information, please contact Professor F.S. Hu (

Current projects:

1. Plants and salmon as alternative nutrient sources to freshwater ecosystems.

Are N-fixing plants important for maintaining the productivity of lakes and streams that serve as salmon spawning habitats? GIS analyses and extensive water and soil sampling in southwestern Alaska over four years has provided us with a large database describing the chemical, biological, and physical parameters of ~ 40 freshwater systems in this region. Using this data, statistical models are being built to explain and predict the roles of landscape and climate on aquatic nutrient status in this region. laboratory. The work is in collaboration with scientists from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

2. Responses of tundra fire regimes to climatic warming.

The direct effects of fires will likely over-shadow the indirect effects of climatic warming on tundra ecosystems over the next several decades. In this NSF-funded project, we are using knowledge of past shifts in tundra-fire regimes to guide future predictions. The project combines paleoecological analyses and computer modeling to examine fire-climate relationships in the past, predict fire regimes of the 21st century, and elucidate effects of recurrent tundra fires on the carbon cycle. Field sites are in the Arctic tundra of Alaska. We particularly welcome applications from students with a strong ecological and/or quantitative background.

3. Integration of molecular genetics and long-term ecology.

Many of the questions regarding the responses of plants to climatic warming cannot be answered without a long-term perspective. Genetic analysis of plants offers an innovative approach to resolving a number of long-standing questions in that context. Field sites are located in boreal and temperate forests of western North America. Applications from students interested in the interface of molecular genetics and forest ecology are particularly welcome.

4. Impacts of fire on climate and permafrost thaw in the Arctic

Anthropogenic warming is amplified in the Arctic, and may facilitate wildfire in tundra regions that have not burned for millennia. Both climate warming and novel fire activity can promote catastrophic permafrost thaw in areas underlain by ground ice. The impact of these climate-driven disturbance processes on the carbon cycle, nutrient fluxes, and ecosystem resilience is unclear, hindering our ability to anticipate the response of Arctic ecosystems to ongoing climate change. Paleoecological methods are used to examine past shifts in climate, tundra-fire regimes, and thermo-erosional activity to better understand these feedbacks and guide future predictions. The project combines paleoecological with spatial analyses to examine fire-climate-permafrost relationships at different spatial and temporal scale. Field sites are in the Arctic tundra of Alaska. We particularly welcome applications from students with a strong ecological and/or quantitative background.