So you want to

join the lab

The Ocean Ecology Lab is a diverse, interdisciplinary team of scientists at all career stages. We are always excited to welcome new members to the team. Check our News page for funded graduate student and postdoctoral positions. If you're interested in joining the lab, please read our letter to prospective students below.

A Letter to prospective students


Thank you for your interest in the Ocean Ecology Lab. We are excited to hear from you and learn about your interests and goals for a graduate degree or postdoctoral position.

Going to graduate school is no small feat. We normally think about the academic side of getting a graduate degree—taking classes, conducting research, writing a thesis or dissertation. But a huge amount of personal growth happens during grad school as well, and we are usually pursuing a graduate degree while simultaneously experiencing major life events. With this in mind, our foremost priority is creating an environment where our students can safely grow both intellectually and personally, feeling supported while contributing their diverse perspectives to the culture of our lab and the science that we do. To create such an environment, the key qualities we look for in prospective lab members are an openness to different ways of seeing the world, kindness, an ability to engage in productive discourse in a respectful manner, and a spirit of collaboration rather than competition. If you are interested in joining the lab, as a first step we encourage you to reach out to current and former students and postdocs to learn more about their experience in the lab.

How do I pay for graduate school?
Getting down to the details, there are some important things you should know about graduate school. The first is that, unlike medical or law school, you should not go into debt or pay out of pocket to attend a thesis-based graduate program in ecology or conservation science. As a MS or PhD student, you will typically have your tuition and fees paid for, and you will receive a stipend to support your living expenses such as accommodations and board. However, the funding for your tuition, fees, and stipend has to come from somewhere—there are several possibilities.

Sometimes large grants will have funding for graduate research assistants, which means you will be paid to be a student while simultaneously serving as a research assistant on a funded project (ideally one that is connected to your dissertation research). There are also internal graduate research fellowships that can support you while you undertake your own research at Oregon State University, however these will not be available until after you are admitted and they are extremely competitive. Teaching assistantships are another common source of funding, and require you to assist with teaching, facilitating and grading a course during each quarter that you receive funding. Finally, you may bring your own source of funding through an external fellowship such as the NSF GRFP, the EPA STAR, the NOAA Nancy Foster Scholarship, or the NOAA-Sea Grant Population Dynamics Fellowship. If you were formerly in the military or the NOAA Corps, it may also be possible for you to use the G.I. Bill to fund your graduate degree.

What all of this means is that we can only accept graduate students if we have a way to fund their degree, and this dramatically limits the number of students we are able to invite into the lab. If we have open graduate research assistantships or fellowships, we will post them on the News page. We are also generally willing to co-develop proposals for the graduate fellowships listed above for outstanding students whose interests closely align with the lab’s goals. And finally, if you are a recipient of one of these fellowships or are interested in using the G.I. Bill to support your studies, we are happy to discuss how your research goals may fit into the lab’s mission and existing activities.  

What kind of student will excel in the Ocean Ecology Lab?
We are interested in big-picture thinkers who want to use technology, statistics, and field observations to support the management and conservation of vulnerable species. We recognize that research experience is the gold standard for graduate school applications, but is also closely tied to economic privilege. If you have experienced barriers to gaining hands-on research experience, then we will also consider potential and enthusiasm for learning these skills. Here is the type of background we are looking for in prospective lab members:

· Critical thinking.
Identifying core concepts, problems, and solutions without getting bogged down in the details.

· Writing ability.
Formulating and communicating ideas clearly and concisely without jargon that is both interpretable to a general audience and sufficiently detailed for an expert audience.

· Experience in the field.
Ideally on, in, or near the water. General field experience in terrestrial environments is also valuable.

· Quantitative and/or coding skills.
Experience using R is essential these days, and should be a priority during your undergraduate training.  

If after reading this, you think the Ocean Ecology Lab would be a good fit for you, please reach out to lab PI . The subject line of your email should include ‘Prospective Student’ (or Postdoc), and you should include a copy of your CV and ideally a writing sample (this can be a final paper, class project, or published/submitted manuscript). In your email, please concisely explain how your interests and goals align with the Ocean Ecology Lab’s research, and why you think you would be a good fit for the lab. Please be specific about the project you are proposing, and the funding sources you have identified (or applied for/received) to support your tuition, fees, and stipend. We ask all incoming PhD students to develop a systematic review and meta-analysis that is relevant to their proposed research. In your email, please outline the knowledge gap that your systematic review would address and how that relates to your research proposal.