Undergraduate students

Undergraduate Student

There are several ways that serious, enthusiastic students can get involved in the lab and gain valuable research experience. These include volunteer opportunities, paid assistantships, and research for course credit. If you are interested in any of these opportunities, then please email:

  • your CV
  • your unofficial transcripts
  • a statement of your background and relevant experience

to bjc6025@psu.edu.

Graduate students

Graduate Student

Thank you for your interest in joining my research group in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at Penn State. I accept graduate students through the department's Wildlife and Fisheries Science or Forest Resources programs, as well as through the Intercollege Degree program in Ecology. All students are guaranteed full support (tuition, health care, living stipend) for up to 5-years, usually with a combination of scholarships, graduate teaching or research assistantships. I also help all students apply for competitive fellowships and grants to hone their proposal writing abilities.

As someone contemplating graduate school, you have a lot to consider in choosing an advisor, a lab, and a university. Given this, you should know how I approach graduate advising and what I expect of students who work with me. I believe that I have three goals as a graduate mentor. First, it is my responsibility to get you well versed in the fundamental principles of conservation, restoration, and ecological design depending on which of these areas are most relevant to your professional goals and interests. Second, my role is to advise you in primary research, helping you develop a solid proposal answer a clearly formulate question with corresponding hypotheses and predictions, and then giving you advice on how to maximize your chance of making a novel contribution to science. Lastly, it is my goal to help you develop the skills, connections, and opportunities that will ensure a successful postgraduate career.

Here are a few things I expect from students to achieve these goals:

  • Independent Thinking. I want students to develop and pursue their own questions with vigor. PhD students, in particular, are encouraged to work on projects that complement, but are divergent from my own interests. I always help my students develop their ideas, but never 'hold their hand'.
  • Collaboration. As students contribute to the broader intellectual environment of my lab, I encourage them to participate with other labs and other students in scholarly activities. It is important that students develop a research 'program', not just a dissertation topic.
  • Question… Not Systems. It is important that student research be driven by a fundamental question that will advance their respective field of research. I do not train students to specialize in a particular type of ecosystem or group of organisms.
  • Creativity. I encourage students to track down clues wherever they take you, be they traditional methods of science, or more unconventional ones. Be prepared to do whatever it takes to answer your fundamental question and test your hypotheses.
  • Breadth. While one's own research needs to be highly focused, students must keep the 'bigger-picture' in mind. To facilitate this, I support a graduate education that spans a wide variety of organisms and ecosystems, that considers a broad array of questions, and that incorporates numerous theoretical, experimental, and observational approaches in science.
  • Communication. There's little value in research if you don't tell someone about it. Therefore, students are expected to distribute their work at scientific meetings and to publish in scholarly journals and popular media.
  • Basic vs. Applied Perspectives. There is often a false dichotomy made between 'basic' vs. 'applied' research, which is damaging to the environmental sciences. Every research project lies on a continuum where some projects are far from application, and others are close to application. Students may work anywhere along this continuum depending on what their questions and hypotheses require.

In my experience, the most successful students are those who are enthusiastic, hardworking, and committed. It certainly helps to have terrific grades and high GRE scores, but it is far more important to be persistent and driven by curiosity. If this sounds like you, then please email me at bjc6025@psu.edu. Be sure to include a cover letter that explains your background and experience, why you wish to pursue graduate study, and why your research interests are a good fit for my lab. Also attach your CV (resume) and any relevant transcripts or test scores. These will help me assess how competitive you might be for the graduate program here at Penn State.

Postdoctoral Scholars

Postdoctoral Scholar

My lab is a vibrant research team that benefits greatly from collaboration with postdoctoral scholars. I am always interested in adding excellent people to my group who have demonstrated high levels of productivity and novelty in their Ph.D. research, and who wish to continue their training in conservation, restoration, and ecological design.

When I have funding from my grants to hire postdoctoral scholars, I will post those announcements on this webpage as well as in traditional listserves and journals. For anyone hired by these means, I expect them to help run the proposed project(s) while, at the same time, fully developing and actively pursuing their own interests that compliment the broader goals of that research. Of course, I am also very excited when potential postdocs acquire their own funding to do research in my lab, and I am happy to work with candidates to apply for fellowships and grants of their own.

In general, I give my postdocs considerable intellectually liberty to develop and pursue their own research programs. In exchange, I expect them to be highly productive colleagues who will bring creative ideas into my group, challenge us to think in new directions, and help mentor and develop less senior members of my lab.

If you are interested in becoming part of my research team, I encourage you to email me with a cover letter stating your research accomplishments and interests, a curriculum vitae, and representative publications from your work (bjc6025@psu.edu).


  • Department Head, Ecosystem Science and Management