Join the lab!

Join the lab!

The Carey Lab is recruiting two Ph.D. students in freshwater ecosystem science to start in January or August 2024!

The Carey Lab in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech is recruiting two graduate students in freshwater ecosystem science to start at the Ph.D. level in January 2024 or August 2024. We seek enthusiastic and self-motivated students who can work independently while participating in a fun and highly collaborative lab environment, and encourage interested students to read through our Mission Statement, Code of Conduct, Diversity & Inclusion Statement, and other lab resources posted on our website to learn more about our group.

Position 1: We are recruiting a Ph.D. student interested in studying how reservoir water quality is changing in response to climate and land use. Research areas could include phytoplankton ecology, biogeochemistry, ice dynamics, and/or greenhouse gas emissions (or more!). This project involves field sampling with other graduate students and undergraduate assistants as part of a long-term freshwater monitoring program; conducting whole-ecosystem experiments; and co-developing water quality forecasts with managers and the public to guide decision-making.

Position 2: We are recruiting a Ph.D. student interested in advancing our understanding and prediction of phytoplankton blooms to improve drinking water management. Research areas could include predicting water quality in lakes across the U.S.; comparing different models for bloom forecasting; and evaluating when bloom models fail vs. succeed due to the underlying ecology of phytoplankton in lakes. This project involves field sampling; analyzing historical water quality data; developing phytoplankton models and forecasts; and collaborating with managers to create new ways to effectively communicate phytoplankton predictions for improved decision-making.

Both Ph.D. students would work with our interdisciplinary, highly-collaborative team in the Ecological Forecasting Project at Virginia Tech, and both positions include opportunities for co-advising and environmental data science training with Quinn Thomas. Throughout both projects, the students would work closely with managers, educators, and the public at our focal field sites in Virginia.

Successful applicants will: be excited to dig into the mysteries of lake and reservoir water quality; have research and scientific writing experience (from either previous employment and/or education); enjoy collaborating in interdisciplinary teams and talking/thinking about team science, and be interested in engaging with community members about our research. Candidates who are interested in developing new quantitative skills are especially encouraged to apply.

The Carey Lab is committed to improving diversity in STEM. We are dedicated to recruiting, retaining, and mentoring individuals to promote diversity, equity, and justice in our research group, and all lab members are committed to upholding and supporting Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community. Our lab actively uses best practices from the science of team science to support our collaborative work and inspire each other to grow as leaders, educators, and innovators.

The Carey Lab is part of the Virginia Tech Stream Team, an internationally-recognized group of faculty and students studying the ecology of aquatic habitats. This vibrant research group provides an ideal environment for conducting graduate work within an interactive and supportive community of freshwater and ecosystem scientists. Other opportunities for students in the Carey Lab include participating in the Virginia Tech Interfaces of Global Change graduate training program and the VT Center for Communicating Science.

Both positions are supported by new National Science Foundation grants and will be funded on a combination of research and teaching assistantships, which include a competitive stipend, tuition waiver, and health insurance benefits. Our Ph.D. program guarantees five years of funding, including summers.

How to apply: Interested students should send an email letter of inquiry to Cayelan (cayelan @ Please include: 1) an overview of your research interests, 2) a short description of why you are interested in joining our specific lab, 3) your C.V. or résumé, 4) an unofficial transcript, and 5) contact info for three references. Please feel free to contact me (Cayelan) with questions about the application process, graduate school at Virginia Tech, or potential research opportunities. I encourage students interested in applying for an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to contact me before October 1 so that I can assist with your application. I also mentor students interested in applying for Global Change Center Diversity Fellowships (applications due in winter 2024).

Timeline: I generally interview prospective students who email me that are well-aligned with the lab group and available funding via video teleconferences throughout August-November and then will invite competitive applicants to submit their materials for a December 15 admission deadline. To provide the most time for coordination before the December 15th deadline, I encourage you to email me by November 1. We no longer require GRE scores as part of our application process. Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Sciences application requirements, deadlines, and guidelines can be found here. All qualified applicants will receive consideration, however, only candidates selected for interviews will be contacted.


Interested in postdoctoral opportunities?

****Postdoctoral ad forthcoming! I will post a new fully-funded opportunity in early August 2023****

At this time, I do not have any available postdoctoral funding but will advertise broadly when I do so. In the meantime, if you are interested in our lab as a potential postdoctoral home, I encourage you to contact me to discuss working together on applications for NSF EARS fellowships, NSF Postdoctoral Fellowships in Biology, Smith Fellowships, or NEON Fellowships.