Graduate Research Assistantships - Michigan


Michigan State University


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Start Date

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Up to three Ph.D. graduate research assistantships are available at Michigan State University in the areas of social-ecological systems, coupled human and natural systems, ecosystem services, and participatory research to support a pair of new, multi-year, multidisciplinary, NASA-funded projects addressing the socio-ecological effects of climate change and dam construction in the Lower Mekong River Basin (i.e. Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam).

Mainland Southeast Asia is a dynamic and rapidly changing region, where rapid urbanization and technological and economic development are increasingly shaping rural landscapes, ecosystems, and agrarian communities. In recent years, numerous dams have been (and are being) constructed along the Mekong River and its tributaries in order to meet the region’s growing appetite for energy, irrigation for agricultural intensification, and protection from extreme weather events. This highly interdisciplinary project aims to better understand the downstream social and ecological effects of dam construction in order to identify sustainable scenarios that address broader regional needs while preserving important ecosystem services and local livelihoods.

The Ph.D. students will use remote sensing and field-based social science research methods (e.g. ethnography, participatory research, participatory GIS, household surveys) to evaluate tradeoffs and synergies among ecosystem services, human well-being, and livelihoods in rural communities affected by upstream dam construction and climate change. The students will work with an interdisciplinary MSU-based team as well as with local partners and will at times be responsible for carrying out independent field research in Southeast Asia.

It is preferred that candidates have a master’s degree in conservation science, environmental studies, ecology, fisheries and wildlife, geography, sociology, anthropology, resource or environmental economics or other relevant fields. Students should have an interest in interdisciplinary research with strong analytical skills (qualitative and/or quantitative, depending on the position) and an interest in mixed-method approaches. Students should have excellent writing skills and the ability to work both independently and in teams in a variety of contexts, including fieldwork in rural communities. Some experience with geospatial tools and analyses is desired, as are familiarity with the region and proficiency (or willingness to learn) one or more local languages (Thai and Khmer).

There is some flexibility on home department depending on interests and experience. Students would be expected to start in the summer of 2018. Expressions of interest should be sent to Dr. Daniel Kramer (

Contact Name

Dr. Daniel Kramer

Contact Email