As of this writing (November, 2020), I do not anticipate recruiting new students into my lab for the 2021-2022 year. Nonetheless, if you are interested in U. Illinois, please feel free to contact me to discuss possible future opportunities.
Letter to Prospective Students
For evolutionary ecology, conservation biology, or tropical ecology, I believe the University of Illinois has one of the best programs around. My current research activities are located in the Midwest U.S. and in the Republic of Panama. The North American research has emphasized the conservation and population-community biology of birds with respect to periodic disturbance, fragmentation, and ecosystem restoration. Research on the ecology of West Nile Virus is now a major area for my program. The tropical research deals with the demography/reproductive ecology and community ecology of resident birds. Many students in my lab have not worked on birds, however, and developed independent questions ranging from sexual selection in amphibians to the phylogeography of butterflies. Good questions are more important than the type of study organism or system.
My philosophy towards the training and mentoring of graduate students is that there should be a serious mutual commitment. I expect students to maintain a strong commitment to their work and they should expect the same from me. I do my level best to ensure that students are supported while they are here and that they are well prepared for whatever comes next. Students in my lab must publish their research and seek their own(additional) funding when possible. I do not micro-manage and try to foster a “semi-autonomous” relationship with students. At the risk of sounding strident, I am not interested in students who lack a deep commitment to their work or those who enter graduate school simply for lack of a better option. I am especially interested in students who have at least some field experience and who know their area well enough to independently develop innovative questions.
Two basic options for graduate study are available for work in my lab. The graduate Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology (PEEC) is ideal for those interested in relatively “basic” questions in ecology and evolutionary ecology. Note that PEEC is a standalone graduate program and is not part of any one department or college. The second option is the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (NRES). This department is ideal for those interested in comparatively applied questions (M.S. and Ph.D). Links for both units are on my webpage.
I currently have students in both PEEC and NRES and we can determine which unit is the most appropriate for you. Applications are generally due around January 1st. I urge you to visit the programs that interest you. PEEC and NRES do require GRE scores, so you should take those if you have not already done so (the Biology test is not required).
Good luck in your efforts and, again, please do not hesitate to contact me with questions.