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Conservation Social Scientist, Research Associate at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Project title: Linking human behavior and attitudes to spillover of SCV2 at the cervid-human interface

Salary: Minimum of $65,000
Start Date: August 1, 2023 (with flexibility between August 1 and September 1 start date) for a three-year position.
Apply by: Open until filled.  Apply by July 20, 2023 for full consideration
To apply:  Applications should be made to the University of Minnesota using the job application system for external candidates.    Please search “External Candidates” for Job ID Number: 356310


Project Summary: The purpose is to understand how human behaviors, human-white-tailed deer (WTD) interactions, land use, and ecological context contribute to SARS-CoV-2 (SCV2) infection dynamics in WTD populations. SCV2-positive WTD are being detected across states and counties that vary in human population density (rural to urban) and incidence of SCV2 in humans. While our understanding of how WTD acquire infection from humans in natural settings remains weak, the observation of WTD infections across a wide-ranging geographical context suggests that spillover is frequent, potentially through multiple routes. Currently there are many different hypotheses about risk factors for spillover – e.g., urban parks, crowded campgrounds in National parks, popular hunting lands, etc., but little data to distinguish among these hypotheses. It is likely that the type and frequency of human-WTD interactions vary across these settings. Identifying and quantifying these differences would improve risk assessments for managers to identify optimal control points if needed.

Position Description & Qualifications:  The Conservation Social Science Researcher will have lead responsibility for the design and implementation of the study in coordination with 4 collaborating universities. The purpose of the study is to understand how human behaviors, human-white-tailed deer (WTD) interactions, land use, and ecological context contribute to SARS-CoV-2 (SCV2) infection dynamics in WTD populations.  There are 4 objectives: 1) Determine the predictive relationship between (a) human values, attitudes, and beliefs and (b) human behaviors at the human-WTD interface; 2) Identify human behaviors and land-use characteristics that may lead to spillover or spillback of SCV2 from humans to WTD; 3) Determine the likely response of individuals to different management interventions (e.g., provision of information about risk and prevention); and 4) Improve risk assessment and forecasting capabilities of SCV2 hotspots in WTD.

Preferred candidates will have completed a PhD in the conservation social sciences/human dimensions of wildlife before applying and have an interdisciplinary background in ecology, social science, and disease management.  They should have experience in conducting research in the conservation social sciences with a focus on social psychology and disease management in deer or other wildlife species. Preferred candidates also will have interests in theoretical social psychology and in modeling human behavior/decision making in the context of disease ecology and management. Candidates should have an interest in qualitative social science methods and quantitative analytical skills with a preference towards those with demonstrated strong skills and experience in quantitative analysis with leading statistical packages (e.g., SPSS, SAS, STATA, R) as well as knowledge of GIS and spatial statistics.

This is a one-year position, renewable up to 3 years.


  • (20% Designs and implements a multi-method qualitative and quantitative study to collect data to understand interactions of white-tailed deer and people to develop a model to better understand the potential for disease spread between deer and people.  The position will have lead responsibility for ensuring these tasks are coordinated with personnel at the University of Minnesota and 4 partner universities).
  • (20% Conducts quantitative/qualitative analyses of data)
  • (20% Writes project reports, and develops outreach products for the project)
  • (20% Conducts literature reviews and develops manuscripts)
  • (10% Other duties including preparing and delivering presentations)

Location: The position is within the College of Biological Science, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  The researcher will be supervised by and work closely with Dr. Meggan Craft (Associate Professor Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Minnesota https://cbs.umn.edu/directory/meggan-craft ) and Dr. David Fulton (Assistant Unit Leader Minnesota Cooperative Fish & wildlife Research Unit https://fwcb.cfans.umn.edu/people/david-fulton ). The Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is housed in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota. Funding is being provided through USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services with close coordination with Dr. Keith Carlisle, Supervisory Social Scientist / Human Dimensions Unit Leader National Wildlife Research Center.

 Compensation and Timeline

The position is available beginning August 1, 2023 with a start date of no later than September 1, 2023. Funding on the project is available for up to 3 years depending upon performance. Depending on qualification, the Research Associate selected for this position will receive a minimum initial salary of ~$65,000/year plus health & other benefits (36.8% of salary) with annual cost of living adjustments.

For additional information or questions please contact David Fulton ([email protected]) Assistant Unit Leader at the Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.