Graduate Research Assistantship – Multi-state Study of Wildlife Viewers

Salary: The student will be supported with a research assistantship (~$25,000 stipend per year), a full tuition waiver, and student health benefits. 

Start date: May 2021 preferred;  Applications considered as received 

Graduate Research Assistant needed for a social science study of wildlife viewers (people who intentionally observe, feed, photograph, or collect data on wildlife) in states across the nation. The student will work collaboratively with faculty at Virginia Tech (Drs. Dayer and Barnes) and engage with state agency staff across the country in a high-profile project designed to shape how agencies interact with this growing constituency for wildlife conservation and management. The student will analyze data from regional and ~15 state surveys to better understand wildlife viewers, their recreation and conservation behaviors, and their relationship with state agencies. Excellent organization, writing skills, and attention to detail are essential as the student will help manage many large datasets and contribute to the writing of 15 state reports on survey results. The student will also design and conduct interviews and a survey of financial contributors to a state agency in a related conservation marketing and engagement study. The student will have ample opportunity to design qualitative and quantitative research, write and present study results, and co-produce research and recommendations with the practitioners who will use the data. 

Funding and research needs could support a student at the master’s or doctoral level, depending on student interest and qualifications. The student will receive an MS or PhD in Fish and Wildlife Conservation from Virginia Tech and be part of the Dayer Human Dimensions Lab ( PhD students will also be encouraged to apply to the interdisciplinary graduate education program Interfaces of Global Change ( which offers unique intellectual focus and training in the realm of global change and the science-policy interface. 

Preferred start date of May 2021 is negotiable, with ability to start earlier. 

Graduate degree program would begin in August 2021. 

Minimum qualifications:

  • BS or MS degree in human dimensions, fisheries, wildlife, natural resources, environmental social sciences, or related discipline with coursework in social sciences and natural resources or environment
  • GPA of 3.4 or higher (over the last 60 credit hours)
  • Interest in social science research and science co-production with agencies
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Organized and attention to detail
  • Commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Works well independently and as part of a team

Preferred qualifications: 

  • Demonstrated research experience (data collection, analysis, and writing)
  • Experience writing science research reports
  • Experience with survey and/or interview research
  • Knowledge of wildlife viewers, wildlife recreationists, or state fish and wildlife agencies
  • Skills in using statistical analysis software 

To apply please submit a single pdf including: 

  1. Cover letter summarizing interest in the position, qualifications, and experience, as well as research and career goals 
  2. CV or resume
  3. An academic/research writing sample (from a publication, research project, or class assignment) including a paragraph explaining applicant’s and others’ contributions to the piece
  4. Academic transcripts (can be unofficial)
  5. Names, contact information, and short description of relationship for three professional references Submit application materials via email to Lynn Hayes ( with “Dayer Lab GRA application” in the email subject line. Applications should be submitted before January 3, 2021, but will be reviewed as they are received. The top candidate will also need to apply to the Virginia Tech Graduate School before acceptance (but applicants do not need to initiate this application yet). 

Contact Person: Dr. Ashley Dayer,

Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. For inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies, contact the executive director for Equity and Accessibility at 540-231-2010 or Virginia Tech, North End Center, Suite 2300 (0318), 300 Turner St. NW, Blacksburg, VA 24061.