We are currently seeking prospective graduate students, post-docs, and undergraduate researchers to join our exciting research endeavors in agroecological management and sustainable food systems.

                                                                                                February 10, 2020



Description and Responsibilities: The Soil and Agroecosystems Laboratory in the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan seeks candidates for a two-year postdoctoral research position quantifying ecosystem services related to carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycling in Michigan agroecosystems. The position is funded through a grant from the USDA-NIFA, focused on understanding management legacy effects on ecosystem services from cover crops, spanning field to landscape scales.

The project involves interdisciplinary collaboration with researchers in geography and remote sensing, the social sciences, agroecology, and biogeochemistry. The candidate will help collect and analyze samples from a long-term cropping system experiment at Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners, MI, for various chemical analyses. The selected candidate will conduct interviews with diverse groups of farmers in the state, analyze data, assist with student mentoring, and contribute to writing of journal articles. The candidate will also engage with farmers and other agricultural stakeholders through participation in roundtable discussions.

The initial appointment is for one year, with possibility of extension for an additional year based on performance. The start date is negotiable, but not later than September 8, 2020.

Required qualifications: A Ph.D. in ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, soil and crop sciences, agroecology, or a related field, with experience in field and laboratory techniques to analyze carbon, nitrogen, and/or phosphorus pools in plants and soils. Proficiency with data analysis in R or another statistical program, and strong written and oral communication skills are also required. This position will require travel to field sites and engagement with farmers and the broader agricultural community in Michigan.

Preferred skills: Experience with field- and laboratory-based research on cover crops, nutrient mass balances, or nitrogen cycling processes in agroecosystems; a record of research productivity; and excellent interpersonal skills for communicating with diverse stakeholders.

To apply: Please attach a cover letter describing your research experience, qualifications, and interest in the position, and your curriculum vitae, on the University of Michigan Careers site at: https://careers.umich.edu/job_detail/184576/postdoctoral_research_fellow. Please also send a relevant publication and contact information for three references by e-mail to Dr. Jennifer Blesh (jblesh@umich.edu) with the subject heading “Agroecology Postdoc position.” Review of applications will begin on March 9, 2020, and will continue until the position is filled.

About the program: The School for Environment and Sustainability’s overarching mission is to contribute to the protection of the Earth’s resources and the achievement of a sustainable society. Through research, teaching and outreach, faculty, staff and students are devoted to generating knowledge and developing policies, techniques and skills to help practitioners manage and conserve natural and environmental resources to meet the full range of human needs on a sustainable basis. The University of Michigan also has a strong and growing program in Sustainable Food Systems with an interdisciplinary approach. Since 2010, a cluster of five faculty centered on the theme of sustainable food systems was hired in the fields of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Public Health, and Urban Planning. The new faculty have combined with over 50 other faculty at UM to form the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative (SFSI), which engages in educational, research, and community engagement activities related to food, agriculture, and sustainability.

The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity employer, and individuals from under-represented groups are encouraged to apply

February 1, 2020


Interested undergraduate and master’s students are encouraged to apply for an internship with the Soil and Agroecosystems Lab for the summer 2020 field season (May-Aug). Interns will learn about agroecological research while assisting graduate students in the laboratory and field (see project descriptions below). Internship start and end dates are flexible, but we expect interns to commit to working 20-40 hours/week for a 6-12 week period.

Understanding impacts of cover crop mixtures on Michigan grain farms

This research tests how grass-legume cover crops affect nitrogen cycling dynamics and corn growth on conventional and organic corn-soy-wheat farms in Michigan. In May and June, interns will travel with the lab team to farms in southeastern Michigan, and to the Kellogg Biological Research Station in Hickory Corners, MI, to collect soil, cover crop biomass, and greenhouse gas samples from two cover crop experiments planted in fall 2019. Between June and August, we will conduct a nitrogen mineralization experiment using a field incubation method. In the lab, interns will analyze plant and soil samples for multiple pools of nitrogen and carbon, gaining experience with different analytical instruments. Preference for this position will be given to students with an interest in farming and a desire to conduct field work in the summer. Some basic lab experience (i.e. from a chemistry or biology class or research) is also preferred.

Cover crop experiment on organic vegetable farms in Brazil

This project involves analyzing the nutrient content of organically-grown vegetables and soil collected from a cover crop project in southern Brazil. From July to September, this project, based in Ann Arbor, MI, will involve sample processing and chemical analysis in the Soil and Agroecosystems laboratory. Through hands-on experience, interns will learn about data organization and analysis. Preference for this position will be given to those with prior lab experience and/or Spanish or Portuguese language abilities.

Farm management of crop diversity and transitions to sustainable agriculture in Brazil

For applicants fluent in Portuguese: We are also seeking interns interested in social science research related to sustainable agriculture in a Global South context. This project relies on data from farmer interviews that were conducted in southern Brazil in 2019. Main components of this internship include transcription and coding of interviews in Portuguese, experience using interview analysis software, and translation of transcripts from Portuguese to English. Interns will gain experience working with social science data and will develop skills in qualitative data analysis from interviews. Interested applicants can choose between a summer internship (July-Sept) and fall internship (Sept-Dec) in 2020. Both internships take place on the UM campus in Ann Arbor. Please direct any questions to aestrat@umich.edu.

Nitrogen and carbon cycling in perennial grain-legume intercrops

This experiment at the University of Michigan Campus Farm is focused on intermediate wheatgrass (IWG), the most advanced perennial grain crop. A promising cropping system for increasing ecosystem services is intercropping perennial grains with legumes to supply an organic nitrogen source. This project will identify how two perennial legumes, alfalfa and white clover, impact IWG yield, grain quality, and soil health; and, will determine the relative contribution of above- and below-ground alfalfa biomass to fixed N inputs and soil N cycling capacity. Interns will gain skills in field work, and in analysis of soil and plant biomass samples for multiple nitrogen and carbon pools.


If you are offered an internship position, we will make every effort to help you find funding. Students who are taking classes on the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus over the summer, and who qualify for federal work-study, may be able to intern for up to 20 hours/week as a work-study student. Housing is readily available in Ann Arbor during the summer for around $400/month (e.g., through sublets and in co-ops) and there are many free concerts and other activities downtown that offer an exciting summer experience.

To apply: please email your resume, a cover letter explaining why you are interested in this internship, and a list of your relevant coursework to Beth VanDusen at vanbeth(at)umich.edu. Applications are due by April 6, 2020.