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MSc position in Reproductive Physiology and Conservation Physiology of Freshwater Mussels

Graduate Student and Postdoc Positions
Posted: 7/15/2017
Expiration Date: 9/15/2017

A Master of Science (MSc) position is available at Auburn University. The student will be hosted by the Aquatic Reproductive Physiology lab (P.I. Dr. Ian Anthony Ernest Butts; http://sfaas.auburn.edu/ian-butts/) in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences (SFAAS). The long-term research objectives of the Aquatic Reproductive Physiology lab are to support the development of sustainable aquaculture, fisheries management, and conservation biology. To accomplish this, we take an interdisciplinary approach to test hypotheses in reproductive biology/physiology of aquatic organisms, with the goal of understanding and ultimately controlling processes that impact gamete quality and offspring performance (egg to feeding larvae).


Responsibilities and tasks

The Southeastern US is a place of unparalleled aquatic biodiversity, and Alabama is particularly rich in this biodiversity, leading the nation in freshwater fishes, mussels, and crayfish species. Unfortunately, our aquatic biodiversity is declining, as more species are becoming extirpated or extinct at an alarming rate. This will only increase as we see the results of global climate change in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. While little can be done to bring back lost species, we must work on securing the fate of others that are threatened or endangered. This conservation physiology research will support these initiatives through extensive experimental laboratory studies (~80%) and field work (~20%). This work is in collaboration with Drs. Jim Stoeckel at Auburn University (http://sfaas.auburn.edu/jim-stoeckel/) and William Wayman at the

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (www.fws.gov/warmsprings/FishTechno/). Specifically, this MSc thesis research may: (1) examine how thermal stress impacts gamete physiology (primarily sperm form/function) in freshwater mussel species; (2) optimize reproductive success by evaluating the influence of sperm and egg quality on fertility; and (3) decipher physiological mechanisms of gamete activation. Overall, the student will be expected to conduct broad research followed by the writing of a detailed cutting-edge thesis.



We are looking for a motivated candidate who has:

- Bachelor’s degree in biology or a similar degree

- Knowledge about conservation physiology

- Proven ability to carry out goal-oriented work and fluent with data management systems (i.e. Excel, Word, statistical analysis)

- Lab competences in molecular biology (e.g. DNA extraction, gene expression, molecular probes) and physiology (e.g. flow cytometry) are strongly preferred    *please clarify your experiences in the “motivating letter”

- Practical husbandry experiences with aquatic organisms will be an asset

- Good co-operationability

- Ability to obtain US driver’s license and vehicle


Approval and Enrollment

This MSc graduate appointment is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in the MSc program within the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. For information about our program please see: http://sfaas.auburn.edu/programs-of-study/graduate-studies/


Salary and appointment terms

This project will be carried out at the E.W. Shell Fisheries Center, which is situated in Auburn, Alabama (http://sfaas.auburn.edu/e-w-shell-fisheries- center/). The salary ($15,495 + fringe benefits) and appointment terms (2 yrs.) are consistent with the current rules for MSc degree students; typically, a tuition waiver is provided. The student will begin coursework in January 2018 and will initiate research in May 2018.



Please submit your application no later than 15 September 2017 at 11:59 PM CDT. Applications must be e-mailed to iab0007@auburn.edu as “one” pdf file containing all materials to be given consideration. The file must include:

- Cover letter motivating the application (please include your background, interests, goals: Approx. 2 pages)

- Curriculum vitae with contact information (e-mail and phone numbers) for three referees

- Unofficial transcripts and GRE scores (refer to: https://www.ets.org/gre)


Further information

For further information about the project, please contact Dr. Ian A.E. Butts at  iab0007@auburn.edu or 1-334-844-9407 (office number). FYI: Monthly rent in Auburn Alabama is reasonably priced at ~$600+ USD.


Nice studies of similar magnitude, which should be read if interested in this position: (i) Fenkes M, Fitzpatrick JL, Ozolina K, Shiels HA, Nudds RL. 2017. Sperm in hot water: Direct and indirect thermal challenges interact to impact on brown trout sperm quality. Journal of Experimental Biology: doi: 10.1242/jeb.156018

(ii) Gosálvez J, López-Fernández C, Fernández JL, Kjelland ME. 2014. Sperm DNA fragmentation in zebrafish (Danio rerio) and its impact on fertility and embryo viability - Implications for fisheries and aquaculture. Aquaculture 433:173–182

(iii) Gosálvez J, Kjelland ME, López-Fernández Carmen. 2010. Sperm DNA in grasshoppers: structural features and fertility implications. Journal of Orthoptera Research 2010,19(2)

(iv) Cocuzza M, Sikka SC, Athayde KS, Agarwal A. 2007. Clinical Relevance of Oxidative Stress and Sperm Chromatin Damage in Male Infertility: An Evidence Based Analysis. International Braz J Urol. 33(5): 603-621

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