Important Information for Prospective Students or Volunteers

Project Volunteers

If you happen to have little to no field experience on carnivore projects, here's your chance to gain some. That's right, volunteer one of my projects.

Here's how it works: You pay all your own expenses (travel to and from the field site) and often pay a project fee (~ US$ 1,750 per month). There are often undergraduate grants for research that will cover such expenses, so seek those out. If you are no longer in school, there may be other grant avenues to pay such fees. While most people think it should be easy to generate funding for charismatic megafauna ( such as kitties), this is actually not the case. In fact, most grants are small (especially for international projects) and the work is usually substantially more complicated and expensive than working on a smaller or more tractable species in the field or lab.

If you are still interested in volunteering please read this form and e-mail your response to me.


I have numerous positions for undergraduates in my lab on an on-going basis. They take several forms (the positions, not the students). Jobs include: organising and labelling photographs, matching spotted cats to reference cats from previous years, maintaining cameras, running/participating in local camera trapping surveys, and never-ending data entry and analysis on numerous camera trapping projects.

Up coming projects: Diet analysis (e.g. scat analysis) and parasite counts from scats of jaguar, puma, and ocelot scat.

1)   Independent Study (1--3 credits). Each VT credit usually requires 3 hours in the lab. This is a Pass/Fail option.
2)   Independent Research (1--3 credits). Each VT credit requires 3 hour in the lab, but those who choose to do 3 credits will need to plan on spending about 10 hours per week. This is a graded option and requires a final report or research paper.
3)   Work-Study. For those who qualify for financial aid and receive work-study money, I can usually support one or two people depending on numbers of hours available per week.
4)   Paid positions--few and far between. I will post a link here when I have openings. To see open positions, click here.

Feel free to contact me by e-mail if you are interested in working in my lab.

Graduate Students

For those interested in joining my lab as a graduate student, please send me:
A Letter of Interest (no more than one page, please) which can be in the body of an e-mail;
A copy of your Curriculum Vitae (C.V.) or resumé.

Your C.V. must include:
Current GPA and GRE scores. This is necessary because both Virginia Tech and the FiW Department have established minimum standards of achievement.

Some rough guidelines in order to be eligible for consideration:
A 3.5 GPA for undergraduate degree; verbal GRE of ≥ 500, quantitative GRE of ≥ 600, analytical writing ≥ 4.5
If I am seeking someone for a project that is primarily population modelling or parameter estimation, I would expect quantitative scores to be ≥ 700.
Should you fail to meet these guidelines, you will find yourself at a considerable disadvantage as I am currently inundated with requests from highly qualified individuals. If you feel that you possess other skills and talents that I cannot do without, be prepared to make as strong a case for yourself as possible. Only by convincing me can I even hope to sway the Department in your favour.

Important items I expect covered in detail in your Letter of Interest:
Why you wish to join my lab;
Why I should consider accepting you as my student.
Include your research interests, how they link with my interests and/or the interests of my students; how your past experiences qualify you to become a part of my lab; and how those experiences make you a good fit. I am particularly interested in the research questions you would like to pursue.
Occasionally experience alone can overcome a low test score, but be aware that many people with very high scores also have excellent experience as well.

Domestic Projects

For American students interested in working within the US on a field project or a lab project: your scores and experience will be particularly important because such projects are usually better funded than international projects and competition for them is very intense. These positions usually include full funding (including summer stipend) on a research assistantship (RA) with teaching assistantship (TA) responsibilities for PhD students in the final year or so. MS students may, or may not, work as a TA.

International Projects

For American students seeking graduate degrees working on international projects, these are also highly competitive, but you must be aware that funding is almost always more difficult to obtain and maintain. American students working on international projects will travel a harder road that will include much grant writing for their own funding while in school. Grant writing is excellent training for future positions, and is also time consuming. These projects often can not guarantee a summer stipend for the student, although all field costs are usually paid. Students additionally spend more time as a teaching assistant. For American students, you may be competing for positions with students from within the country of interest. Many granting programs support only students from within the country of interest because they are working to build capacity for local people in wildlife research. Some projects offer positions only to nationals of the host country in which the project occurs.

About funding:
If you have the ability to produce a portion of your own funding, you greatly increase your chances of becoming a graduate student. Some of my past students have entered the program with funding from Fulbright, National Science Foundation, Department of Defence,etc. This allows me to better argue a case or to seek additional funding using incoming funding as a match. Consider pursuing funding through various granting organisations. While this is by no means a complete list, click here for a list of potential funding sources.

One final word: Meeting minimum qualifications does not guarantee a position. It simply means that you can pass through the VT and FiW hoops without a glitch. Acceptance is still contingent on a project, and funding for that project. This means you must apply for a specific project that has current availability, or work with me to create a project based on combining funding from your sources with matched funding from my sources.

I wish you the best of luck in your graduate search!

For information on applying to graduate school at Virginia Tech, follow this link:

Current Open Graduate Positions

At present, I have no openings.

© tboy 2010