Graduate Student Position in Fish Ecology – Spring 2021 (Position Filled)

Description: The Department of Biology at the University of South Dakota seeks applications for an MS research assistantship to study Asian carp invasion biology in South Dakota. We anticipate funding for one MS research assistant for two years beginning January 2021. The stipend is $23,500/year with full tuition remission. The student will join a collaborative effort between researchers at the University of South Dakota, the SD Department of Game, Fish and Parks, and the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center. The aim of the study is to document presence/absence and seasonal use patterns of Silver and Bighead Carp in three tributaries of the Missouri River: the Big Sioux, Vermillion, and James Rivers, using acoustic telemetry and environmental DNA (eDNA) and determine if the carp occur upstream of putative barriers on the study rivers. This study is part of a multi-state effort that includes Missouri River tributaries with direct connection to the Lower Missouri River and periphery streams within the states of South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. The Lower Missouri River is the 811 river miles of the mainstem Missouri River downstream of Gavins Point (the most downstream dam) to its confluence with the Mississippi River near St. Louis, MO.

Qualifications: Applicants must have an earned undergraduate degree in Biology, Fisheries Biology, Ecology, or a related field with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Due to COVID-19, no GRE scores are required at this time. We seek an applicant who is proficient at both field and laboratory work. Field work will involve fish collection using electrofishing and other techniques, surgery, telemetry, and water collection for eDNA analysis. Field work for this assistantship may at times involve strenuous physical labor and uncomfortable weather conditions. Lab work will include water sample filtration, DNA extraction, and qPCR analyses of samples. Individuals with experience relevant to both the study’s field and lab aspects will be preferred, but any interested students are encouraged to apply. The research assistant must be able to follow protocols precisely, be detail-oriented, and well-organized.

Contacts: Jeff Wesner, Ph.D., Department of Biology, University of South Dakota (

Hugh Britten, Ph.D., Department of Biology, University of South Dakota (

For full consideration, please submit all materials to the USD Graduate School’s online application: In your application letter, be sure to mention you specific interest in the project and mention Drs. Wesner and Britten as potential advisors.

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