Lab openings


PhD position: Trait-based demography and fitness of perennial plants

The Laughlin Lab at the University of Wyoming is recruiting a PhD student to study the relationship between functional traits and demographic fitness of perennial plants. The field work for this NSF-funded project will occur in Flagstaff, Arizona. Ideal start date is Summer 2020. The PhD student will be part of the excellent Graduate Program in Ecology (see at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Laramie is a friendly and historic western town on the northern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains with excellent access to trails and year-round outdoor activities.

Come study perennial plants in the amazing ponderosa pine forests of northern Arizona!

Preference will be given to applicants with experience and interest in population demography and functional traits.

To apply: Email letter of interest, academic transcripts (unofficial ok), and contact info for three references to daniel.laughlin(at)
DUE: December 31, 2019

NSF Project Abstract: Theory predicts that functional traits determine fitness differences among species, but direct evidence for this is still lacking for long-lived organisms. Given the inherent difficulty of quantifying fitness, ecologists typically link traits to vital rates rather than to fitness itself. However, analyzing trait-vital rate relationships in isolation can be misleading because of well-documented trade-offs among vital rates. Individual growth rates can be a poor proxy for fitness because the growth-mortality tradeoff can generate variation in growth rates that yield equal fitness. This research will contribute new understanding of the net effects of functional traits on fitness by integrating rates of growth, survival and reproduction across multiple populations of coexisting perennial plant species. This contribution will fill an important gap in knowledge by demonstrating how effects of traits on individual vital rates compare to the net effect of traits on total fitness. Evolutionary models of dynamic fitness landscapes will be confronted with experimental data to test predictions of how traits influence fitness in response to experimental rainfall manipulations. This research will provide an empirical foundation for theories that integrate population ecology, evolutionary biology, and ecophysiology, by developing generalizable trait-based models of population dynamics to predict responses to changing environmental conditions.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS: We are currently accepting applications to work as a summer/fall/spring assistants in the lab. Please let me know if you are interested!

POST-DOCTORAL SCHOLARS: I am always interested in supporting applications to post-doctoral fellowships, so if you are applying to a fellowship and are interested in working in the lab, please contact me.