PhD position in Borneo’s tropical rainforest fire ecology, University of Oregon


Dr. Daniel Gavin (Department of Geography)  is recruiting a PhD student for an NSF-funded project focused on the historical pattern of fire in a tropical rain forest in Indonesian Borneo. El Niño-related fires have burned large regions of central and western Kalimantan, especially in logged upland forest and peat forests, resulting in severe environmental impacts for the region as well as very high carbon emissions. This project will address the prevalence and spatial pattern of fires over the Holocene in a primary rainforest in a national park. The methods involve radiocarbon dating soil charcoal and quantifying total soil pyrogenic carbon. The project will address the vulnerability and resiliency of primary forest to fire and whether modern forest composition has been influenced by these disturbances. By sampling across a variety of habitat types, the study will distinguish between human-caused (swidden agriculture) and climate-driven fires. The project will also address the persistence of the soil charcoal carbon pool and the influence of past fire on peat accumulation.

Desirable qualifications include a background in forest ecology, disturbance ecology, soil science, and quantitative skills. An interest in tropical forest ecology and conservation is also highly desirable. An MS degree with a thesis in a related field is required. The student will be required to learn Indonesian. Field work will be based at a remote field station, with primitive living conditions, in Gunung Palung National Park. The site is well known for research on orangutan ecology, forest phenology, and biodiversity. Field work will be physically demanding and will require attention to detail. Total time in Indonesia is expected to be more than one year split among two or three trips. Funding is available for three years through a combination of teaching assistantships (1 year) and graduate research fellowships (2 years).

Interested students should send a cover letter, CV, college transcripts, GRE scores, and a statement of academic interest (including career goals) directly to Daniel Gavin ( In order to be accepted with our fall cohort of graduate students, please send materials as soon as possible, and no later than March 15th. Information on the department’s graduate program is found here:, and on Gavin’s lab group here: Inquiries by phone are also welcome.