Postdoctoral opportunity in orchid ecology and conservation

Review begins February 1, 2017, open until filled.

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), in collaboration with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry (IPIF), University of Hawaii Manoa, and Illinois College, has an opening for a postdoctoral research fellow to participate in an interdisciplinary project that focuses on orchid ecology and conservation on Pacific Islands. Field research will take place in Palau where the IPIF and Smithsonian scientists have established a forest dynamics plot that is part of the ForestGeo permanent plot network ( All trees in the plot have been mapped and identified, providing a unique opportunity to assess the spatial relationship between trees, orchids and mycorrhizal fungi. The plot is located in secondary forest within a matrix of degraded savanna with nearby areas of older forest, providing opportunities to assess orchid and associated mycorrhizal fungi distributions in a recovering forest. This landscape provides an opportunity to test hypotheses about the role of symbioses in governing species and community responses to forest dynamics on an oceanic. island. The project is an expansion of the Smithsonian’s North American Orchid Conservation Center (, which has a goal of assuring the survival of native orchids through the establishment of seed and fungal banks and development of protocols for establishing sustainable populations of native orchids for conservation, education and restoration purposes.


The fellow will participate in designing and conducting a collaborative effort to identify and sample orchids in the ForestGeo plot and across the Palauan archipelago. The fellow will preferably have a taxonomic background and show interest in contributing the Smithsonian’s Flora of Micronesia project. The fellow will be involved in efforts to isolate, culture and identify mycorrhizal fungi associated with orchids and use the fungi and seeds to conduct germination and propagation studies. The fellow will be based at SERC and will be responsible for field-based sampling and research on Palau as well as interacting with collaborators at IPIF, the University of Hawaii Manoa and Illinois College. The project will also be based on the development of strong collaboration with citizens groups and government agencies in Palau.


Applicants should have a Ph.D. in an area of science relevant to one or more aspects of the project (e.g., orchid biology, plant or fungal ecology); strong inter-personal skills are essential. Skills in data management, sterile techniques, and molecular ecology, especially familiarity with metabarcoding, would also be desirable. The position is funded for 2 years, with the second year contingent on performance and funding. The stipend is $48,000/year plus health insurance and there will be a budget to support travel between Hawaii and Palau and the other institutions involved in the project. Applicants should send a letter describing how you meet the minimum and desired qualifications and how this project will fit within your research and career goals. The application should also include a curriculum vitae, graduate and undergraduate transcripts (unofficial copies are fine), and names of three references (with telephone numbers and e-mail addresses). Applications will be accepted until January 29, 2017 and they should be sent to Dr. Dennis Whigham by email ( or mailed to him at SERC, 647 Contees Wharf Road, Edgewater, MD 21037-0028. For more information on participating organizations, visit their web sites: SERC (,, Institute of Pacific Island Forestry (, Hynson laboratory (, Orchid Recovery Program at Illinois College (