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Applied Plant Ecology / Invasive Species / Biosecurity

Ph.D. Student Positions

Cane grasses.png

Invasive grasses are a global threat to biodiversity and human activity.  These six canegrass species clockwise from top left are Arundo donax, Saccharum spontaneum, Cenchrus purpureus, Phragmites australis, Imperata cylindrica, and Megathyrsus maximus.

NOTE: To be considered for these funded positions, students must be United States citizens or permanent residents.


The Marsico Lab is actively recruiting doctoral students interested in applied plant ecology with a desire to study the evolutionary ecology of novel interactions in invasive species. One focus in the research lab is biosecurity: preventing and mitigating risks posed by invasive species. Possible research projects include the use of field observations, greenhouse experiments, genomic tools, advanced algorithms, and geographic information systems (GIS). Students will engage in field work in natural wildland habitats and industrialized field locations such as international shipping ports.


A bachelor’s degree in botany, biology, ecology, computer science, or related field is required, and students who have earned or are about to complete a master’s degree will be given special consideration. Experience with or an interest in learning to identify vascular plant species is required. Applicants should have a strong desire for scientific discovery. Students who have an interest in working outdoors in a variety of settings including marshlands, forests, roadsides, and shipping ports will excel. Students with experience coding or analyzing genomic datasets or who have an interest in working at the intersection of biology and computer science will be able to develop interdisciplinary projects that push these fields of science forward.

Collaborative opportunities with Dr. Rima Lucardi’s research lab at the USDA Forest Service-Southern Research Station and Dr. Emily Bellis at Avalo, a genome analysis industry partner, are important aspects of research projects students will develop, as we have an emphasis on educating interdisciplinary scientists for a variety of future career paths.


Another focus in the lab is providing a sense of belonging, inclusivity, and meaningful support to students from a variety of backgrounds. Applicants who are first-generation college students and/or underrepresented or minority students are highly encouraged to apply.


Funding for these positions is provided through a combination of Arkansas State University Environmental Sciences or Molecular Biosciences program funds and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship called UandI-DEECoDE (pronounced “You and I decode”): Understanding Invasion and Disease Ecology and Evolution through Computational Data Education. The successful applicant should plan to begin in January 2024, though there is some flexibility in start date.

Arkansas State University is a comprehensive, state-supported, doctoral university with a high level of research activity (R2). The Department of Biological Sciences has nearly 500 undergraduate and 60 graduate students across Biology, Environmental Sciences, and Molecular BioSciences graduate programs. Jonesboro is a community of nearly 80,000 people located in Northeast Arkansas, amid the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and Crowley’s Ridge ecoregions. We are a 1-hour drive away from Memphis, Tennessee, and the Ozark Highlands. Jonesboro boasts being a regional center for quality healthcare, having a variety of dining and entertainment options, a low cost of living, and plenty of recreational opportunities.

If interested, contact Dr. Travis Marsico at

If you plan to apply, please send an email to (copy the project coordinator, Greg Umhoefer, at that includes 1) a cover letter describing your interests, career goals, and relevant research experiences and skills; 2) your Curriculum Vitae [including names and contact information for three references]; and 3) a copy of your unofficial academic transcript(s). Review of requested pre-application materials listed above will begin on June 1, 2023, and review of applications will continue until positions are filled.

Travis D. Marsico, Ph.D.

Professor of Botany

Department of Biological Sciences

Curator, Arkansas State University Herbarium (STAR)

Arkansas State University

PO Box 599

State University, AR 72467


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