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NEW JOB ALERT: Postdoctoral scholar in parasite ecology at the University of Washington

The Wood Lab at the University of Washington seeks to hire a Postdoctoral Scholar in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. The candidate should be available to start between September 16, 2023 and February 16, 2024. The initial appointment will be 100% FTE for one year, with potential renewal for a second year. This position is supported by a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for a project entitled, “Reconstructing parasite abundance in river ecosystems over the past half century.” The candidate hired into this position will have the opportunity to be at the forefront of a new sub-discipline: the historical ecology of parasitism.

The Wood Lab is dedicated to answering the question, “is the world wormier than it used to be?” Our new, NSF-funded project will address this question for the parasites of riverine fishes. We use parasitological dissection of liquid-preserved fishes stored in natural history collections to reconstruct long time series of parasite abundance, encompassing decades of environmental change. By carefully selecting specimens collected before and after the onset of a particular environmental impact (e.g., urbanization, pollutant inputs, climate change) in impacted and matched control areas (a before-after-control-impact or BACI design), we can discriminate change caused by the environmental impact from background change.

The project will involve

  • “field work” (i.e., parasitological dissections conducted at the Tulane University Biodiversity Research Institute in New Orleans, LA and at the University of New Mexico Museum of Southwestern Biology in Albuquerque, NM)
  • collaboration with an international group of senior parasite ecologists and ichthyologists
  • the chance to mentor graduate students and undergraduate REUs, and to engage with elementary-level STEM learners from around the country
  • the opportunity to be among the first to publish using a novel, powerful tool for understanding why and how parasite communities shift in response to global change

The salary for this position will be $65,508 per year, or as mandated by a U.S. Department of Labor prevailing wage determination.

Postdoctoral scholars are represented by UAW 4121 and are subject to the collective bargaining agreement, unless agreed exclusion criteria apply. For more information, please visit the University of Washington Labor Relations website.


The ideal candidate will:

  • have a PhD in ecology, at the time of appointment, with a dissertation primarily or entirely focused on parasitism
  • have no more than three years of total postdoctoral experience
  • have a high degree of statistical fluency (e.g., general and generalized linear models, mixed effects models)
  • have prior experience in parasitological dissection of vertebrates
  • have prior experience in handling natural history specimens
  • have a strong record of publications and presentations
  • adopt a rigorous and scholarly approach to their science, with evidence of this from presentations and publications
  • demonstrate informed curiosity, with the ability to generate novel scientific questions
  • find joy and delight in pursuing answers to questions in parasite ecology
  • be internally, intrinsically motivated to answer the project’s overarching research questions
  • be a reliable team member who collaborators can always count on to come through on their promises
  • be a respectful, professional, and generous team player who goes the extra mile to help their colleagues and maintains strong collegial bonds
  • be an effective mentor for junior colleagues
  • have a positive attitude in the face of obstacles or setbacks; have the professionalism to take these inevitabilities in stride
  • have excellent time management skills; accomplish research goals by creating realistic but ambitious plans and initiating open communication when plans need to be adjusted
  • have the willingness and the courage to discuss issues openly (i.e., to give and receive feedback, to celebrate successes, and to discuss ways to overcome challenges)
Application Instructions

All applications should be submitted through Interfolio. The first application pool review will take place on 03/27/2023. To apply for this position, please include the following in your application:

  • a letter of intent explaining why you are a good candidate for this position.
  • a CV
  • pdfs of any written materials that demonstrate your previous research experience and your rigorous and scholarly approach to science.
  • contact information for three references.

For any queries, please reach out to Dr. Chelsea Wood at


Prospective graduate students: First, a few words of advice.  Graduate school is a big commitment.  It is to your advantage to delay going until you have a very clear idea of how a Master’s or PhD will advance your long-term career goals.  I recommend spending a few years after your undergraduate degree is conferred doing stuff that helps you figure things out.  Maybe that means working as a technician in a lab, or doing a series short-term field work gigs, or taking a job that is totally unrelated to research.  If you continue to read the literature broadly and critically reflect on your experiences, you’ll emerge with a clear idea of your goals, and folks who arrive in grad school knowing what they want to get out of it tend to be the most successful graduate students.  Grad school is not going anywhere – it will still be around after you’ve taken some time to figure things out.  I highly recommend Robert Peters’ Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning an MA or a PhD for folks considering grad school and for those who are already there.  Steven Campana’s 2018 article, “Twelve easy steps to embrace or avoid scientific petrification“, contains lots of good advice for aspiring scientists.

If you’ve reflected on your experiences and have a clear idea of what you’d like to achieve as a graduate student, I’d love to hear from you.  Check out our Research page to read about current projects that are underway in the lab and see the Wood Lab Philosophy to get a sense of how our lab culture operates.  Although I expect my students to work on projects related to parasite ecology in marine and freshwater environments, there is plenty of room under that umbrella for new projects, so I welcome students who come with their own research ideas.  Please shoot me an e-mail ( telling me about your research interests and experiences and include a resume or CV.

Note that I take graduate students through the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS) and through the Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management (QERM) program in the Center for Quantitative Science. If you are interested in parasites of river ecosystems, you might consider simultaneously applying to the Future Rivers program, which would give you an extra certification on top of your SAFS or QERM degree.

I am deeply committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in our field, so I especially encourage you to get in touch if you are a first-generation college student or a student from a low-income background, if you are a member of a racial or ethnic minority, if you identify as a woman or as LGBTQ, or if you have a disability.  UW is a great place for folks who are historically underrepresented in the sciences, with tons of opportunity to connect with others and with support resources across campus.

All prospective graduate students should plan on applying for graduate fellowships – these help pay for your tuition and salary (releasing you from teaching/research duties, which lets you focus on *your* research), make you a much more attractive candidate for graduate school, and they are some of the most impressive things you can put on your CV. One more benefit: nothing helps you sharpen and hone your research ideas like having to write them down. These are a few of the big grad fellowships you should consider (your eligibility may vary depending on your interests and background):

  1. NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
  2. Nancy Foster Scholarship
  3. Ford Foundation
  4. Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship

Prospective post-docs: If you have an idea for a post-doc project on parasite ecology, please feel free to get in touch – I would be happy to collaboratively develop a proposal for post-doc funding. In particular, consider taking advantage of a current “selected area” in the NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology: research using biological collections. A brand new, three-year post-doc opportunity through the Washington Research Foundation provides support for folks who want to do research that addresses an unmet public need. If you are interested in working on a parasite of humans, like Schistosoma, consider NIH’s Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA).

Undergraduate students: We welcome undergraduate involvement in our lab’s research, particularly from students who have taken or are planning to take Chelsea’s Parasite Ecology course. If you’d like to volunteer in the lab, please fill out this form and someone will get back to you asap. If you’re interested in doing a capstone project in our lab, please feel free to contact Chelsea at