Graduate Student Assistant positions in Environmental Social Science at University of Illinois – Management and policy decisions in agroecological systems

Major Advisor: Dr. Chloe Wardropper, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

I am accepting applications for two MS or PhD-level environmental social science student research assistantship positions, on projects described below, starting winter, summer, or fall 2023.

Project 1. “Rooting for Ecosystem Services.” This newly funded USDA NIFA project is a collaboration between soil scientists, crop scientists, social scientists, and organic corn growers to understand how maize breeding for different traits in organic corn systems can improve nutrient and water use efficiency, carbon sequestration, and overall productivity. The social science objective is to understand how farmers can incorporate knowledge on crop and soil traits to optimize multiple outcomes. We will organize focus groups and interviews with a network of organic corn growers in Illinois to construct mental models of how farmers integrate soil and crop traits into the management of their systems so we can a) identify information needs, b) make recommendations for Extension advice, and c) use the overall model for future interventions in organic systems breeding.

Project 2. “Adoption of farm conservation practices for carbon sequestration and water quality.” This umbrella project, with multiple funding sources including Western SARE and CIG grants, takes a multi-case study research approach in the US (Northwest, Midwest, and Northeast cases) to understand why (and why not) farm operations integrate practices such as cover crops into their rotations, and how equity, food security, and environmental outcomes are affected by individual and policy-level decisions. Our aims are to compare experiences with practices across states and across payment programs (e.g., comparing between public and private programs, and those that target soil carbon sequestration benefits versus water quality benefits). The graduate student will work closely with a postdoc on the same project, as well as collaborators across multiple institutions (including University of Illinois, University of Idaho, and ARS). The graduate student will have more autonomy to shape their own research on this project compared to the first, so they should be comfortable with independent ideation and development.

Desired qualifications: (Note: These assistantships are available at either the MS or PhD level. Please state your preferred degree level in the application).

Undergraduate degree with coursework in environmental studies and social sciences (and MS degree for a PhD-level candidate). Experience with qualitative social science data collection and analysis (e.g., conducting interviews, leading focus groups, and analyzing transcripts). Quantitative social data collection and analysis skills (e.g., surveys, analysis of census or other datasets) are beneficial, but not required. Excellent writing, communication, and organizational skills. Ability to work independently and collaborate with diverse members of a research team. Interest (and ideally experience with) sustainable agriculture. Must have the ability to obtain a US driver’s license.

Start dates: As early as January, 2023. May or August 2023 also possible. Please note desired start date on application.

Support: The successful candidates will receive full tuition, a 9-month academic year stipend, 2-month summer stipend, and health insurance. First year stipend is $23,589 for MS and $24,431 (with adjustment thereafter for inflation). Funding will come from a combination of research assistant and teaching assistant appointments for the duration of the degree given satisfactory performance.

About the place: UIUC is a great place to do research on agroecological systems. As the land grant university for Illinois, we prioritize both basic and applied research. The College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences has local and global impact in food and environmental systems. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is in adjacent small cities in central Illinois, with close access to natural areas along rivers and Great Lakes and (via train or car) to the diverse cities of Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis. For more information about living and working in the area, see: and


How to Apply:  I will consider applications on a rolling basis but emailed applications should be received by Oct. 17 for a spring semester start and Nov. 7 for a summer or fall start. Please send the following items in a single PDF file to Dr. Chloe Wardropper, A cover letter (1-2pp) describing your qualifications, including academic and professional preparation, career goals, interest in one or both of the projects, and ideal start date (2) CV, (3) unofficial transcripts, (4) names and contact information for 3 references (you will be informed before they are contacted), (5) proof of English proficiency if applying from a non-English institution. Candidates must be prepared to submit full application materials to the University if chosen as a top candidate. For more information about the degree program, see: Students from underrepresented backgrounds are encouraged to apply (see more information about inclusion in the College here:

Contact Dr. Wardropper with questions or to discuss potential fit at
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