Cornell University, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment

Position ID:Cornell-Department of Natural Resources and the Environment-PA [#17979, WDR-00024686]
Position Title: Postdoctoral Associate
Position Type:Postdoctoral
Position Location:Ithaca, New York 14853, United States [map]
Subject Area: Environmental / Environmental
Appl Deadline:2021/02/28 11:59PMhelp popup finished (2021/01/19, finished 2021/09/04)
Position Description:    

*** this position has been closed and new applications are no longer being accepted. ***

Postdoc in environmental DNA detection of forest insect pests and their biocontrols

 The New York State Hemlock Initiative in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at Cornell University is seeking a postdoc to use species-specific quantitative PCR (qPCR) to detect environmental DNA (eDNA) in forest ecosystems. The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is a serious invasive insect pest on eastern hemlock trees, causing decline and eventual mortality, with ecosystem-wide implications for our eastern forests. Early detection of this pest allows for targeted insecticide treatments to prolong hemlock health; however, these treatments are expensive and require repeated application over time. Our lab is researching and deploying biological control using specialist predators on HWA, which have the potential to control HWA throughout large geographic areas. Currently, we are focusing on the ecology of two cryptic species of flies in the genus Leucopis. We are using a range of molecular tools (barcoding, microsatellites, and qPCR assays) to aid in our understanding of these flies.

Environmental DNA is an exciting area of research that has been widely used in studies of fish and other aquatic organisms, and recently for detection of terrestrial pest insects such as spotted lanternfly and brown marmorated stink bug. These assays are extremely sensitive, detecting down to a single copy of mitochondrial DNA from fecal waste, saliva, honeydew, shed cells or other traces left behind by target organisms. We are in the process of publishing the qPCR assays and field and laboratory results for HWA and three biological control agents (one beetle and two flies). Ultimately, we will develop standardized and repeatable monitoring protocols for use throughout the range of invasive HWA in eastern North America. We need to answer some outstanding questions to inform our interpretation of field data; for example, we need to determine the persistence of this eDNA in the field and the size fractions of eDNA that make up the signal, which could vary over time. Active sampling strategies and passive ones should be compared and optimized for different objectives.

 The successful candidate will be responsible for designing and carrying out experiments to meet these goals and will contribute to identifying additional goals and directions as the project develops. We anticipate this will include field work, bench work, and home-based writing and analysis. All activities will be subject to current COVID-related guidelines put in place by Cornell University and the State of New York.


  • Ph.D. in a related biological discipline 
  • Relevant research experience or strong interest in the project
  • Creative research scientist with excellent communication skills
  • Publication record
  • Arc-GIS experience for spatial tracking of sampling strategies, preferred but not required.
  • Ability to work collaboratively as well as independently.


Competitive, commensurate with background and experience. An attractive benefits package is available. Term is a one-year appointment, renewable for an additional year contingent on performance and funding. The start date is February 2021 or as soon as possible. Information about salary and benefits at Cornell can be found here:

 How to Apply

Anticipated start date would be February 1, 2021, or as soon as possible.  There is some flexibility as needed. Applications including a CV, a cover letter indicating how your qualifications and experience have prepared you for this position, the names of at least three references and a statement of contribution to diversity, equity, and inclusion should be submitted to the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment via Applications will be accepted until this position is filled.


Mark Whitmore:

Tonya Bittner:


 Diversity and Inclusion are a part of Cornell University’s heritage. We are a recognized employer and educator valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities. We also recognize a lawful preference in employment practices for Native Americans living on or near Indian reservations.


Employment Assistance: If you require an accommodation for a disability in order to complete an employment application or to participate in the recruiting process, you are encouraged to contact Cornell University's Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity at voice (607) 255-3976, fax (607) 255-7481, or email at For general questions about the position or the application process, please contact the Recruiter listed in the job posting. Applicants that do not have internet access are encouraged to visit your local library, or local Department of Labor. You may also visit the office of Workforce Recruitment and Retention Monday - Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. to use a dedicated workstation to complete an online application. Notice to Applicants: Please read the required Notice to Applicants statement by clicking here. This notice contains important information about applying for a position at Cornell as well as some of your rights and responsibilities as an applicant. EEO Statement: Diversity and Inclusion are a part of Cornell University’s heritage. We are a recognized employer and educator valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities. We also recognize a lawful preference in employment practices for Native Americans living on or near Indian reservations. Cornell University is an innovative Ivy League university and a great place to work. Our inclusive community of scholars, students, and staff impart an uncommon sense of larger purpose, and contribute creative ideas to further the university's mission of teaching, discovery, and engagement.

Application Materials Required:
Submit the following items online at this website to complete your application:
And anything else requested in the position description.

Further Info:
111 Fernow Hall
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

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