The project evaluates emerging patterns of social-ecological vulnerability in pastoralist communities in Kenya which have begun to diversify into maize agriculture alongside their struggling livestock-based livelihood system. Livelihood challenges prior to the adoption of agriculture resulted from restricted grazing ranges as surrounding lands have become privatized, coincidence of grazing ranges with a major wildlife corridor (and a strong conservation agenda carried out on private lands), and feedbacks with the ecological system (affecting vegetation composition, eco-hydrological conditions, etc.). The transition to agriculture has a host of implications, including a suite of impacts on ecological and eco-hydrological dynamics, changes in levels of adherence to customary norms on grazing, a shift from communal to privatized land use in farming areas, and highly differentiated socioeconomic implications.  While diversification has the potential to increase livelihood resilience through better food security, it can also exacerbate vulnerability if it increases environmental sensitivity to disturbances such as drought or predation by wildlife, if it exposes participants to heightened risk, or if participants lack the coping or adaptive capacity to manage the novel enterprise at the household or community level.  Our research aims to assess these three dimensions of vulnerability – ecological sensitivity, risk exposure, and coping capacity -- to understand the dynamics and potential consequences of transitions underway.


Because the project is highly interdisciplinary, we welcome applications from candidates holding a Ph.D. in any relevant field, such as: ecology, environmental engineering, geography, anthropology, etc.  The candidate is expected to collaboratively develop research plans that can be integrated with other research questions, so as to better understand the interactions and feedbacks between dryland ecology, land use, human ecology, decision-making, governance, and common pool resource institutions.  Grounding in resilience theory, social-ecological systems, and interdisciplinary research experience would be valuable. The position will be primarily based in very rural Kenya.  There the candidate will reside in a Laikipia Maasai community in Northern Laikipia County, where the project has a basic office/living structure with solar power.  Readiness to live and work in an area with very basic amenities and a lot of elephants is essential.  Ability to communicate in Swahili or Maa would be highly valued.


TO APPLY, please send the following materials to both AND



Benjamin R. K. Runkle, Assistant Professor in Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is recruiting two PhD students to join the Landscape Flux Group within the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. These positions can start immediately, in January 2015, or in summer or fall of 2015. There are significant opportunities here for collaborations on-campus in water, soil, nanotech, and other laboratories. Fayetteville Arkansas is a beautiful and culturally vibrant college town amidst the Ozark Mountain Range. There are plentiful outdoor recreational activities, good restaurants, and proximity to the world-class art collection of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.


Students should have a background in one or more of the following disciplines: wetland ecology, biogeochemistry, biometeorology, environmental engineering, watershed or surface-water hydrology, agricultural sciences or engineering. Some ability to code in Matlab or a related language is beneficial, as is experience in gas flux measurements using either chamber-based or eddy covariance methods. These positions will require a valid US driver’s license. The research group develops budgets of water, energy, and carbon in different wetland ecosystems. This research uses micrometeorological techniques to evaluate land-atmosphere fluxes of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and heat. For example, the eddy covariance technique is used to determine the turbulent flux within atmospheric boundary layers, whereas hydrological methods are used to estimate the horizontal fluxes of dissolved carbon in surface and subsurface waterways. Together these methods quantify major environmental fluxes that serve as inputs for process-based predictive modeling and landscape management. The PhD research projects will be based in agriculturally-affected wetlands in Arkansas and low-lying permafrost tundra wetlands in the Arctic. Both projects will use flux budgeting methods to understand the landscape’s ecological and hydrological functioning. This research will connect between site dynamics and climate drivers with the goal of creating simplified process representations used at the scale of the global climate model. Resources are available for travel, equipment and international collaboration.


Please email Dr. Benjamin Runkle (, with a CV, unofficial transcript, the names of two references, a sample of your scientific writing, and a description of your research interests. Additional information about graduate admission requirements, possible supplemental fellowships, and material about the department may be found here: Information about the university and its land grant mission may be found here: Furthermore, the university offers competitive Doctoral Academy Fellowships, which are awards over and above the departmental stipend. Details on these opportunities are available here:



UCLA's innovative professional doctorate program in Environmental Science and Engineering Program (ESE) provides practical education for tomorrow's environmental problem solvers.  Today's environmental professionals need scientific, engineering, and policy skills to translate our collective resolve and resources into effective environmental action. Such environmental professionals are at the cutting edge. The ESE Program focuses on the critical environmental questions of the day: problems that transcend state and national borders, yet also have local relevance. Both the research and instruction recognize the interconnections between soil, air, water and biota, as well as the interdependence of human and ecological health. Equally important, the Program emphasizes the interactions and interdependencies between science, engineering, public policy, economics and law in the protection of the environment and public health. The program is administered by the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and offered in collaboration with twelve academic departments in the College of Letters and Science and the Schools of Engineering, Management, Public Health, Public Policy and Law.


For more information about the program, contact Myrna Gordon, or visit:

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