Traineeship Information

PhD position in trans-disciplinary Team-TERRA training program-Building Resilient Landscapes for Food, Energy, Water, and Ecosystem Services in America’s Original Megalopolis 

The University of Connecticut is looking for Ph.D. candidates to begin Fall 2023 in a newly funded transdisciplinary training program.

Team-TERRA is a training program that studies the northeastern U.S. megalopolis stretching from Boston  to Washington, D.C. as a living laboratory to  understand, predict, manage, and communicate risks to  food, energy, water, and ecosystems in the face of  global change. As part of the training program, trainees  work in diverse teams to predict and solve the complex problems of the future in regions that are urbanizing and challenged to both provide the essentials for human wellbeing while maintaining the many benefits of biodiversity and natural ecosystems. 

The training program consists of a 2-year sequence of coursework, teamwork, an applied internship, and associated workshops. Successful students will learn highly sought-after skills in risk analysis, management, and communication. These skills include landscape  analysis and decision support tools embedded in  Geographic Information Systems and how to  collaborate with diverse stakeholders. In addition, a  cornerstone of the training is the opportunity to learn  how to work in and lead teams with members who have diverse lived experiences, knowledge, and  skills. Participating students can have an array of  research interests and professional experience, all of  which makes valuable contributions to the team. Team projects can contribute toward each student’s  departmental and university dissertation requirements. 

We seek collaborative, driven, and creative students  with diverse lived and professional experiences who  are trained broadly in the environmental sciences for  this National Science Foundation-funded training program. We are especially interested in applicants  from groups historically excluded from STEM, including  but not limited to people with varying neurological and  physical abilities, women, gender non-conforming,  Black, Indigenous, and other Students of Color. And,  we are interested in students whose life experiences or  academic history will contribute to the environmental  justice focus of the program. 

Candidates should have an excellent GPA (>3.5) and relevant research experience. Preference will be given to students with proven research records, published scientific articles, external funding, a Master’s degree, or demonstrable research experience. 

 Benefits to trainees

  • Trainees will learn how to work with stakeholders, develop quantitative analytical skills in predicting risk and uncertainty, explore options for managing such risks, and communicate risk and uncertainty to clients, stakeholders, and the public
  • Overall, trainees will learn transferable skills by working with real-world problems, while providing an important service to governments, NGOs, and businesses
  • $34,000 stipend for one year
  • Tuition and fees waived
  • Subsidized health benefits
  • Travel funds

Students should seek admission into a relevant department at UConn and apply simultaneously to the Team-TERRA program or if already a student at UConn, students can contact one of the co-PI’s from a related department. A partial list of potential departments includes: 

  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Computer Science & Engineering
  • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Geosciences
  • Natural Resources & Environment
  • Statistics

    Is your department not listed? No worries – contact Mark Urban to discuss adding it. For more information about the program or for advice on pertinent departments or potential advisors, please contact Mark Urban

    The application can be found on this website under APPLICATIONS: Trainee Application.

    If your advisor is not listed in the below list of Team-TERRA core faculty, then your advisor can become a Team-TERRA affiliated faculty by completing a Mentor Application here.  

    List of core faculty members, departments, and interest areas:

    Faculty member  Department  Interest areas
    Mark Urban  Ecology & Evolutionary 

    Biology (TERRA Lead 


    Eco-evolution in cities; 

    climate change; aquatic 

    ecology and resources

    Chris Elphick  Ecology & Evolutionary 


    Biodiversity protection and management; conservation planning; coastal resilience; agroecology
    Lisa Park-Boush  Geosciences  Risks to aquatic ecosystems and water resources from hurricanes and climate 


    Margaret Rubega  Ecology & Evolutionary 

    Biology (TERRA Co-PI)

    Functional ecology of birds in degrading habitats; Science Communication.
    Kathleen Segerson  Economics  Agriculture and natural 

    resource economics; 

    incentive effects of alternative policy instruments

    Guiling Wang  Civil and Environmental 

    Engineering, Center for 

    Environmental Science and Engineering

    Risks of climate-land 

    interactions to agriculture, ecosystems, and water 


    Michael Willig  Ecology & Evolutionary 

    Biology, Center for 

    Environmental Science and Engineering (Director, 

    Institute of the Environment)

    Resistance, resilience, and vulnerability of ecosystem services and biodiversity
    Chuanrong Zhang  Geography, Center for 

    Environmental Science and Engineering (co-PI)

    CyberGIS and spatial data science for risk analysis of food-energy-water 

    ecosystems nexus