Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (MA Coop Unit) : Postdoctoral researcher position: Chronic Wasting Disease Risk Assessment

Posted on September 9, 2021
Expires: October 01, 2021

Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA


Application Deadline: 01 Oct 2021

Position start date: Mid-November or Early December 2021

Position duration: 1 year

Position location: University of Massachusetts (UMass), Amherst, MA

Work model: Hybrid onsite and remote work (expected to live within commuting distance of UMass)


Project Overview:  Emerging infectious diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), force decision-makers to make decisions in the face of large uncertainty and risk. Under these pressing circumstances, two important tactics and tools for decision-makers are: (1) obtaining buy-in from stakeholders and (2) formal risk assessments, which predict the potential distribution of a novel pathogen in new habitats. In an effort to prevent CWD from spreading into Massachusetts (MA), the MA state wildlife agency, The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), is implementing several proactive management strategies (e.g., regulations to restrict whole carcass importation of deer, improving and focusing on standards for cervid farming); however, it is unclear whether there is stakeholder buy-in or how effective this management is. Therefore, the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services has funded a project to address these barriers. This work is a collaboration among the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Massachusetts Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit (MA Coop Unit) and Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife).


Position Description

We are recruiting a postdoctoral researcher who will accomplish the following:

(1) Assess existing wild cervid stakeholder perceptions, behaviors, and misconceptions using a survey. The postdoctoral researcher, along with collaborators, will develop and disseminate a survey that reaches 9,500 wild cervid stakeholders in MA.

(2) Examine patterns and trends related to wild cervid stakeholder perceptions, behaviors, and misconceptions. Here, the postdoctoral researcher will analyze the data obtained from the wild cervid stakeholder survey to extract patterns and trends.

(3) Identify areas of high risk for CWD introduction, establishment, and spread in MA. The postdoctoral researcher will conduct a risk assessment for CWD introduction, establishment, and spread in MA based on host and prion ecology. Again, the postdoctoral researcher will work with us to identify important covariates and factors that might influence risk.

(4) In an effort to start building wild cervid stakeholder buy-in and trust, the postdoctoral researcher will be responsible for:

– updating the MA CWD response plan with the results of the wild cervid stakeholder survey and the risk assessment (both completed as part of this project),

– develop a communication strategy that will be used to help MassWildlife engage more regularly with wild cervid stakeholders, and

– disseminate the results of the wild cervid stakeholder survey and the risk assessment to wild cervid stakeholders as applicable.


Collectively, the postdoctoral researcher will help build and promote transparency between MassWildlife and wild cervid stakeholders, as well as aid in opening the lines of communication between the two entities. More specifically, the goals of this project are to engage wild cervid stakeholders prior to CWD invasion, generate a communication strategy based on what wild cervid stakeholders are seeking (and using the modalities of communication they prefer; learned from the survey), and obtain stakeholder buy-in for proactive and reactive CWD management.


We highly encourage people from historically underrepresented groups to apply. This is a one-year postdoctoral position with the possible extension to a second year depending on first-year performance.


The postdoctoral researcher will be stationed at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) in Amherst, MA. UMass is a top-ranked public university located in western MA. The area offers a rich cultural environment in a rural setting close to major urban centers, with many great outdoor recreational opportunities.



To be considered for the postdoctoral researcher position, you must:

  • Have a PhD in ecology, epidemiology, disease ecology, public health, social science, or other related field



The postdoctoral researcher will be provided:

  • Annual salary of $54,000 plus benefits
  • Travel funds to attend a national conference
  • A supportive network of professionals who encourage work-life balance, promote mental health well-being, and working towards career goals
  • Professional development experiences relevant to a career with federal and state agencies
  • Mentoring, encouragement, and autonomy that promotes an understanding of how diverse perspectives are vital to achieving project goals



The postdoctoral researcher will be expected to:

  • Develop the wild cervid stakeholder survey, as well as disseminating and obtaining responses to the survey
  • Analyze the survey data
  • Compile the data for the risk assessment, analyze the data, and create risk maps
  • Update the CWD response plan, develop the communication plan, and generate materials to disseminate the results of the survey and risk assessment to wild cervid stakeholders (i.e., magazine article, email, post reports on MassWildlife website)



To apply, please submit a cover letter (see details below), CV/resume, and contact information for three professional references on the job application website:


Application deadline is 01 Oct 2021.


The cover letter should be 1 – 2 pages describing:

  • your research interests and background
  • why you are interested in this position
  • your career goals
  • your experience (if applicable) and/or enthusiasm for learning about each of the following areas (note we do not expect applicants to have experience under each of these areas):
    • Ecological knowledge related to:
      • Chronic Wasting Disease
      • Epidemiology/ Disease ecology
      • Large mammal/ deer biology
    • Quantitative and computer skills related to:
      • Analyzing survey data
      • Risk assessments
    • Project management skills related to:
  • large project management
  • working with stakeholders


Please send questions to any of the principal investigators listed below.


Principal Investigators:

Graziella DiRenzo ( – USGS, MA Coop Unit

Martin Feehan ( – MassWildlife



Michael Huguenin– MassWildlife


Nondiscriminatory AA/EEO statement:

The University of Massachusetts provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, age, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability, military status, genetic information, pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, or membership in any other legally protected class. The University of Massachusetts complies with all applicable federal, state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which the university operates.

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