The International Wolf Center is seeking applicants for the 2024 Dr. L. David Mech fellowships. As an investment in the future of wolf research and science-based wolf education, each year the Center awards up to two fellowships for undergraduate students or recent graduates interested in pursuing careers in natural sciences with an interest in wildlife. Fellowship recipients receive a $6,000 stipend and up to $4,000 in support for field research expenses.
- Reduce barriers to allow undergraduate students and recent graduates to directly engage in research and field work.
- Encourage students from diverse backgrounds to explore natural sciences/wildlife biology as a profession.
- Provide bridge support for early career researchers prior to graduate school.
The mission of the International Wolf Center is to advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. Since our founding in 1985 by Dr. L. David Mech and others, the Center has sought to provide the latest scientific information about wolves to our visitors and program participants. We believe that continued investment in scientific discovery about wolves and other wildlife will lead to increased understanding of how to build a future where wolves and humans can coexist and thrive. We also understand that many barriers exist for students and early career researchers and hope these fellowships can facilitate access to people pursuing a wildlife biology career.
Fellowship Award Details
- Application opens: October 1, 2023
- Application deadline: February 1, 2024
- Fellowships Awarded: March 31, 2024
- Term: April 1, 2024 through April 1, 2025
- Stipend: $6,000
- Research Allowance: up to $4,000 per year
Stipends are meant to support study and research during the tenure of the appointment. They are not salaries, and fellowship recipients are not employees or contracted workers of the International Wolf Center. All funds provided, including stipends and research allowances, are subject to tax. Fellows awarded stipends receive a financial summary at the end of each calendar year and are responsible for meeting their own state and federal tax obligations.
Research allowances are for equipment, supplies, research-related travel costs, housing, and other support required to conduct the research itself. A budget and general justification for these expenses must be included with your application.
Qualifications and Eligibility
- Applicants must be either currently enrolled in an undergraduate institution (upper-level student) or recently graduated with an undergraduate degree. Current graduate students and those already with graduate level degrees in wildlife biology or a related field are not eligible.
- Applicants must indicate their project preference from the provided list.
- Applicants must provide a letter of recommendation from an academic or professional reference. This letter should reference their preferred project and ability to complete it.
- Applicants must be available to conduct an online webinar with the International Wolf Center in fall/winter 2024.
Criteria for Selection
Fellowship applications will be reviewed by the selection team using the following criteria:
- Special consideration will be given to Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Color candidates in the United States
- Applicant’s demonstration of financial need
- Applicant’s demonstrated need for wildlife research experience
- Applicant’s ability to carry out the proposed research/field experience
- Candidate’s demonstrated interest in pursuing natural sciences with an interest in wildlife as a career
Expectations for Fellows
Fellows will be expected to present an online webinar summarizing their field research experience and research findings in 2024.
Fellowship recipients will also be expected to submit a summary report to the International Wolf Center and be willing to be interviewed and photographed by Center staff. These materials may be used in issues of International Wolf magazine or in web/social media posts. Summary reports should include the goals of the research project, methods used during the project, skills acquired, how this opportunity will help further a career in the wildlife field as well as their journey through the wildlife field to get to this point.
Along with providing contact information, please include the following with your application:
- Purpose Statement: 500-800 word essay focusing on (a) how you will accomplish the goals of the fellowship program, (b) your project preference, (c) why you are a good candidate, (d) your previous career building experiences, and (e) barriers you have faced or overcome in this field and your future career goals.
- Budget Proposal: Including needs and estimated dollar amounts to support the project. An example is provided below. You may enlist the help of the research lead to determine needs. If specific expenses are unknown at application time, please indicate that in lieu of a budget.
- Academic or professional reference letter highlighting research aptitude to successfully complete the project emailed by the reference to email@example.com before February 1, 2024.
Sample budget proposal:
Arizona/New Mexico - Mexican Wolf Project
Project Location: Arizona/New Mexico
Project Focus: Recovery/Management
Project Description: Management of the Mexican wolf project. Specific research questions would be a side project for the fellow to develop/investigate while completing other duties. The side project would need to be coordinated with a variety of state/federal agencies.
Project Timeline: Ongoing
Type of housing available for the fellow: Provided by the project
Equipment/gear fellow must provide for this project: None
Will fellow need a personal vehicle to participate? No
Contact: Allison Greenleaf
Utah State University -Yellowstone National Park
Project Location: Yellowstone National Park
Project Focus: Understanding the indirect effects of wolves on aspen regeneration
Project Description: The project involves hiking to and sampling 113 aspen monitoring plots (1 x 20 m) distributed across northern Yellowstone National Park during the first two weeks of August. We measure every aspen plant within each plot, noting its height and whether or not it was browsed the preceding winter.
Type of housing available for the fellow: Car camping at designated Park Service developed campground.
Equipment/gear fellow must provide for this project: Standard camping/hiking gear: tent, backpack, boots, etc.
Will fellow need a personal vehicle to participate? Yes
Contact: Dan MacNulty
Idaho Wolf Project, University of Idaho
Project Location: Northern and central Idaho
Project Focus: Wolf monitoring and behavior
Project Description: The Idaho Wolf Project is a long-term wolf monitoring project that focuses on studying the effects of hunting and trapping on gray wolves and their cooperative breeding behavior in Idaho, USA. The project uses a combination of fieldwork and genetic data to answer questions about wolf behavior and demographics, as well as develop and improve methods to monitor wolf populations over time. As part of this research, a team of biologists spend the summer hiking 10-15 miles/day and camping for 9 days at a time in remote regions of Idaho to locate wolves and collect genetic samples from scat. Wolf packs are located by conducting howl surveys with the goal of finding rendezvous sites where scat from all pack members can be sampled.
This year the Idaho Wolf Project is expanding the study to take a closer look at wolf howling behavior. Specifically, we are interested in understanding whether differences in human howls influence wolf howl responses (e.g., type and frequency of howl responses), as well as responses from other species (e.g., coyotes, ravens). We are seeking a highly motivated fellow with prior experience hiking and camping in rugged and adverse conditions to lead this howl study under the guidance and supervision of researchers from the University of Idaho (Sarah Bassing, Peter Rebholz, and Dave Ausband). The fellow would work as part of the research team to collect and analyze acoustic data during howl surveys, as well as participate in genetic sampling of wolf packs across 3 study areas in northern and central Idaho. Depending on interest, the fellow would combine results from this study and a long-term data set of howl surveys to write a manuscript for publication in a scientific journal. We anticipate results from this study will deepen our understanding of wolf communication, improve future wolf monitoring by fine-tuning protocols for howl surveys, and lay the groundwork for future studies of interspecific relationships between wolves and other wildlife species. Watch our project summary video and read our published work to learn more about the Idaho Wolf Project and wolf howling behavior.
Project Timeline: Data collection: June 1 – Aug. 30, 2024 (tentative start and end dates); Data analysis/presentation of results: August/September – October 2024; Manuscript preparation: October 2024 – April 1, 2025
Type of housing available for the fellow: Tent camping during 9-day hitches, housing (likely dorm style) provided by the project on days off during summer fieldwork. Post-fieldwork, all analyses, poster preparation, and writing can be conducted remotely with recurring virtual meetings.
Equipment/gear fellow must provide for this project: Research equipment
Will fellow need a personal vehicle to participate? Yes
Contact: David Ausband
Isle Royale wolf-moose project
Project Location: Isle Royale National Park
Project Focus: Wolf impacts on prey species
The purpose of this project is to use the reintroduction of wolves to Isle Royale National Park as an opportunity to assess how changes in wolf abundance influence beaver foraging behavior.
During the summer of 2018, just prior to the reintroduction of wolves to Isle Royale National Park, researchers from the Isle Royale wolf-moose project at Michigan Technological University collected data on the distances that beavers were traveling from the water’s edge to forage (beaver foraging distances), as well as data on which tree species and size class of trees were being cut by beaver (selective foraging behavior). That existing data can be used as a baseline for understanding beaver behavior in the absence of a healthy wolf population, as there were only 2 highly inbred wolves living on Isle Royale at that time.
Between the fall of 2018 and the fall of 2019, 19 wolves were translocated to Isle Royale and there has been a healthy population of wolves for the past few years. Consequently, the project that we propose is for a Mech fellow to use the same methods and protocols developed in 2018 to collect additional data on beaver foraging behavior during the summer of 2024 and use that data as a baseline for understanding beaver behavior during a period when there is a healthy and abundant wolf population. The Mech fellow could then compare data in 2024 (post-reintroduction period) with the data collected in 2018 (pre-introduction period) to assess whether beaver foraging distances and the species and sizes of trees cut by beaver differ between the pre- and post- wolf reintroduction periods. Specifically, the fellow would be assessing the prediction that beavers travel less far from the water’s edge and may be less selective for certain tree species or size classes (to minimize their risk of being killed by wolves) during the post-reintroduction period, when wolf abundance is high.
The results of this project will add to our understanding of how wolves, a keystone species, impact non-ungulate prey species to provide a more comprehensive picture of the magnitude of effects that wolves can have on ecosystems. The results are also likely to be relevant for understanding how wolves may impact beaver populations in other regions of North America where gray wolves may be reintroduced in the near future (i.e. Colorado) and in regions of North America and Europe where wolves are naturally recolonizing parts of their former range.
Project Timeline: May – August 2024
Type of housing available for the fellow: The fellow would be camping whilst on Isle Royale, but may need hotel or rental accommodation for a few nights whilst travelling to or from Isle Royale.
Equipment/gear fellow must provide for this project: Backpacking equipment
Will fellow need a personal vehicle to participate? No
Contact: Sarah Hoy
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Dr. L David Mech?
L. David Mech (pronounced “Meech”) is a Senior Research Scientist with the Biological Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, and Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. He has studied wolves and their prey since 1958, as well as several other species of wildlife.
Although administration of his U.S. Geological Survey research is through Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, he is headquartered on the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota in the Raptor Center, 1920 Fitch Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108.
Mech is also founder and vice chair of the International Wolf Center, and chaired the IUCN Wolf Specialist Group from 1978 to 2013. In 2013, the Wolf Specialist Group merged into the IUCN Canid Specialist Group, and Dave became advisor for wolves in that Group since then.
Mech has used radio-tracking for most of his career on wolves, deer, leopards, caribou, elk, lions, elephants, raccoons, lynxes, elk, hares, etc. For basic info, see Handbook of Animal Radio-tracking, and for info about satellite and GPS collars, see “A critique of wildlife radio-tracking and its use in national parks: a report to the National Park Service”. For wildlife research techniques before radio-tracking, see wildlife research in the old days.
Do I need to design my own project or can I get funded to participate as a volunteer on an established project?
Fellowship applicants should select a project from the list provided. The list will be available when the application opens on October 1.
I am not from the United States, can I apply?
At this point, fellowship recipients must be U.S. citizens to qualify but projects may take place internationally.
Who should I contact for more information?
Please email questions to MechFellowship@wolf.org
The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.