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University of Nevada Reno
Fleischmann 311A

(775) 784-1932

Join us!

Postdoc FAQs!:

Are you hiring? Currently (Feb 2018) yes! I have funding to support a postdoc for up to 3 years on a project investigating the interaction between pesticide exposure and nutrition. I will paste the text of a recently-circulated notice below; those interested are encouraged to contact me soon (I'll start looking over materials on March 15th)

Text of blurb:

Postdoctoral opportunity (3 yrs): Pesticides, floral resources, and bee sensory systems.

We anticipate hiring a postdoctoral researcher for a USDA-funded project focusing on the behavioral effects of bees’ exposure to neonicotinoids found in the nectar and pollen of crops, horticultural plants, and wildflowers. We will explore how pesticide exposure and nutritional state work together to impact performance, and how pesticides may affect bees’ ability to assess and communicate information about floral resources. A lab component combines behavioral and electrophysiological techniques to identify disruptions to the chemosensory mechanisms bees use to assess nectar and pollen; a field component considers the ecological consequences of pesticide exposure for plants and bees.

A good fit for this position would likely have a Ph.D. in entomology, ecology, or behavior, and training in the area of bee biology, pollination biology, nutritional ecology, ecotoxicology or plant ecology. Ideal candidates should be able to think independently and have well-developed skills in oral and written communication, as they will have the opportunity to develop their own research question within the framework of the funded project. Start date is negotiable through summer 2018. We anticipate that the initial appointment will be for one year, with extensions up to two additional years anticipated, contingent upon satisfactory progress.  

The Biology Department at UNR has particular strengths in plant-insect interactions, chemical ecology, and sensory biology. The interdisciplinary program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology sponsors a colloquium series and discussion groups on plant-animal interactions. Depending on interest, the postdoc would have the opportunity to collaborate with Co-PI Dennis Mathew as well as other members of the UNR neonicotinoid working group (Matt Forister and Felicity Muth).

Reno is situated in the high desert on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, 30 minutes from scenic Lake Tahoe and 3.5 hours from the San Francisco Bay Area. It offers a high quality of life, a low cost of living, and close proximity to a wide variety of potential field sites.   

Interested candidates should contact with a single PDF containing: (1) Cover letter indicating relevant experiences and interests (2) CV (3) Names and contact information for three references. For more information about the Leonard Lab, please visit

Graduate student FAQs!:

What programs can I apply to?: PI Leonard can accept graduate students through the EECB PhD program, the program in Integrative Neuroscience and the M.S. program in Biology. Each of these programs has its own admissions policy and deadlines; in addition to a program-specific application, you must also complete the general UNR Graduate School application.

Do I have to have a research question in mind?: Graduate training involves learning how to formulate research questions, test those ideas, and communicate your findings with the scientific community. Some students begin their graduate education with a specific project or question in mind, driven by their past research experiences or the theme of their funding support. Others have a more general interest, which evolves as they complete a first year project. Most students that contact me are somewhere in the middle: they have interests shaped by past experience, but are open to learning about new questions and having their project develop in new directions.

It's a good idea to read publications associated with the lab, and check out our updates to see what kinds of things we're working on that aren't yet published. Sometimes a grant does have specific deliverables/experiments fleshed out, but even in that case, students have the opportunity to take their project in their own direction.

What are some of the things that you're working on now?: We're excited about the potential for some collaborative projects that involve plant-insect and sensory biology colleagues here at UNR. Namely:

From a "bee POV": we're interested in looking at the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bee sensory perception, and how those effects might scale up to impact foraging behavior and (ultimately) nutritional state and performance.  Often these experiments involve bumblebees because they're so tractable for experiments in controlled settings. However we'd be excited to expand this work to include other native bees. From the "plant POV": We've gotten interested in understanding what drives variation in plants' exposure to these pesticides, and potential indirect effects that such exposure might have on floral traits.

Other projects we have in the works involve using a new learning assay we recently developed (Muth et al., 2017 Methods in Ecology and Evolution) to study cognitive traits in wild bees. And, as you can see from our recent publications, there are still tons of questions to ask about nutritionally complex floral rewards (from both plant and pollinator perspectives).

This all sounds great! What's the next step?: There is a formal deadline for some of the above programs, (EECB: Jan. 15th) but those who are seriously interested should email me (anneleonard at with some background on your interests, and a CV.