Join the Yoder Lab for NSF-funded graduate research

A Joshua tree under dramatic clouds in the Piper Mountain Wilderness, California.

The Yoder Lab at CSUN is recruiting up to two Master’s students to start in Fall 2022, to develop thesis projects within our ongoing work on the evolutionary genomics of Joshua tree and its coevolution with specialized pollinators.

The Yoder Lab studies the evolution and coevolution of interacting species, especially mutualists, using a variety of model systems and methods. As part of the Joshua Tree Genome Project, we are working with collaborators at five other academic institutions and the US Geological survey to understand how Joshua trees, the icons of the Mojave Desert, have adapted to the harsh conditions of their native habitat and how adaptation to desert climates has interacted with adaptation to the trees’ highly specialized pollinators — and how we can use the answers to those questions to help protect the trees from the threats of global climate change, encroaching development, and increasingly frequent wildfire.

Burned Joshua trees at the site of the 2020 Cima Dome fire in Mojave National Preserve.

With the support of the National Science Foundation and Revive & Restore, the Yoder Lab and JTGP collaborators are collecting population genomic data for Joshua trees across the Mojave, and planting Joshua tree seedlings in experimental gardens to test their adaptation to different climates. We will eventually use genome-wide association studies of seedlings’ survival, growth, and physiological performance in the gardens to identify genetic variation in natural populations that promotes adaptation and population persistence to current and future climates. Master’s students starting in fall 2022 will have the opportunity to develop thesis projects working with this rich dataset, contributing to fieldwork in the experimental gardens, or building new evolutionary theory to understand how different sources of natural selection have shaped biodiversity.

A Joshua tree seedling in one of the experimental gardens.

The CSUN Department of Biology has a strong group of labs working in other areas of ecology and evolution, and more than forty faculty conducting research and teaching across all aspects of biology. Graduate students joining the Yoder Lab can expect a collegial department atmosphere, a substantial cohort of fellow graduate students, and graduate degree requirements and support tailored to the specific needs of a two- or three-year Master’s program. The Department provides graduate support in the form of hourly pay for teaching assistant-type positions while classes are in session, and the Yoder Lab’s NSF funding includes additional pay for research over the summer.

Ideal candidates will have previous research experience and some familiarity with the R programming language — but anyone with a passion for science can succeed in the position. Candidates should contact PI Jeremy Yoder at with a description of thesis project interests, any previous research experience, and career goals. Include a CV, if possible, and contact information for at least two references. You can learn more about the Yoder Lab’s research on the projects page and by reading our scientific publications. Formal applications to the CSUN graduate program in biology do not require GRE scores, and are due February 15.

The Yoder Lab values diversity, and members of groups under-represented in ecology and evolutionary biology are especially encouraged to apply.