Prospective Students

Prospective Students


We welcome all students to consider joining our team!

Undergraduate Research

We frequently have room for volunteer undergraduates to learn how to sort plankton samples or dissect fish to remove otoliths. For those of you who are interested in conducting further advanced research, talk with us about independent projects and/or applying for summer research support. Feel free to reach out to Su Sponaugle or any of the lab graduate students.

student researcher collecting samples underwater in scuba gear


Graduate Study

We hope you are interested in our research and will consider joining our team! If you are wondering whether the Plankton Ecology Lab would be a good fit, here are some rough guidelines.

Some of the characteristics that may help you succeed in graduate school are if you:

  • have performed well during your undergraduate career
  • express yourself well (both writing and speaking)
  • have gained practical hands-on experience with research
  • (depending on the project) have experience on large research vessels or are experienced, qualified scientific SCUBA divers
  • enjoy long hours of fieldwork in both sunny AND inclement weather
  • are meticulous and attentive to detail
  • can tolerate long hours at the microscope
  • are enthusiastic and willing to function as a team-player

If you think you meet many of these criteria, take some time to read a few of the publications from our lab. If you are interested in the type of research we conduct, feel free to contact Su Sponaugle to discuss details. Admission to the Department of Integrative Biology (IB) at Oregon State University is a multi-step process.

  • Completed applications (due December 15) are considered by the IB Graduate Program and the larger IB faculty.
  • Qualified applicants who meet the requirements for admission need to "match" with a suitable faculty member who is willing to serve as their advisor and potentially provide financial support. This is typically is related to whether a faculty member has received any new research grants. However, the department also provides some teaching assistantships to help support graduate students.
  • If you are admitted, it is highly likely that at least some of your graduate studies will involve serving as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course. This not only contributes substantially to your financial support but is also a valuable opportunity to gain teaching experience. OSU provides a TA Training Workshop for new TAs to help hone their teaching skills.

New graduate students will likely spend their first year on the Corvallis campus, taking classes and getting started on developing their research project. Future years would involve increasing time in the lab at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Students in our lab typically work on a topic related to the major avenues of ongoing research in the lab, with flexibility in the specific direction of their research and opportunities to develop new lines of inquiry.

We strongly encourage prospective students to seek external sources of funding (such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program and NOAA’s Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program) to enhance the likelihood of admission. Note that once onboard, in addition to their own research, students are expected to be team players and assist with broader lab projects, including those of other graduate students. For more information on the application process, see the IB Dept webpage for Future Graduate Students.

A man sits at a desk with a large computer monitor.

Postdoctoral Fellows and Staff Positions

Depending on our research grants, we sometimes have openings for Postdoctoral Fellows. To enquire, please contact Su Sponaugle. Permanent staff positions are few and far between as these necessitate continuous, dedicated grant funding. If we have any positions open, we’ll advertise them on the OSU Jobs page.