MSc Opportunity, Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta

Underlying causes for low seed yields in lodgepole pine seed orchards in Alberta

We are seeking a qualified MSc student to lead a two-year study on the effects of grafting and microsite conditions on cone development and seed production in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) seed orchards.

Seed orchards play a critical role in providing high-quality seed for reforestation. However, some orchards fail to meet production targets by as much as 80%. The student will monitor the development of newly emerged cones in three lodgepole pine seed orchards near Grande Prairie, AB in spring (May-July) of 2019 and 2020. Two of these orchards consist of grafted trees and suffer high conelet abortion rates, while the third orchard consist of trees grown from seed and has consistently low abortion rates. The student will use root data generated from ground-penetrating radar to assess if grafting had a negative effect on root development and if that in turn may be linked to high conelet abortion. The student will also collect data on microsite conditions (water availability, soil compaction, canopy microclimate) to examine their role in conelet abortion. This project is part of a broader study that aims to understand the underlying drivers of conelet abortion and the student will be working as part of a team of researchers.

Qualifications: Preference will be given to prospective students that have:

  • A Bachelor’s degree in forestry, plant genetics, ecology, or related field
  • An interest in forest genetics and ecophysiology
  • A valid class 5 driver’s licence (or equivalent), and eligibility to drive UofA vehicles
  • Proficiency in spoken and written English
  • Knowledge of experimental design and statistical programs would be an asset

Funding: This project is fully funded through an NSERC Collaborative Research and Development Grant in partnership with forest industry partners.

Start date: May 2019

ApplicationProspective students must apply through FGSR; however, those interested should first email Dr. Barb Thomas ( and cc Morgan Randall the following:

  • a letter of interest (1 page)
  • a CV describing qualifications and experience
  • unofficial transcripts
  • contact information for three references

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.  Informal inquiries to gain more information about the positions are also welcome.