I am currently looking for a PhD student interested in studying predation risk, maternal stress effects, and transgenerational plasticity broadly. click for details.

I am always looking for excellent undergraduates to join our research group.


I look for students (both graduate and undergraduate) who are altruistic, creative, motivated, and sharp, and who have a sense of humor. Training students is a central focus of mine, and I find it to be truly exciting, challenging and rewarding.  Projects in our research group are centered on two major themes:

1) Some aspect of how ecological stressors drive changes in free-living animals physiology and behavior, how this impacts reproduction and survival, how this drives changes in population dynamics and ultimately community structure.

  • Particular focus has been on climate change, predation, food availability and habitat.
  • Areas of physiology focus mostly on stress hormones (glucocorticoids), thyroid hormones, and sex hormones (testosterone, DHEA), and                         metabolic rate.

2) Some aspect of how maternal stress may impact offspring physiology, behavior and fitness.

While my own research programs have focused largely on the ecology of mammals, the study organism is less important than the question or concept being addressed.

Mentoring Philosophy
My mentoring philosophy emphasizes critical thinking and independent learning. My goal is to act as a catalyst for students to form new ideas, help them formulate these ideas and stimulate their excitement towards science. I try to create a sense of wonder and deep appreciation for the natural world.  I aim to facilitate the development of analytical and methodological skills and to promote students’ ability to think critically and independently and to express their ideas effectively in a variety of formats.
My primary responsibility is to ensure your success. As such, you can expect from me:1) to provide financial support when possible
2) to provide logistic support when possible
3) assist with the development and throughout your project. For a MSc student I would play a more active role, while I would play more of a guide for PhD students.
4) meet with you regularly in a one-on-one format to discuss your project, other aspects of ecology or life in general
5) organize and lead group meetings to discuss scientific papers, lab necessities, and provide a venue for informal presentations
6) proof read manuscripts, grants, and presentations in a very timely manner
7) hold you to the highest standards in all your work
8) make sure that you have a good time and that you never feel isolated, frustrated or lost in what you are doingIn my mind, the biggest challenge of graduate education is learning how to think independently. Ultimately, graduate students must take intellectual ownership of their research and broader education. Although your success is very important to me, it should never be more important to me than it should be to you. This means that I expect you to:1) write manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals, and identify and apply for sources of funding when they arise. Both are critical steps in one’s matriculation as an independent scientist
2) delve into the literature to understand the precedents and knowledge gaps surrounding the specifics of your chosen project
3) learn to distinguish between when you need my help versus when you don’t need my help
4) update me as to your progress 1-2 times per month. One of the most discomforting thoughts an advisor can have is “what has my student been doing with his/her time, and his/her/my grant money?”
5) take initiative and recognize opportunities when they come your way. Invoke the phrase “I’m too busy” (and its many variants) sparingly. If you think something is cool but may not have the money let’s see how we can get the money!
6) be responsible for your own coursework, research permits, annual reports, degree requirements, filing reimbursement receipts, and the like
7) communicate to me if I can do something better as your advisor
8) enjoy yourself by remembering the reason(s) you got into ecology in the first place
9) enjoy yourself by having a life outside of ecology, be this through kids, or music, or sports, or art, or whatever

Contact Me

If you are interested in joining our research group please contact me via email msheriff@umassd.edu

I place a premium on analytical skills, writing ability, research experience, hard work, and enthusiasm. If and when you decide to contact me, please take some time and write a thoughtful letter (because this is more likely to generate a thoughtful response). Please send me your CV, GRE test scores, and transcripts. Tell me a bit about your interests, and why you’re interested in working with our group.