Join the lab

– Open Positions –

I am seeking a bright, motivated graduate student to join the lab for Fall 2019.

 The Afkhami lab at the University of Miami, Florida focuses on studies of the ecology, evolution, conservation, and genomics of species interactions at scales ranging from genes to ecosystems. We use wide range of approaches, including long term field/greenhouse experiments, mathematical modeling, laboratory-based molecular methods and genomics. While our research spans all types of interactions and we are interested in a diversity of systems, we most often study positive species associations in plant-microbial mutualisms (e.g., rhizobia, mycorrhizal fungi, and fungal endophytes). Our research is aimed at understanding the mechanisms underlying how mutualisms work and integrating these associations into the broader questions of ecology and evolution.


Khum visiting Archbold Biological Station to check out endangered and threatened Florida scrub species!

For example, we ask questions like “Can mutualism cause range expansions into new habitats?”, “What is the impact of microbial mutualisms on plant and herbivore community diversity?”, “How do complex multispecies mutualisms impact fitness, what is the genomic basis of these effects, and how do they impact gene coexpression networks?”, “Can mutualists also act as reproductive manipulations?”, “Does mutualism drive diversification of plant radiations?”, “Can we improve sustainable agriculture through use of natural species interactions?”, and “How do microbial interactions, such as plant-soil feedbacks, influence persistence of rare and endangered species?” One place we are currently conducting a great deal of research is at Archbold Biological Station (, looking at microbial effects on species of conservation concern.


Close up of Medicago experiment with ~5000 plants, looking at genomic basis of how organisms respond to multiple mutualistic microbes.


Michelle staining grass roots for mycorrhizal fungi!

Students will be encouraged to develop their own research interests and projects. Support for graduate students and their research at UM is excellent, and I have supplemental funding available. Please email me at if interested!




— Filled Positions —

Fall 2018: Postdoctoral Position in Landscape Ecology of Plant-Microbial Interactions

Department of Biology, University of Miami, Miami, FL

Drs. Michelle Afkhami and Christopher Searcy are interested in hiring a co-advised postdoctoral scholar in Landscape Ecology of Plant-Microbial Interactions in the Department of Biology at University of Miami (Miami, FL).


The Florida scrub ecosystem is imperiled with only 15% of its historical distribution remaining.

The postdoctoral scholar will conduct research to investigate the role of plant-microbial interactions in the landscape ecology and conservation of plant species in the imperiled Florida Scrub ecosystem. We envision approximately 50% of the postdoctoral scholar’s time (or more depending on her or his interests) will include projects focusing on the effects of plant-microbial interactions on landscape-scale species distributions and/or plant demography. The other ~50% of time will be spent on postdoc-developed projects. We are looking for a postdoctoral scholar who can bring his or her perspective to the system and develop new ideas to pursue. The postdoc will have the opportunity to collect, analyze, and integrate multiple forms of data (e.g., new greenhouse/field experiments, existing long term field data, soil microbial sequencing data), learn new modeling and molecular skills (e.g., Species Distribution Modeling, Integral Projection Modeling, high-throughput single cell sequencing), mentor undergraduate and graduate students, and write papers.

florida scrub
Plant species we have worked with in the Florida scrub.

Dr. Chris Searcy is a landscape ecologist who will advise the postdoc on modeling and landscape ecology, and Dr. Michelle Afkhami will advise on plant-microbe and molecular methods. This research will be done at University of Miami and the nearby Archbold Biological Station (

Candidates must have a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, or a related discipline, and experience conducting research with plants, microbes, and/or modeling (ideally plant-microbial interactions). Other important qualifications are a background in statistical methods, a strong work ethic, problem-solving and time management skills, a track record of publications, and independent research experience. A background in demographic modeling, species distribution modeling, microbial community sequencing, and/or data analysis in R are desirable but not required.


Previous postdoctoral scholar Aaron David and postbac Khum Thapa Magar teaching UM undergraduate Shivam Khosla how to plant scrub species for an experiment. Check out one of their resulting Ecology papers here.

This is a one year position with an expectation for renewal provided that first-year performance is satisfactory. Start date is flexible, but an ideal candidate would be able to begin June 2018 or soon thereafter.

Please send your CV (including contact information for 3 references), a short description of previous experience, and reasons for wanting this job to Dr. Michelle Afkhami ( Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until filled.