UCSB Campus Point

Thinking of Joining The Lab?

First and foremost, if you are thinking of joining the lab, it means you find types of questions we ask in this lab stimulating, and you want to develop some questions of your own and answer them using good, impactful science. Just as important as the science we produce is the environment in which we conduct our research and the community we build. I am committed to the Caves lab being welcoming, intellectually-stimulating, scientifically rigorous, and supportive of every lab member.

Guiding Principles

One of the guiding principles of this lab is that we value and promote diversity. This is not only because it is ethically the right thing to do, but also because diverse communities do better science. Valuing and promoting diversity is not just about recruiting a diverse community; we must all commit to creating and contributing to a community that is welcoming and supportive, in which all lab members feel valued, safe to contribute their opinions, and secure to pursue their own intellectual curiosity. As such, all lab members must be dedicated to a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, political affiliation, and/or religion. I am particularly seeking lab members who are willing to contribute to these aims. Please also check out the lab code of conduct.

Graduate Students

There are a few things that you should consider before applying to my lab, or any other lab, for graduate school. First, graduate school is a highly self-directed, independent endeavor. It can sometimes feel like you are working very hard and getting nowhere. This is somewhat by design—graduate school is a time to learn how to do science, which will involve a great deal of trial and error as well as some failure. Because of this, it is a good idea before you start graduate school to develop an idea of the kind of research you want to do, the questions that motivate you, and of course whether or not going to graduate school is the right decision. I don’t require you to know exactly where you want to be in ten years before you enter my lab, but give some thought to whether graduate school is a path that can get you where you want to go. It can help to get some experience as a research technician or a field assistant, do some research in undergrad, or pursue a master's degree (here's a list of funded master's programs in organismal biology and evolution) to help you hone your interests.

Second, choose your advisor and lab carefully. As my own PhD advisor told me, advisors fill many roles beyond simple academic advising. Good advisors will provide you with an academic role model, whom you may emulate in many ways. Your advisor will be writing you recommendation letters for many years into the future, and your name will be associated with theirs for a long time. Your advisor will help you to form your scientific community, as they can (and should) help you network at conferences, or identify and contact potential collaborators or post-doctoral mentors. It may be that after talking to me, or reading about my lab, you no longer think I am the right fit for you—this is ok! Keep in mind when considering any PhD program that applying to graduate school is as much about an advisor choosing you as it is about you choosing an advisor—be prepared to ask questions about the lab culture, the department, and the mentoring you will receive.

Lastly, make sure you’re ready for this commitment. Grad school lasts for a long time, at a very formative stage in life—by the end of your PhD, you will be a different person than when you started. Think about what types of places make you happy—for example, do you like big cities, or do you want to be somewhere with easy access to the outdoors? Make sure that you have not only joined a lab where the research interests you, but also that you will be living somewhere that you will enjoy. Choosing a lab for your PhD is a career move, yes, but it is also an important decision for your life outside of science, too.

Having read all of that, if you’re still interested, I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email (eleanor_caves@ucsb.edu) with (1) a brief statement of your research interests and experience, (2) a copy of your CV, and (3) at least one paragraph outlining an idea or several ideas relevant to my lab (before contacting me, be sure to familiarize yourself with my research and check out a few of my publications!) that you might like to work on. This is not a commitment to work on this particular project, but rather a way to show me the types of questions that interest you, and to demonstrate that you can think of ways to address those questions. Please be aware that all graduate students in my lab should be prepared to apply for graduate fellowships that pay for tuition and salary (see the links above on the right). These fellowships will be crucial in ensuring that you don’t have to TA every quarter of your PhD, and thereby allow you more freedom and time to focus on your research.


If I have funding for a post-doctoral researcher, I will advertise that here. If no advertisements appear here, you may assume I do not currently have funding. I am, however, happy to discuss various options for funding post-docs in my lab, including writing a grant proposal together that could support your research or helping you to develop and refine applications for fellowships that would provide salary support (see the box at right for various potential postdoctoral fellowship programs that sponsor projects relevant to this lab's research interests). If you feel that I would be a good post-doctoral advisor, and you wish to pursue research topics that are relevant to those in my lab, please get in touch to discuss funding options (eleanor_caves@ucsb.edu).

Undergraduate Researchers

If you’re interested in getting experience in visual ecology or animal behavior research, please feel free to contact me to see if there are any opportunities available in the lab (eleanor_caves@ucsb.edu). Please note, however, that I do not accept students on a purely voluntary (unpaid) non-academic basis, as this provides unfair advantages to students with the means to volunteer their work during their non-class time. To avoid promoting an unfair system in this lab, I will take undergraduate students in a compensatory manner, meaning either for credit or as a paid position if I have, or we can secure, funding. I expect that undergraduate students will begin working in the lab by helping with an existing project, working closely with a graduate student, postdoc, or technician as a mentor. Typically, I expect that you will have worked in the lab for at least two quarters before we discuss independent projects. Undergraduates are encouraged to become active members of the lab, for example by attending lab meetings if your schedule allows.