Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain
the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in
Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles
In July 2018, Scott Jones received an offer of a postdoc position at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Western Ecological Research Center in Davis, California. Jones, a plant ecologist, had just completed his PhD at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and was working for the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Chauvin on a three-month contract. But his excitement about landing a longer-term position turned to worry when he learned that the USGS would not reimburse relocation expenses for the 3,600-kilometre move.