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Technician in Soil and Ecosystem Ecology

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
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Closing date
18 Jun 2023

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Earth Science, Environmental Science
Job Type
Employment - Hours
Full time
Professional certification

The Earth Systems Science Section of the Environmental Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is seeking a highly motivated individual to provide laboratory and field support for several existing projects. Throughout the research performed by our team, environmental field data is used to better understand ecosystem function, and vegetation and biogeochemical cycling processes to inform Earth System Models that represent the cycling of carbon, water, and nutrients within these changing ecosystems. Our team collects and processes a variety samples (peat and mineral soils, plants, and water) using a wide array of field sampling techniques, analytical chemistry methods and equipment, and flux analyzers.

We are looking for an experienced technician with an exemplary record of managing a productive, clean, and safe laboratory environment. The technician will organize and execute field data collection campaigns and subsequent analyses in the lab. Field campaigns will include leading teams for: vegetation production and tissue analysis, soil and peat sampling, soil microbial analysis, and field gas-exchange equipment. Post-campaign work will include: sample processing; physical, chemical, and microbial analyses of soils and water; and managing interactions with outside labs for offsite analyses. The successful candidate must be capable of independent time management and have excellent communication and teamwork skills to work effectively with many individuals, teams, and projects. We expect the experienced individual work within a diverse group of individuals and participate in the training of new students and researchers on the unique features of ORNL ecology laboratories and field work expectations.

This will be a full-time technician staff position with potential for growth and career advancement for a creative and highly motivated individual. The selected candidate will join the Ecosystem Processes Group and be supervised by Drs. Anthony Walker and Melanie Mayes. The technician will provide support to researchers across the Section and Division.

ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division is an interdisciplinary research and development organization with more than 60 years of achievement in local, regional, national, and international environmental research. Our vision is to expand scientific knowledge and develop innovative strategies and technologies that will strengthen the nation’s leadership in creating solutions to help sustain the Earth’s natural resources. Our scientists conduct research, develop technology, and perform analyses to understand and assess responses of environmental systems at the environment-human interface and the consequences of alternative energy and environmental strategies.

The Earth System Science Section is world-renowned for large-scale experimental manipulations and is currently leading the US DOE flagship Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) field experiment. Section staff also lead the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) Arctic, and we are an integral partner in the NGEE Tropics research program.

Major Duties/Responsibilities:

In addition to the general roles for field and laboratory work described above, the successful candidate will assume the role of laboratory space manager (LSM) for some work areas at ORNL. The LSM role involves managing waste streams, equipment, space and facilities to ensure that all laboratory work is compliant with ORNL safety standards. The role may include the operation of bench top elemental analyzers, liquid and gas chromatography, vegetation sampling and tissue analysis, soil sampling and characterization, soil microbial community assessments, and soil gas exchange measurement. Routine laboratory activities will include sample preparation, analysis, and management; data processing; equipment maintenance, calibration, and troubleshooting. In addition to working with analytical instruments, the research involves preparation of plant and soil samples (sorting, drying, grinding, weighing) for subsequent analytical streams. Future duties will also include writing up protocols, maintaining chemical inventories, and communicating with several principal investigators, postdoctoral researchers, junior researchers, and collaborators across our large and interdisciplinary organization. Training newcomers to the group on protocols and analytical equipment and maintaining comprehensive in-house protocols is also a routine aspect of the job.

This position will include periodic travel outside of Tennessee in support of field research sites currently operated in Minnesota, Alaska, Missouri, tropical locations, and potentially foreign countries. During field campaigns, team members often work long hours and they may share housing in remote work areas: a strong work ethic and interest in natural ecosystems can make these challenging trips rewarding for the right individual. Field conditions can be unpredictable and strenuous: inclement weather, manual labor, insects, and unforeseen logistical challenges often prevail. Travel for field campaigns is expected to take up roughly 8-12 weeks per year.

Basic Qualifications:

Associates degree or BS/BA in soil science, ecology, or a related field.

Several years of relevant experience as laboratory technician.

Exemplary safety record.

Experience in sample management and archival.

Ability to archive and organize raw and processed data in a variety of formats including Excel.

Ability to thrive within a collaborative, team environment.

Excellent communication and mentoring skills for interacting with team members having a wide range of experience and educational levels.

Ability to travel for 1-2 weeks at a time, spend time in remote locations, and perform physically demanding tasks outdoors.

A current, valid driver’s license and be able to pass a background check.

Preferred Qualifications:

Demonstrated team leadership experience.

Experience with analytical chemistry methods and equipment.

A degree in soil science, biology or a related environmental field.

Familiarity with ecosystem ecology methodology, plant and soil measurement techniques, microbial community analysis, and collection of samples for physical and chemical processing in the laboratory.

Accurate and reproducible science, and data documentation and management.

Basic knowledge of a data management scripting language (R, python, etc.)

Applications should include a cover letter and a CV and a list of three referees.

ORNL is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants, including individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, are encouraged to apply. UT-Battelle is an E-Verify employer.

For more information about our benefits, working here, and living here, visit the “About” tab at


UT-Battelle offers a quality benefits package, including a matching 401(k), contributory pension plan, paid vacation, and medical/dental plan options. Onsite amenities include a credit union, medical clinic, cafeteria, coffee stands, and fitness facilities.

This position will remain open for a minimum of 5 days after which it will close when a qualified candidate is identified and/or hired. We accept Word (.doc, .docx), Adobe (unsecured .pdf), Rich Text Format (.rtf), and HTML (.htm, .html) up to 5MB in size. Resumes from third party vendors will not be accepted; these resumes will be deleted and the candidates submitted will not be considered for employment.

If you have trouble applying for a position, please email

ORNL is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants, including individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, are encouraged to apply. UT-Battelle is an E-Verify employer

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