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Field Ecologist I - Limnology - NEON Program

Tuscaloosa AL

Battelle’s founding mission “to translate scientific discovery and technology advances into societal benefit” is as relevant today as when we opened our doors over 90 years ago. Our science and technology enhance society's well-being and create critical innovations that drive scientific advances for the future. We conduct groundbreaking research and development, design and manufacture leading-edge products, and deliver critical services for commercial and government customers. Our work meets the needs of the nation when it matters most, and Battelle is committed to driving innovation today and for generations to come.


Company Overview

Battelle manages and operates the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) program, which is solely funded by the National Science Foundation. A 30+ year project dedicated to understanding how changes in climate, land use and invasive species impact ecology, the observatory’s scientists and engineers are collecting a comprehensive range of ecological data on a continental scale across 20 eco-climatic domains representing US ecosystems. Our teams use cutting-edge technology, including an airborne observation platform that captures images of regional landscapes and vegetation; mobile, relocatable, and fixed data collection sites with automated ground sensors to monitor soil and atmosphere; and trained field crews who observe and sample populations of diverse organisms and collect soil and water data. Once structures are completed, a leading-edge cyberinfrastructure will calibrate, store and publish this information. The Observatory includes more than 500+ personnel and is the first of its kind designed to detect and enable forecasting of ecological change at continental scales.

Field Ecologist I - The Field Ecologist I is a biological sampling lead performing seasonal and periodic sampling activities and sample processing. Seasonal field sampling is conducted with the assistance of temporary field crews under the guidance of the Field Ecologist.



NEON’s Domain 08 support facility is based in Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama. This relatively small town has all the atmosphere, sports and entertainment options you would expect to find as the host of a top university. Birmingham is less than an hour’s drive away, with Atlanta and New Orleans both a four-hour drive away, making weekend trips to these great cities is very doable. Tuscaloosa receives an abundance of sunlight with short moderate winters, while summers are very hot, humid, long and punctuated by inland storms and tropical events. High levels of heat and moisture can also produce volatile weather patterns, such as convective storms which generate lightning, often resulting in wildfires.

Our core site in the Oakmulgee District of the Talladega National Forest is characterized as a fire dependent, longleaf pine ecosystem. The role of riverine flooding is also fundamental to all our seasonal monitoring and sampling efforts which are conducted directly within the swamps and bottomland hardwood forests. The Black Warrior and Tombigbee River watersheds are the primary aquatic focus for this domain. While conducting all terrestrial and aquatic sampling, teams consistently travel into three diverse landscapes with frequent overnight stays. Days and workweeks are long, with most activities conducted outside but generally balanced with laboratory time.



Monitor and sample aquatic sites for water quality, biological indicators, physical properties of site (e.g. gaging streams, geomorphic mapping, etc.), and leading field crews to perform the aforementioned items.

Test, troubleshoot and operate instruments, calibration equipment and test fixtures.

Inspect and maintain aquatic sensors, gear and equipment.

Perform aquatic vegetation diversity and primary productivity measurements.

Sample for aquatic invertebrate and fish diversity and abundance.


General duties include:

Report activities, completed work, and sampling problems according to Field Operations protocols.

Inspect, maintain and operate field, safety and laboratory equipment.

Operate laboratory equipment (e.g. Wiley Mill, drying oven, analytical balance, centrifugal mill, pH meter, microscope, and muffle furnace).

Assist the Field Operations Manager with recruiting and training of seasonal field personnel.

Provide instruction and technical guidance to seasonal field personnel.

Perform plot establishment by locating plots with GPS navigation as well as measuring and marking plots.

Assist the Field Operations Manager with materials planning, inventory and ordering as well as day-to-day oversight of personnel and scheduling of activities coordinated from the field office.

Follow NEON Project safety and Field Operations policy and procedures.


Field activities may include:

Follow established, standardized field protocols for sample collection and handling; record and verify accuracy of data from sample collections; process samples in the laboratory; send samples to external analytical labs. Train and lead field crews performing the aforementioned items.

Perform other field sampling activities as assigned including: ground beetle collection (pitfall trapping), mosquito collection (CO2 light traps, tick collection (dragging and flagging) and soil core collection.

Test, troubleshoot and operate tower, soil and aquatic instruments, calibration equipment and test fixtures.

Inspect and maintain civil infrastructure including boom arms, sensor mounts, towers, boardwalks and instrument huts.

Monitor and sample aquatic sites for water quality, biological indicators and physical properties of site (e.g. gaging streams, geomorphic mapping).


Physical demands:

The work is physical and involves walking, hiking, prolonged standing, walking and bending. Heavy items (e.g. equipment and packs up to 40 pounds) must be lifted and carried on a routine basis.


Work environment:

Fieldwork includes exposure to extreme weather conditions and terrain, pesticides, poisonous plants, biting insects, and wild animals. Tower work involves performing work on instrument towers ranging in height from 24 feet to 300 feet, which will include ascending and descending multiple flights of stairs.



Equivalent education and experience may be considered.

Bachelor’s degree in ecology, environmental sciences or related scientific discipline.

One (1) or more years of related experience.

Ability to work in a team environment.

Experience should include performing scientific data entry and data management.

Ability to hike off-trail to assigned field site for long distances carrying field equipment (pack weighing up to 40 lbs.) for extended periods.

Ability and willingness to travel overnight frequently (e.g. semi-monthly for 3-4 nights).


The NEON Project will take into consideration qualifications for specific and diverse experience in the following areas:


Effective leadership skills and the ability to motivate others.

Effective problem-solving skills and the ability to determine and act on changing priorities in a fast-paced dynamic environment.

Ability to organize and execute multiple activities and priorities.



Ability to perform minor troubleshooting, calibration, and repair of field equipment.

Ability to follow written and verbal instructions.

Ability and willingness to learn and adopt new technologies as needed.

Ability to work independently and as part of a team.

High level of attention to detail and accuracy.

Ability to make effective decisions that take into consideration safety and operational standards.


Working conditions:

Ability and willingness to work varied field operations schedules (up to 12+ hours per day), including split shift, part-time, pre-dawn early mornings, evenings and weekends.

Ability and willingness to work on towers ranging in height from 24 feet to 300 feet including ascending and descending multiple flights of stairs on instrument towers.

Perform field assignments in a variety of terrain and of weather conditions including cold and wet winter weather and extreme heat.

Ability to withstand exposure to fumes, dust, noise and toxicodendron plants (e.g. poison ivy and poison oak), ticks, biting insects and other natural hazards.

Ability and willingness to travel overnight frequently (e.g. semi-monthly for 3-4 nights) is required.


Applicants must have authorization to work in the United States.

Employment is contingent on background screen, drug screen, motor vehicle records check and physical.


Must possess a current and valid State issued driver’s license with insurable Department of Motor vehicle record (parking violations, minor driving offenses excluded) as determined by Battelle’s insurance provider.



Posted October 15, 2020

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