Field Ecologist I - Instrumentation

  • NEON
  • Front Royal, VA, USA
  • Mar 13, 2019
Full time Biology - Ecology Conservation/ Natural Resources EHS - Environmental, Health & Safety Research Wildlife - Endangered Species - Biodiversity

Job Description

Field Ecologists reports to the Field Operations Manager.

  • Field Ecologist I- The Field Ecologist I is a technical position that performs routine maintenance and inventory management on all terrestrial and possibly aquatic instrumentation and sampling equipment.


NEON’s Domain 02 encompasses the mid-Atlantic region from Georgia to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  The core site, which is home to the domain’s support facility and laboratory, is located at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal VA, only 66 miles from Washington DC. The other two sites that comprise D02 are located in Annapolis, MD at the Smithsonian Ecological Research Center (SERC) and at Blandy Experimental Farm, in Boyce VA, a Part of University of Virginia.

The field season here begins in March and runs through to the beginning of November so you will experience the full spectrum of weather this area can offer.  There are ticks that carry Lyme disease, among other zoonotics, and the vegetation can often be difficult to work in.

Because SERC is over two hours away, there will be overnight stays that can last up to a week depending on the sampling that is taking place.  Techs will need to be flexible in the hours that they will be asked to work, with some days starting before dawn and some ending after dusk.  Much of our work is conducted at plots that will remain active research sites for the length of the project. Access to the plots is typically off-trail and can require walking 100 to 400 meters on uneven ground through thick vegetation and elevation changes.   

Opportunities for outdoor recreation are plentiful as we are surrounded by national parks and forests and within a short drive to everything that our nation’s capital city can offer.  As a D02 employee, you receive a Smithsonian ID, after going through a background check, which can be used to access museums and discounts for parking and merchandise.

Major Responsibilities

Instrumentation (tower) emphasis:

  • Test, troubleshoot and operate instruments, sensors, calibration equipment and test fixtures.
  • Inspect and maintain civil infrastructure including boom arms, sensor mounts, towers, boardwalks and instrument huts.
  • Record activities, completed work and trouble tickets according to Field Operations protocol.
  • Computer interfacing with sensors for troubleshooting and remote monitoring purposes (i.e. PuTTY, specific sensor software, SAS or other visual analytic tool)
  • Example of relevant instrumentation: Eddy Covariance turbulent exchange and storage exchange sensors, aspirated air temperature sensors, anemometers (2D and 3D), photometer, pyranometer, LI-840A, Picarro G2131-I or L2130-I, Mass flow controllers/meters, Radiometers, LI-7200, soil sensors including - salinity/moisture, CO2, heat flux, wet deposition, precipitation gauges (DFIR, tipping bucket, throughfalls), humidity probe, barometer, SUNA (Submersible Ultraviolet Nitrate analyzer), multiparameter sonde, and pressure transducers 

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.

Position Requirements

The NEON Project will be selecting a Field Ecologist I. Equivalent education and experience may be considered.

  • Field Ecologist I
    • Bachelor’s degree in ecology, environmental sciences or related scientific discipline, or technical.
    • One (1) or more years’ of related experience to include:
      • Instrumentation (e.g. maintaining terrestrial, aquatic, and/or flux instrumentation; maintenance of electrical/mechanical components; maintenance of laboratory equipment.)
      • Field Experience 

All Field Ecologist Levels:

  • 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: 

  • Leadership:
  • 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. 
  • Skills:
  • 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. 

Must have permanent authorization for US employment. 

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.

Legal Disclaimer

The above statements are intended to describe the nature and level of work being performed by people assigned to this job. They are not intended to be an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, activities and skills required of staff members. No statement herein is intended to imply any authorities to commit Battelle unless special written permission is granted by Battelle's Legal Department.


Battelle’s competitive benefits program includes comprehensive medical and dental care, matching 401K, paid time off, flexible spending accounts, disability coverage, and other benefits that help provide financial protection for you and your family. 

Battelle provides employment and opportunities for advancement, compensation, training, and growth according to individual merit, without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, veteran-status, or any other characteristic protected under applicable Federal, state, or local law. Our goal is for each staff member to have the opportunity to grow to the limits of their abilities and to achieve personal and organizational objectives. We will support positive programs for equal treatment of all staff and full utilization of all qualified employees at all levels within Battelle.