Share this Job

Assistant Technician - Earth Systems Science (Temporary)

Date: Sep 1, 2021

Location: Oak Ridge, TN, US, 37830

Company: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Requisition Id 6302 

This position is a 12-month temporary position.  The appointment length will be for up to 12 months with the potential for extension. Initial appointments and extensions are subject to performance and the availability of funding.




The Earth Systems Science section (ESS) within the Environmental Sciences Division (ESD),, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL),, is seeking a highly motivated individual to provide laboratory and field support for existing projects associated with ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division and Climate Change Science Institute. Research performed by our team involves the collection of lab and field data involving soil, microbes, and groundwater. Laboratory experiments involving biogeochemical reactions of nutrients, carbon, and metals with soil and engineered materials is a primary task. Field observations of erosion, chemistry, hydrology, and greenhouse gas emissions are collected to represent the cycling of carbon, water, metals, and nutrients within changing ecosystems. Our team collects and processes a variety of soil, gas, and water samples using a wide array of analytical chemistry methods and equipment. We are looking for someone to support our team by running analytical instruments, managing data processing and archiving, assisting with field campaigns, and maintaining a productive, clean, and safe laboratory environment. This will be a full-time technical staff position with potential for career advancement for a creative and highly motivated individual interested in working in a research-focused environment. The selected candidate will join the Biogeochemical Dynamics group and be supervised by Dr. Melanie Mayes.


ESD 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 and the consequences of alternative energy and environmental strategies.


The ESS 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 ESD staff lead the Mercury Technology Development project which seeks to develop remediation technologies for deployment in diverse, contaminated environments. ESD staff also lead the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) Arctic https://ngee- project, and we are an integral partner in the NGEE Tropics research program https://ngee-


Major Duties/Responsibilities

Our team performs lab-based sorption, incubation, and transport experiments and conducts measurements of greenhouse gas emissions. Laboratory activities will include sample preparation and data processing as well as equipment maintenance, calibration, and troubleshooting. Our team also performs a wide variety of field experiments involving groundwater, streams, and soils. The successful candidate will be responsible for running samples on a variety of instruments for mercury analysis, including Lumex atomic absorption spectroscopy, a Direct Mercury Analyzer, and preparing samples for analysis for methylmercury via ICPMS. The candidate will measure soil physical and chemical properties and analyze water samples using liquid chromatography and other techniques. Other types of soil characterization such as chloroform fumigation and DNA extractions will be routinely performed. Working within ORNL facilities requires strict adherence to safety protocols so duties will also include writing up protocols, maintaining chemical inventories, and communicating with parties across our large and interdisciplinary organization. Responsibilities would also include training newcomers to the group regarding protocols and analytical equipment and maintaining and revising comprehensive in-house protocols and standard operating procedures.


Fieldwork at local and distant field sites will be required to collect new samples and data. During field campaigns, team members often work long hours: 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, rough terrain, and unforeseen logistical challenges often prevail. Travel for field campaigns is expected to take up roughly 1 month/year.


Required Qualifications

The successful candidate should have knowledge of soils, chemistry, engineering, geology, biology, and/or environmental science. General knowledge of, or experience with, analytical instrumentation is required. Field experience is desired. Research experience in a laboratory setting is necessary, willingness to participate in field research at remote locations is desired. The candidate must have excellent communication skills, be dependable, willing to learn, and interested in taking advanced training classes offsite. Familiarity with MS Office applications is required and knowledge of statistical analysis methods and data processing in R is strongly preferred. The candidate must be able to travel for 1-2 weeks at a time, spend time in remote locations, and perform physically demanding tasks outdoors. Work will involve various physical requirements and certain working conditions and as such a post offer, pre-hire physical is required.

The candidate must be a U.S. citizen, must hold a current, valid driver’s license, and be able to pass a background check.


Desired Qualifications:

The ideal candidate will have a commitment to teamwork, continuous learning, a desire to improve the efficiency of everyday tasks, and a personal investment in accuracy, reproducible science, and data documentation and management.

Ability to thrive within a collaborative, team environment, Familiarity with soil and environmental systems methodology – sample collection in the field and physical and chemical  processing in the laboratory. Basic knowledge of a programming language (R, python, etc.) Experience with analytical chemistry methods and equipment. Ability to archive and organize raw and processed data in a variety of formats Interest and ability to perform field work in remote locations. Personal experience communicating technical information in a concise and clear manner.


Additional Information:

  1. Melanie Mayes:
  2. Biogeochemical Dynamics Group:
  3. Biological and Environmental Systems Science Directorate:
  4. Oak Ridge National Laboratory Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI):


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.

Nearest Major Market: Knoxville