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Assistant Technician - Earth Systems Science

Date: Jan 23, 2023

Location: Oak Ridge, TN, US, 37830

Company: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Requisition Id 9907 


*This is a temporary 12-month position with potential for extension.*



The Earth Systems Science section (ESS) within the Environmental Sciences Division (ESD,, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory ( is seeking a highly motivated individual to provide laboratory and field support for the SPRUCE project associated with ORNL’s Climate Change Science Institute. A goal throughout the research performed by our team is utilizing environmental field data to inform the way Earth System Models represent plant rooting distribution and dynamics and the cycling of carbon, water and nutrients within these changing ecosystems. Our team collects and processes a variety of soil, plant, and water samples using a wide array of analytical chemistry methods and equipment. We are looking for someone to support our team by processing samples, data collection, helping with occasional field campaigns, and maintaining a productive, clean, and safe laboratory environment. This position will be supervised by Dr. Colleen Iversen within the Plant-Soil Interactions group and Environmental System Science (ESS) section of ESD.  


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 at the environment-human interface and the consequences of alternative energy and environmental strategies.


The ESS section within ESD 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 ( ESS staff also lead the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) Arctic project (, and we are an integral partner in the NGEE Tropics research project (


Major Duties/Responsibilities

The successful candidate will be responsible for laboratory activities that include sample preparation and data processing as well as equipment maintenance and troubleshooting. Sample preparation tasks include picking roots from soil cores, grinding roots and soil, and weighing samples for elemental analysis. Root picking specifically involves removal of narrow-diameter, fine roots from dense, organic-rich layers of soil and is best accomplished by individuals with diligent attention to detail and patience. Working within ORNL facilities requires strict adherence to safety protocols so duties will also include adhering to protocols and communicating with parties across our large and interdisciplinary organization.


One or two times a year, trips to the SPRUCE field site in Minnesota may be required to collect new samples and data. During field campaigns, team members often work long hours and occasionally share housing: a strong work ethic and interest in natural ecosystems can make these challenging trips rewarding for the right individual.


Required Qualifications

The successful candidate will have at minimum an AS degree in a chemistry, geology, biology or a related field. Previous experience in a laboratory setting is useful, and willingness to participate in field research is desired. Candidate must have excellent communication skills, be detail-oriented, be dependable, and willing to learn. For participation in field campaigns, candidate must be able travel for 1-2 weeks at a time and perform physically demanding tasks outdoors, therefore a post-offer, pre-employment physical exam is required. Candidate must hold a current, valid driver’s license and be able to pass a background check. The ideal candidate will have a commitment to collaboration, teamwork, continuous learning, a desire to improve the efficiency of everyday tasks, and a personal investment in data reproducibility, documentation, and management.


Desired Qualifications:

  • Ability to thrive within a collaborative, team environment
  • Familiarity with ecosystem ecology methodology – plant and soil collection in the field and physical and chemical processing in the laboratory
  • Ability to archive and organize raw and processed data in a variety of formats
  • Interest and ability to perform field work in remote locations



Additional Information:

  1. Colleen Iversen:
  2. Plant-Soil Interactions group:
  3. Biological and Environmental System Science Directorate:
  4. Oak Ridge National Lab Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI)
  5. SPRUCE Experiment:


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.


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


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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