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Staff Research Scientist in Permafrost Hydrology - Plant-Soil Interactions Group

Date: Nov 21, 2022

Location: Oak Ridge, TN, US, 37830

Company: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Requisition Id 9549 



The Earth Systems Science section (ESS) within the Environmental Sciences Division (ESD,, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory ( is seeking an individual motivated to take on the challenge of furthering mechanistic understanding of high-latitude ecosystem responses to climatic and environmental change. In particular, the impacts of rapidly changing environmental conditions on ecosystems underlain by permafrost are important, but understudied, aspects of the terrestrial biosphere. An improved understanding of the areal extent of permafrost and its influence on watershed hydrology – as impacted by snow, vegetation, terrain, and organic matter accumulation – are needed to predict the impacts of environmental change on high-latitude ecosystems, now and in the future.


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 ( ESD staff also lead the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) Arctic project (, and we are an integral partner in the NGEE Tropics research project ( ESS staff also lead the development of multiple land system components in the US DOE Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM,


Major Duties/Responsibilities:

The response of high-latitude ecosystems to rapidly changing environmental conditions depend in large part on the interactions among permafrost extent, watershed hydrology, and the distribution and dynamics of snow, vegetation, and soil organic matter. Further, the extent and impacts of permafrost are poorly conceptualized in the current generation of terrestrial biosphere models. The goal of this position will be to develop a framework for investigating the impacts of environmental change on permafrost hydrology in cold regions via new observations, the development of national and international collaborations, and data synthesis. Taken together, these new and synthesized observations should facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration with modelers here in ESD and across national laboratories and the world, and lead to the improved representation of permafrost hydrology in terrestrial biosphere models.


The role is intended to be flexible to allow the successful candidate to explore her or his interests with the goal of the successful candidate developing their own research program within the lab environment.

You will be joining a diverse team of empirical and modeling ecosystem ecologists, working at the cutting edge of above-and-below-ground resource interactions. Collaboration within and outside of the lab will be essential to the success of this position. The role will involve the opportunity to travel and work with many world-class partner research groups. For more information please contact Colleen Iversen ( | 865 332- 8816).


Basic Qualifications:

  • PhD in hydrology, hydrologic engineering, permafrost hydrology, or a related field
  • Experience in experimental design, data collation, synthesis, analysis, and management
  • Experience with investigating high-latitude responses to changing environmental conditions, with an emphasis on ecology-hydrology interactions in cold regions
  • Excellent written and oral communication
  • Excellent inter-personal skills
  • Willingness to travel to conferences and remote field locations
  • A proven track record of publication in leading peer-reviewed journals
  • Self-motivation and goal setting
  • Ability to work and communicate as part of a diverse and distributed team
  • Passion for understanding the natural world


Preferred Qualifications:

  • Experience with state-of-the art methods to investigate permafrost hydrology
  • Familiarity with one or more process-based models of permafrost hydrology, including the representation of high-latitude biomes in the model(s)
  • Large network of contacts and collaborators, scientific and non-scientific, in Alaska and internationally
  • A focus on making the culture of science safer and more inclusive


Applications should include a cover letter and a CV with a full list of publications 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


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