Research Specialist, Urban Drought- Full-time, Term-limit

Lisle, IL
Full Time

A cross-disciplinary team led by The Morton Arboretum is developing tools and resources to improve drought resilience of urban forests. Through funding from the NOAA NIDIS program, we are looking to hire a term-limit (21 month) research specialist to develop quantitative short- and long-range forecasts of drought impacts on urban trees in Chicago using weather and climate change forecasts, satellite data, and sensor-based physiology measurements. This project involves extensive stakeholder engagement, putting science directly into the hands of those who can create action and change.  

Position Summary: Develop and implement analyses to support tree drought tolerance designations, species- and neighborhood risk forecasts, long-range climate change assessments, and mitigation strategies as part of a NOAA-funded project focused on urban ecological drought in the Chicago metropolitan region. Use satellite remote sensing data, ecophysiology measurements, tree health observations, and weekly to seasonal weather forecasts to identify trees and neighborhoods in Chicago at risk for loss of tree-based ecosystem services and potential tree mortality. Funding for this position is temporary and is expected to run for 21 months.

Essential Functions:

  • Develop and test new methods and tools for predicting and assessing tree drought risk and resilience at weekly and mid-century time scales in close collaboration with other staff on the project, including those at other institutions.

  • Work collaboratively with multiple groups within The Morton Arboretum as well as external collaborators and partners to assess spatial, temporal, and species variation in drought responses and identify appropriate drought metrics.

  • Participate in stakeholder workshops and incorporate feedback into model and product development. 

  • Clearly document methods and code using online, open-access code documentation. 

  • Conduct literature research and other independent learning as needed in order to accomplish tasks associated with the project, and keep abreast of new scientific advances.

  • Disseminate findings and products to scientific and stakeholder audiences through publications, presentations, and online resources

  • Other duties as assigned.

Qualifications: Master’s degree in environmental sciences (i.e. ecology, geography, geosciences, or related field) with strong experience in modeling (i.e. statistics, ecological forecasting, quantitative ecology, or similar) required, Ph.D. preferred. In lieu of the degree requirement, equivalent work experience demonstrating independent research including project ideation, methods development, and dissemination required.  Experience in R or other programming language (e.g. Python, Java) required. Familiarity with code sharing and virtual collaboration platforms (i.e. Github, Google Earth Engine) preferred. Experience working with satellite data, in situ sensor data, and/or ecological forecasting preferred. Interest or experience with Bayesian statistics preferred. Strong written and oral communication with academic and professional audiences through publications, presentations, and/or other media required. 

Success Factors:  Strong analytical and problem solving abilities. Self-motivated, with the initiative and resourcefulness to implement, evaluate, and report on research projects. Desire to conduct and communicate interdisciplinary research with other scientists and decision makers. Ability to work and communicate with a dispersed team. Ability to write manuscripts for scientific peer-reviewed journals and communicate results to a broad audience. Ability to embrace and align with the organization’s employee core values to be inclusive, take ownership, work together, keep learning and make the Arboretum exceptional.

Physical Demands and Work Environment: The physical demands and work environment characteristics described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform these essential functions.

  • Physical Demands: Some travel nationally is required, including visits with project collaborators. 

  • Work Environment: Office environment. This position is designated as a hybrid-eligible position, allowing for some work to be performed off premise, during regular hours of work.

  • Equipment: General office equipment, specialized equipment relating to particular field of research.

  • Schedule: Position may require some weekend or evening hours.


All Arboretum employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof of that status in order to maintain their employment.

The Morton Arboretum is a champion of diversity, supporting a culture of inclusion that attracts, inspires, and engages people to achieve success. The Arboretum is committed to hire and develop employees based on job-related qualifications irrespective of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, or veteran status. To increase diversity in professions related to the public garden realm, we encourage applications from underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans.  

The Morton Arboretum is dedicated to complying with our obligations as an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All applicants are guaranteed equal consideration for employment. 

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If you have questions, please contact jobs@mortonarb.org