Research Technician Fellowship - Temporary

Lisle, IL
Part Time

The Research Technician Fellowship is intended to welcome undergraduate and high school students over the age of 16 who are interested in learning about tree science. No experience is necessary. Fellows will be mentored and trained as they assist in laboratory and/or field operations under close supervision. To apply, individuals will complete the online application form; while encouraged, a resume and cover letter are not required. A brief true/false survey will be sent immediately to confirm interest, followed by a required questionnaire within one week to determine project interest and allow applicants an opportunity to provide additional details. Applications will be accepted until positions are filled.    


Project descriptions:


Herbarium and Plant Systematics (part-time, Sept 2024 - May 2025): The Morton Arboretum Herbarium houses more than 190,000 dried plant specimens and 18,000 lichens, many from Illinois and Missouri. Research being conducted in the Herbarium and Plant Systematics Lab focuses on the diversification and evolution of plant lineages. It employs the tools of molecular phylogenetics, phylogenomics, morphometrics, population genetics, and field ecology to address basic questions about patterns of plant biodiversity: How many species are there? How are they delimited and identified? How are they related and how strong are the barriers to gene flow between species?


The student will join the Morton Arboretum’s Herbarium and Plant Systematics Laboratory, assisting in aspects of specimen processing in the herbarium and various projects as needed. Activities in specimen processing may include collecting and pressing plants, label making/clean-up, mounting specimens, accessioning, data entry and/or proofreading, filing, and imaging. The student will obtain broad training in herbarium collection work while serving as an active member of the Herbarium and Systematics Laboratory.


Forest Ecology Lab (part-time, Sept 2024 - May 2025): Trees at The Morton Arboretum record and preserve decades to centuries of information on growth responses to environmental conditions in their annual rings. In collaboration with the Herbarium, we are forming a formal archival collection of wood cross-sections so that comparative research on growth trends and wood anatomy can be performed while leveraging the wealth of information and extended records (e.g. Herbarium, BRAHMS) that is truly unique to The Morton Arboretum. Student interns will assist with the full cycle of collections development and curation, including specimen cataloging, sample preparation, dendrochronological analysis, and digitization.

Special considerations: Interns must be comfortable lifting 30+ lbs assisted (15 lbs unassisted) and with the use of power tools, including belt sanders and potentially saws (after training). Applicants do not need to know how to use these tools already, but must not be afraid to learn. Applicants must also be able to wear an N95 mask respirator and pass a respirator physical.


Root Biology Lab (part-time, Sept 2024 - May 2025): Trees are complex organisms that must integrate strategies for growth and stress tolerance both above- and below-ground. It is this below-ground component that is least understood and work in our group focuses on below-ground ecology and linking root and fungal processes whole-tree success in unmanaged as well as urban ecosystems. We use a diverse set of tools and approaches to do this. As such, the successful candidate should be comfortable with field-, lab-, and computer-based work. 


The exact responsibilities of the candidate will vary over time, but will likely include assisting with field work to monitor leaf, stem, root, and soil fungal growth as well as lab work processing soil samples and extracting DNA, and computer-based work analyzing patterns of fungal growth over time. The balance of time with each component will depend partly on the candidate’s interests and learning goals, but will certainly include exposure to multiple research tools and techniques. Specific techniques can be learned on the job but the candidate must be willing and excited to engage in new experiences and training.


Essential Functions may include: 

  • Provide support to a scientist for the implementation of research and related projects. 

  • Assist with data and sample collection, sample processing, data analysis, and record keeping on research and related projects. 

  • Operate and maintain laboratory equipment, and perform routine lab maintenance by keeping laboratory and field equipment in good working order. 

  • May maintain living plants in the field and greenhouse. 

  • May voucher and assist with the curation of herbarium specimens. 

  • Other duties as assigned.



Current enrollment in high school, an Associate or Bachelor’s degree program, with an interest in studying biology, environmental sciences, or a related field. Must be over the age of 16. Organization and independent working skills preferred. Willingness and eagerness to learn necessary field, laboratory, and library research skills required. Experience with database, spreadsheet, and statistical/graphics computer programs, and Google applications beneficial. Depending on the position, may require possession of a valid driver’s license, which is subject to insurability and an annual Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) report.


Success Factors:

Ability and willingness to work in laboratory and field environments. Good written and oral communication skills. Clear thought, visual acuity, and manual dexterity needed. 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 for all positions: 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: Requires some physical activity: walking over varied terrain, bending, limited lifting and carrying (up to 50 lbs. assisted). Use of chemicals may be necessary. 

  • Work Environment: Office environment, Arboretum grounds, field locations, which may include state parks and forest preserves, and/or remote locations. Work is performed indoors and outdoors, in a variety of weather conditions.

  • Equipment: General office equipment, field and laboratory equipment, including specialized equipment relating to particular field of research, hand tools.

The hourly rate is $20/hour

The Morton Arboretum is a champion for 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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