Postdoctoral Researcher, Soil Microbial Ecology (Full-time, Term-limit)
Lisle, IL
Full Time

Position Summary: Implement and oversee research related to the National Science Foundation grant, “Impacts of plants and communities on soil microbial composition and function across phylogenetic scales.”    This is a joint position between the Soil Ecology Lab at The Morton Arboretum and The Swingley Lab at Northern Illinois University. The goal of the project is to develop a predictive, mechanistic framework to understand how phylogenetic and functional characteristics of tallgrass prairie plant communities influence soil microbial communities and the belowground ecosystem functions that they drive. Funding for this position is temporary and is expected to run for 36 months.

Essential Functions:

  • Establish and conduct a mesocosm experiment to characterize direct relationships between tallgrass prairie root exudates and microbial metabolic functions.

  • Participate in soil sampling campaigns in the experimental prairie at The Morton Arboretum and restored prairies at Nachusa Grasslands.  

  • Characterize soil bacterial metabolism of plant-specific exudates using isolates from plant rhizospheres and exometabolite profiling.

  • Determine how plant functional and phylogenetic diversity influence soil microbial communities and function in assembled plant community plots.

  • Characterize the extent to which root exudates, other above- and belowground plant traits, and plant phylogeny drive variation in soil microbial communities and functions.

  • Assist with data curation and depositing genomic, functional, and trait data. 

  • 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.

  • Prepare and submit scientific articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals, as well as other scientific analyses as required by the partnership. 

  • Participate in public outreach and data sharing efforts to promote and expand the general impact of the project. 

  • Participate in the Soil Ecology lab group by attending journal clubs and mentoring students and interns.

  • Contribute to the Science and Conservation department through collaboration, providing scientific input and guidance, and engaging in departmental activities such as Monday Tree Talks and occasional discussion and planning meetings. 

  • Other duties as assigned.

Qualifications: Ph.D. in a biological field required, with expertise in soil microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, and genomics. Experience with soil fungal and bacterial DNA extraction, library construction, sequence analysis, and bioinformatics is required. Experience with soil physiochemical and microbial functional techniques including extracellular enzyme activity, carbon and nitrogen mineralization, and catabolic assays is preferred. Additional preferred qualifications include experience with microbial culturing techniques, environmental metagenomics and transcriptomics analysis, field work, and method development. Experience in R programming and statistical analyses is beneficial. A successful track record as an emerging research scientist including demonstrated communication with academic and professional audiences through publications, presentations and/or other media, and a commitment to conducting relevant and timely research is required. 

Success Factors: Strong analytical abilities. Self-motivated, with the initiative and resourcefulness to implement, evaluate, and report on research projects. Desire to conduct interdisciplinary research with other scientists. 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 operate in line with our employee core values to 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: Requires some physical activity: walking over varied terrain, bending, limited lifting and carrying (up to 30 lbs. assisted). Use of chemicals will be necessary. Ability to wear Personal Protective Equipment required. Some local and regional travel. Some travel nationally and internationally is required, including visits each year with project collaborators. 

  • Work Environment: Office environment, lab environments, Arboretum grounds, and off-site 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, Arboretum pick-up truck and/or utility vehicle.

  • Schedule: Work may require occasional evening and weekend hours.

For full consideration, applicants should submit a cover letter and CV with their application by April 30, 2021.

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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