Research Technician Fellowship - Temporary

Lisle, IL
Part Time

The Center for Tree Science Integrated Mentorship Program at The Morton Arboretum is committed to supporting students and professionals at every stage in their career. As the Arboretum continues to grow a diverse and inclusive program, flexible work assignments and additional assistance may be available. Individuals from colleges and universities with limited research opportunities, groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM programs, first- and second-year undergraduates, persons with disabilities, and veterans are encouraged to apply.

Position Summary: 

The Research Technician Fellowship is intended to welcome students interested in learning about tree science. No experience is necessary. These fellows will be mentored and trained under close supervision as they assist in laboratory and/or field operations in areas such as arboriculture, forest ecology, plant systematics, and tree conservation. 

Projects available for Fall 2022

  • Arboriculture Lab (part-time): The Arboriculture Lab at The Morton Arboretum researches biomechanics, the architecture of trees, and applied arboriculture, which focuses on the growth, maintenance, and function of urban landscape trees. The research investigates factors that predispose trees to storm damage and cultural practices to reduce susceptibility to storm damage. The student will gain hands-on skills and an understanding of what it’s like to work in a research lab and field sites. An interest in Environmental Science and a desire to learn new skills is preferred.  


  • Forest Ecology Lab (part-time): Trees are removed from the Arboretum’s Living Collections for a variety of reasons. Some trees are removed after damage due to pest and pathogen outbreak, some die of natural causes, and some are removed to make room for new acquisitions or development. However, there is a lot that can be learned about a tree from its wood and rings. With the help of the collections and arborist teams, we are collecting and storing cross-sections from removed trees so that trees grown at the Arboretum can continue to be studied after the tree has been removed from our grounds. After drying, samples need to be prepared by sanding so that they can be used to study a variety of topics including tree growth and climate sensitivity, quantitative wood anatomy, and isotopic analysis. The student selected will help with the preparation of samples in the woodshop, should be over 18 years of age, and comfortable using power tools and lifting objects up to 30 pounds. 


  • Herbarium and Plant Systematics Lab (part-time): The Morton Arboretum Herbarium houses more than 186,000 dried plant specimens and 17,000 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. 


  • Tree Conservation Biology Lab (part-time): The Tree Conservation Biology Lab works with numerous threatened tree species, many of which are grown in botanic gardens or nurseries with the future purpose of being used in conservation and restoration. To be adaptable for the future, these seedlings must retain the genetic diversity of the species, and have high genetic health and resilience. In a recent project, we used DNA analysis in several plant genera to try to determine the recommended minimum number of seed samples to preserve species diversity in botanic gardens. We are now broadening our investigation to many oak species to determine the variation in minimum sample size for preserving genetic diversity. The student would be working on generating DNA data for one of these species, Q. tomentella, an IUCN red list threatened species that is only found on the four Channel Islands, off the coast of California. The student will develop precise hypotheses with the mentors, learn or refine their laboratory skills, extract DNA from plant tissue from hundreds of specimens, perform PCR, analyze DNA and manage data. Prior laboratory experience in some capacity is preferred, and experience or interest in molecular, cellular or evolutionary biology, and conservation, is preferred. Coursework in genetics as well as general biology and evolution is recommended, though not required. Ability to handle delicate equipment, work with a high degree of precision and accuracy, take careful notes, ask questions, and perform repetitive tasks, is necessary.

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.

Qualifications: Current enrollment in high school, an Associate, Bachelor’s degree program, with an interest in studying biology, environmental sciences, or a related field. 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.

To apply, complete the online application form; 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 close at 5pm (Central time) on  Friday, September 30 or until the positions have been filled. 


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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