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Assistant Research Scientist — Illinois Natural History Survey @ University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

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Assistant Research Scientist, Large River Ecology — Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) investigates and documents the biological resources of Illinois and other areas and acquires and provides natural history information that can be used to promote the common understanding, conservation, and management of these resources. INHS is part of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which is centrally located between Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis. To learn more visit

The Illinois Natural History Survey is seeking an Assistant Research Scientist with a broad background in large river ecology and experimental design to synthesize diverse existing data and identify important data gaps in space or topic area within the Upper Mississippi River (UMR) from Pool 14 to Pool 25 and develop potential approaches for addressing these data gaps. The scientist would work as part of the Long Term Resource Monitoring (LTRM) element of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration program.

The stretch of the UMR from Pool 14 through Pool 25 is the longest UMR span unmonitored by LTRM; it includes multiple large tributary inputs and the highest dam on the system (Lock and Dam 19). However, several agencies are currently collecting data using LTRM fisheries component protocols within this area and there are a variety of other previous and ongoing data collection efforts that, taken collectively, suggest a strong interest in addressing data gaps in that stretch. However, allocating resources to address those gaps effectively and efficiently will require syntheses of past and current sampling, and requires conferring with river managers and scientists to identify the highest priority information needs.

The scientist is expected to review existing reports and publications, analyze existing data, understand ongoing data collection efforts, and consult broadly across the partnership to assess what is currently known and what additional information is most needed to improve our understanding of this reach of the UMR to support its restoration and management. It is expected that, based on the results of these activities and in collaboration with UMRR scientists and restoration practitioners, the scientist will assess the value of additional LTRM data collection as well as the value of other data collection efforts that may be identified. The assessment will inform the development of recommendations for locations and study designs that will most effectively meet the identified information needs.

Examples of ongoing monitoring and existing data sets include the following: The Long Term Survey and Assessment of Large River Fishes in Illinois (LTEF), vegetation surveys conducted by the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee (UMRCC), Land Cover Data collected by LTRM every 10 years (e.g., De Jager and Rohweder, 2017; Rogala and Hanson 2018); and previous and ongoing work using FLAMe methods to map water quality conditions in the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers (e.g., Loken et al. 2018).

The assistant scientist will work under the direction of Dr. Jim Lamer and work closely with the Illinois River Biological Station scientists, other INHS researchers and faculty, scientists and staff from USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, and other state and federal partners associated with the UMRR LTRM. The position is based in Havana, Illinois, at the Illinois River Biological Station ( where the applicant will join an interdisciplinary community of researchers and graduate students.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Identify opportunities to expand data collection using LTRM methods in one or more navigation pools within river reach (from Pool 14 to Pool 25).
  • Confer with agencies responsible for river restoration and management to further develop current management and restoration information needs.
  • Design a sampling regime for selected LTRM components (e.g., fish, aquatic vegetation, water quality, and macroinvertebrates) or sampling designs for other priority information needs that may be identified.
  • Work closely with and coordinate efforts between state, federal, and University partners associated with the project.
  • Evaluate spatial and temporal trends in the fish community using LTEF sampling data and/or genetic data from ongoing LTRM study of fish vital rates.
  • Use LTEF data to compare the fish community status in pools 14 – 25 to LTRM study reaches.
  • Investigate trends in location, density, and total coverage of aquatic vegetation at select pools from Pool 14 to Pool 25 using non-LTRM field surveys (e.g., vegetation surveys conducted by the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee) and LTRM land cover data.
  • Assess the availability of water quality data for this river reach and what may be inferred regarding water quality conditions and longitudinal trends across this river reach.
  • Analyze data, synthesize results, and author annual technical reports and multiple manuscripts for submission to peer-reviewed scientific journals.
  • Assist other biologists with experimental design, analysis, and writing for a variety of aquatic ecology-related projects.
  • Present results of data analysis in annual technical reports and manuscripts for submission to peer-reviewed scientific journals.
  • Disseminate research findings to management agencies, the scientific community, and the public through presentations at professional meetings, public outreach activities, and written reports.
  • Ensure the safety of staff and equipment.
  • Respond to requests for scientific/technical information and communicate effectively with collaborators.
  • Participate in community outreach and service events, and mentor hourly staff.
  • Perform other duties as needed to further the mission and goals of the Survey, PRI, and the University of Illinois.
  • Keep abreast of developments in this discipline.

Additional Physical Demands
The work of this position takes place in an office setting. The work is sedentary and involves sitting for extended periods working at a computer, using a keyboard and mouse, and using repetitive hand motions for data entry. Will require working in a lab environment. Lab safety equipment use is required. May require standing and stationary positions. Occasional overnight travel may occur.

Minimum Qualifications
Master’s degree in biology, Aquatic Ecology, Fisheries, Statistics, or ecological statistics or a related field. Alternate degree fields will be considered depending on the nature and depth of the experience as it relates to this position. A minimum of 3 years of experience with analytical/statistical method application to ecology-based research questions and demonstrated research communication through peer-reviewed manuscripts. Necessary expertise includes aquatic ecology, statistics, and sampling design. Valid Driver’s License.

Preferred Qualifications
Ph.D. in Biology, Aquatic Ecology, Fisheries, Statistics, Ecological Statistics, or related field. Alternate degree fields will be considered depending on the nature and depth of the experience as it relates to this position. A minimum of 5 years of experience with analytical/statistical method application to ecology-based research questions and demonstrated research communication through peer-reviewed manuscripts. A minimum of 3 years of experience applying statistical techniques to ecological data and familiarity or direct experience conducting field and laboratory research on large rivers or other large aquatic systems. Experience driving boats on rivers or other large bodies of water. Experience managing and analyzing large data sets.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Ability to apply statistical techniques to ecological data.
  • Strong analytical skills and strong proficiency with R or SAS statistical software and its application to ecological-based statistics.
  • Must be able to write clearly and scientifically as demonstrated through prior publications.
  • Must possess excellent organizational, interpersonal, and oral and written communication skills.
  • Ability to apply analytical/scientific thinking to define and solve problems.
  • Ability to work independently, collect and analyze field data, and coherently communicate findings (verbally and in writing) to scientific and public communities.
  • Effective communication, personal relations, collaboration, organization, teamwork, and leadership skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to perform effectively in a diverse and fast-paced work environment consisting of multiple and changing priorities with stringent deadlines, under minimal supervision.
  • Attention to detail, sound judgment, and strong conflict resolution skills.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office, R or comparable platforms, GIS, and other commonly used software is required.

Appointment Information
This is a 100% full-time Academic Professional position. The starting salary is $70,000 and is commensurate with education, experience, and skill. The start date is negotiable.

Application Procedures & Deadline Information
Applications must be received by 6:00 pm (CST) on April 19, 2024. Apply for this position at Applications not submitted through this website will not be considered. Application materials must include a 1) cover letter that clearly outlines your qualifications and experience as it relates to this position, 2) a CV or resume, and 3) names and contact information (including email addresses) for three professional references. Incomplete applications will not be considered. For further information about this specific position, please contact Dr. Jim Lamer at For questions regarding the application process, please contact 217-333-2137.

Equal Opportunity Statement
The University of Illinois System is an equal opportunity employer, including but not limited to disability and/or veteran status, and complies with all applicable state and federal employment mandates. Please visit Required Employment Notices and Posters to view our non-discrimination statement and find additional information about required background checks, sexual harassment/misconduct disclosures, COVID-19 vaccination requirements, and employment eligibility review through E-Verify. Applicants with disabilities are encouraged to apply and may request a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (2008) to complete the application and/or interview process. Requests may be submitted through the reasonable accommodations portal, or by contacting the Accessibility & Accommodations Division of the Office for Access and Equity at 217-333-0885, or by emailing