Research Technician in Plant Ecology

Updated: 4 months ago
Job Type: Permanent

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80%-100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Plant Ecology group of Janneke Hille Ris Lambers is looking for two research technicians to participate in research quantifying the responses of plant communities to climate change.

Current research areas include the magnitude and drivers of plant community turnover with climate change and whether climatic and biological constraints on tree seedling performance influence forest responses to climate change.

Project background

Forests are critical to the carbon cycle and are the home to many plants and animals of conservation interest. Thus, improving our limited understanding of how forest communities will shift with climate change is critical. Several factors play a role in our limited understanding. First, forest regeneration depends on multiple plant-relevant microclimate variables that will be influenced by climate change (e.g. growing season length, extreme frosts). Moreover, species interactions that are themselves influenced by climate can also affect forest regeneration, both positively (e.g. facilitation, mycorrhizae) and negatively (seed predation, herbivory). As a result, seed production, seed germination, and seedling growth and survival are all highly dynamic processes, both spatially and temporally. Therefore, to better understand how seeds and seedlings contribute forest dynamics in a changing climate, long-term studies that are replicated in many locations are crucial. In this light, we initiated long-term monitoring of seed production and seedling dynamics, relative to microsite characteristics at 12 sites that are distributed across all of Switzerland, along a climate and elevation gradient. The project is conducted in collaboration with the WSL program "Langfristige Waldökosystemforschung" .

This monitoring effort will  provide valuable information on the biotic and abiotic factors that influence tree regeneration of dominant Swiss tree species. The information gained will be combined with ongoing greenhouse experiments in the Plant Ecology Group and species distribution modeling to assess the role climatic effects play in driving tree distributions. The project is complementary to long-term monitoring by the Plant Ecology Group in old-growth forests at Mt. Rainier National Park (Washington, USA).

Job description

We seek a technician to primarily assist with the maintenance (and potential setting up of new sites) of long-term ecological monitoring of tree regeneration in Swiss forests, which allows us to explore how these life history stages may constrain forest responses to climate change .
Tasks include ecological data collection in the field and lab, equipment maintenance (field material and technical installations at ETH), the development of sampling protocols, assistance in greenhouse experiments and data management. Additionally, technicians may contribute to related field projects led by graduate students and postdoctoral associates in the lab.
Fieldwork can be physically demanding (e.g. hiking to reach field sites, kneeling down, gardening work) and so a passion for outdoor work under all weather conditions is essential. The applicant must also be willing to work some non-standard work weeks (especially in the summer), go on multi-day field trips.

For both positions, the contracts will run from April/May until October 2022.

Your profile

For both positions, candidates should have:

  • A bachelors or masters in ecology, environmental science or a related field
  • At least one year of experience with ecological research, ideally in field settings (more experienced candidates are also encouraged to apply)
  • The ability to work both independently as well as in groups
  • Skill in organization and communication, proactive and resourceful
  • Basic computer skills (Microsoft products, ideally R statistics)
  • Good to very good knowledge of German and English
  • Valid drivers license
  • Good knowledge of plant and tree species in Switzerland (alpine and Mittelland)
  • Able to work long days in the field in all weather conditions

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

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