Research Associate post- Botanist

Based at Wallingford, Oxfordshire

3-year research training opportunity

The NERC Research Associates’ Programme is an initiative which is intended to offer individuals the opportunity to gain practical experience of working within a Research Institute, whilst acquiring specialist and wider skills that will be valuable in a range of careers.

The programme is aimed particularly at those who have recently completed postgraduate studies, but is open to individuals from other backgrounds and of all ages. Individuals will work on highly topical research projects, both important for future research within the environmental research community and appropriate to their backgrounds. Research Associates are given specific, measurable objectives which will be intended to develop their skills as a researcher and to demonstrate their suitability for a research career.

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is the UK’s Centre of Excellence for research in the terrestrial and freshwater environmental sciences.

Main duties and description of work area

The post will be within a section of 36 ecologists based at CEH’s Wallingford site. The job will include participation in the work of field survey teams and work on botanical data within the Biological Records Centre. The successful applicant will be expected to contribute towards the development of new research projects, including field-based studies and data analysis.

We are looking for a botanist with a good knowledge of the British flora to provide expert botanical support to the work of the Biological Records Centre and to CEH’s botanical fieldwork. Much of the work would be teamwork and the appointee would need to work with colleagues in CEH and in partner organisations.

Specific training

Appropriate training will be provided in a number of areas to assist the appointed researcher to develop the necessary research skills to support career progression. These include training in:

– Field identification skills and survey techniques

– Data processing, including critical assessment of incoming data

– Principles of botanical nomenclature

– Principles of molecular systematics and their relevance to the British flora.

Skills to be gained

The successful candidate will gain skills to:

1. Lead field surveys, train inexperienced members of staff in plant identification, and administer simple identification tests to applicants for field survey posts.

2. Oversee processing of botanical data received by BRC, resolving taxonomic and other problems thrown up by automatic data validation checks in conjunction with the suppliers of data.

3. Contribute to maintenance and development of databases of botanical records and ecological attributes held by BRC, ensuring (for example) that they are based on correct and up-to-date taxonomic treatments.

4. Liaise with botanical recording schemes (Botanical Society of the British Isles, British Bryological Society, British Lichen Society), representing BRC at meetings and making an input into the planning of joint recording or analytical projects.

5. Plan, edit or critically review publications, including atlases, based on plant records held by BRC and the botanical recording schemes.

6. Advising scientists in CEH or in other organisations in the use of BRC botanical data in research projects, and where appropriate planning and carrying out joint research studies with such colleagues.

Skills required on appointment

Candidates will be expected to have a PhD in Biological or Environmental Sciences (or equivalent, relevant experience) and some project-based experience of quantitative scientific work in a University or research environment. They will also need an understanding of the basic principles of taxonomy and good basic knowledge of the field identification of either British vascular plants, bryophytes, or both; some familiarity with lichens would also be advantageous. You will be expected to have a knowledge of biological recording, including the activities of the British botanical recording schemes. Experience of the analysis of biological data-sets would be a useful attribute, although training and supervision in these aspects would be provided as required.

Candidates will be expected to identify lines of research, initiate new collaborations and make informed decisions about appropriate data analysis methods. They should be able to critically evaluate scientific publications. The candidate will also require a good knowledge of a range of ecosystems and field survey techniques, including plant community classification.

Much of the work is team-based and some of it includes working with volunteers. You will therefore need good communication skills, an understanding of the motivation and perspectives of volunteer recorders and an ability to enthuse others. You will be working in collaboration with other scientists so will need a flexible attitude, the ability to meet deadlines and a sound teamwork ethic.

Applications are handled by the RCUK Shared Services Centre. To apply, please visit their job board at searching for IRC96132.

Salary: £26,450 – £29,710

Band: 6

Contract Type: Fixed-term

Hours: Full Time

Closing Date: 17/06/13

Interview Date: 22/07/13

Reference: IRC96132