Each year, NEON hires hundreds of temporary field technicians to assist with observational sampling. NEON field sites are located in 24 states across the U.S. plus Puerto Rico in some of the nation's most pristine and wild areas. These seasonal opportunities are perfect for scientists who want to explore fieldwork and gain experience collecting data for a continental-scale ecology program.
These positions start in spring (February to June) and end in autumn (August to November). Exact dates are based on sampling schedules in each Domain and vary by location.
Types of work activities
The type of fieldwork will depend on your experience and interest in terrestrial (i.e. fauna and flora) or aquatic ecology. Fieldwork will include navigating with a map, compass, and GPS, and learning plot and subplot layouts for sampling and subsampling taxa. Field technicians conduct the following protocols:
- Fauna technicians: beetles, ticks, mosquitoes, soils, and mammals
- Flora technicians: plant phenology, plant diversity, herbaceous biomass collections, below-ground biomass, litterfall, canopy foliage, vegetation structure, and coarse downed wood
- Aquatic technicians: surface water chemistry, dissolved gases, isotopes, aquatic microbes, groundwater chemistry, discharge, reaeration, aquatic plants, invertebrates/zooplankton, algae, benthic microbes, sediment chemistry, geomorphology/bathymetry, fish electroshocking, and riparian habitat assessment
Field technicians conduct a variety of laboratory activities, which include:
- Identifying, sorting, and processing vegetation samples
- Handling, identifying, and processing invertebrate specimens and samples
- Measuring pH and conducting titrations
- Preparing and shipping samples
- Operating laboratory equipment (e.g. drying oven, analytical balance)
- Data entry and data quality control
- Fieldwork preparation and cleanup
Field technicians may also have the opportunity to help maintain field site instrumentation, which includes calibrating sensors, troubleshooting problems, site maintenance, and assisting with corrective maintenance of sensors. Ideal candidates would have some experience with using instruments in the laboratory or field, a mechanical mindset, and most importantly the willingness to learn.
Gain valuable experience
Temporary field technician positions are an excellent way to explore ecological science hands-on, gain access to network of other scientists, and make a difference. Here are just some of the benefits:
- Receive training in ecological sampling methods and procedures
- Gain experience doing field observations, sample collection, and lab work using a wide variety of field ecology protocols to hone your science career interests
- Live and work in some of the most beautiful places in the nation
- Work alongside and network with other early-career ecologists/scientists to build opportunities for your future
Make a difference and gather new knowledge
The days can be long and the work rigorous at times, including hiking in tough terrain, but the work is interesting, meaningful, and immersed in nature. Depending on your experience and interests, you may become a fauna, flora, or aquatic technician. Either way, you will learn basic field methods for collecting ecological data. Additionally, the data you collect will be used by researchers, policymakers, and educators to better understand how ecosystems function and change over time.