Assistant Research Scientist, Coastal Geologist

Chicago, Illinois
Jun 25, 2019
Jul 25, 2019
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Assistant Research Scientist, Coastal Geologist

 Illinois State Geological Survey

Prairie Research Institute

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action employer. Minorities, women, veterans and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply. For more information, visit

The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) is a premier state geological survey serving the needs of the public, government, and industry with earth science information and research relevant to natural resources, environmental quality, economic vitality, and public safety. ISGS is part of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is centrally located between Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis.  Learn more at  

The Illinois Lake Michigan coast is a dynamic environment that hosts high value natural and anthropogenic resources.  The ecological value of near shore and near coast terrestrial areas ranks high in diversity, uniqueness, and importance.  The economy of coastal activities such as commerce, tourism, recreation, and transportation underpins the financial sustainability of northeast Illinois communities.  Therefore, ISGS is seeking to hire an Assistant Research Scientist, Coastal Geologist to conceive, plan, coordinate, and conduct basic research and applied studies related to Illinois Lake Michigan coastal geology.   Position will be based in the Chicago, Illinois area.

Major Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Travel frequently to attend meetings and perform fieldwork including overnight travel for up to one work week at a time. Fieldwork may be under adverse conditions (e.g. inclement weather, remoteness, moderate physical exertion).  Field work will also involve lifting and carrying items, such as field equipment, weighing at least 40 pounds.
  • Mentor and supervise the work of program staff including peers, hourlies, and students.
  • Ensure the safety of staff and equipment.
  • Identify relevant research needs and project opportunities.
  • Pursue externally funded research projects by preparing and writing contract and grant proposals.
  • Serve as principal investigator, lead research and applied studies related to Illinois Lake Michigan coastal geology, and perform tasks in that capacity including management of grant funding and production of project, grant, or contract reports and deliverables.
  • Publish results of studies in ISGS publication series and other venues and formats, which include, but are not limited to, public information pamphlets and posters, geologic maps, journal articles, web pages, scientific abstracts, and databases.
  • Provide geological technical guidance and assistance to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and other federal, state, and municipal agencies involved in the management, planning, and engineering along the Illinois coast of Lake Michigan.
  • Provide technical review of lakeshore construction permits as requested by the IDNR and US Army Corps of Engineers. Identify research needs, stabilization solutions, and management strategies related to shoreline stability at Illinois Beach State Park.
  • Develop and maintain a coastal geodatabase.
  • Actively engage with colleagues from other Great Lakes states regarding common coastal geological issues, problem solving, and possible development of multi-state projects and programs.
  • Participate in and contribute to scientific/technical meetings, conferences and workshops; participate in professional organizations.
  • Respond to requests for information about coastal geology and shoreline geomorphic processes. Provide technical expertise to Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) staff, government agencies, academia, industry, and the general public. Responses include written memorandum reports, public presentations, telephone conversations, literature and data searches, and occasional field work.
  • Communicate results of studies as presentations and lectures to a wide variety of audiences in a variety of venues including public lectures and meetings, educational settings, field trips, professional organization conferences and meetings, and academic or research seminars.
  • Participate in activities of the Illinois Coastal Management Program (ICMP) related to the restoration and management of natural resources along the Lake Michigan coast.
  • Advise the IDNR engineering and planning staff on lakeshore and riparian projects, including assessments of the cumulative effects of multiple shoreline stabilization structures installed on public and private property and the geologic and geomorphic conditions of the lakeshore ravines. Work with IDNR staff on development of related management, stabilization, and restoration strategies.
  • Act as ICMP liaison to the US Army Corps of Engineers on coastal restoration and stabilization projects.
  • Participate and help facilitate regional and community meetings on sediment and sand management strategies.
  • Advise coastal landowners, residents, and planners about various grant programs and funding opportunities.
  • As requested, provide technical review of state and municipal publications regarding coastal processes.
  • Design and conduct coastal geology field trips for coastal professionals, teachers, administrators, and the general public.
  • Contribute in the areas of education, outreach, and/or other service to the Survey, PRI, the University of Illinois, and the state of Illinois.
  • Enhance the reputation of the Survey and PRI at the state, national, and international level.
  • Keep abreast of developments in this discipline.
  • Perform other duties as needed in order to further the mission and goals of PRI.

Required Qualifications: Master's degree in geology, geological engineering, civil engineering, or related discipline. Alternate degree fields will be considered/accepted depending on the nature and depth of the experience as it relates to this position.  Three years of coastal geology related industry or research experience with master's degree.  Must understand the need for specific applied science needs to solve fundamental coastal issues along the Illinois shoreline. Ability to establish and sustain an independent research program. Ability to effectively acquire and manage project funds and resources. Ability to effectively manage research as a principal investigator and supervise and mentor associated personnel. Effective communication, personal relations, collaboration, organizational, 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. Affinity for cooperative or interdisciplinary research with scientists at the Survey, professionals at other Surveys or other academic units, as well as governmental and other academic institutions. Proficiency in commonly employed software and databases. Valid driver’s license.  Preferred Qualifications:  Ph.D. in geology, geological engineering, civil engineering, or related discipline. Alternate degree fields will be considered/accepted depending on the nature and depth of the experience as it relates to this position.

This is a regular full-time academic professional appointment, renewable annually based upon satisfactory progress in the position and continued funding. The starting date is negotiable and salary is commensurate with experience.

To ensure full consideration, applications must be received by July 19, 2019; however, applications will be accepted until the position is filled.  Applicants may be interviewed before July 19, 2019; however, no hiring decision will be made until after this date. To apply, please visit to complete an online profile and to upload 1) a cover letter that clearly articulates how your qualifications and experience make you a viable candidate for this position and should address the qualifications listed above, 2) a résumé/CV, and 3) the names and contact information (including e-mail addresses) of three professional references. All requested information/documentation must be submitted for applications to be considered.  Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

For further information please contact Lori Walston-Vonderharr, Human Resources, Prairie Research Institute, at or 217-244-2401.  The University of Illinois conducts criminal background checks on all job candidates upon acceptance of a contingent offer.