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Associate Research Scientist - Disturbance Ecology

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Closing date
Jan 1, 2022

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The Earth Systems Science section (ESS) within the Environmental Sciences Division (ESD),, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is seeking an individual motivated to take on the challenge of furthering mechanistic understanding of ecosystem responses to a range of natural and human-made disturbances (e.g., causes such as wildfire, hurricanes, and extreme events, and consequences such as drought, flooding, and thermokarst) and to improve the representation of disturbance events and ecosystem resilience after disturbance in terrestrial biosphere models. In particular, the impacts of disturbance on belowground biogeochemical cycling and soil organic carbon transformation and storage are important, but understudied, aspects of ecosystem response and resilience.


ESD is an interdisciplinary research and development organization with more than 60 years of achievement in local, regional, national, and international environmental research. Our vision is to expand scientific knowledge and develop innovative strategies and technologies that will strengthen the nation’s leadership in creating solutions to help sustain the Earth’s natural resources. Our scientists conduct research, develop technology, and perform analyses to understand and assess responses of environmental systems at the environment-human interface and the consequences of alternative energy and environmental strategies.


The ESS section is world-renowned for large-scale experimental manipulations and is currently leading the US DOE flagship ‘Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments’ (SPRUCE) field experiment ( ESD staff also lead the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) Arctic project (, and we are an integral partner in the NGEE Tropics research project ( We also lead the Critical Interfaces Science Focus Area (CI-SFA,, which investigates the role of hydrology on the transformation of redox-sensitive elements, such as mercury, in a flowing stream system. ESS staff also lead the development of multiple land system components in the US DOE Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM,


Major Duties/Responsibilities:


The frequency, duration, and scale of disturbances from fire to flooding are increasing in response to changing environmental conditions and human land use. However, ecosystem responses to disturbance, as well as short- and long-term ecosystem resilience and recovery, remain understudied components of the terrestrial biosphere, and are underrepresented in terrestrial biosphere models. The goal of this position will be to develop a conceptual framework for understanding a range of disturbance impacts on ecosystems from the tundra to the tropics, with an emphasis on belowground biogeochemical cycling. This framework will provide the basis for new empirical investigation, for data synthesis and database development, and for the improved representation of disturbance and ecosystem response in terrestrial biosphere models.


The role is intended to be flexible to allow the successful candidate to explore her or his interests with the goal of the successful candidate developing their own research program within the lab environment.


You will be joining a diverse team of empirical and modeling ecosystem ecologists, working at the cutting edge of above-and-below-ground resource interactions. Collaboration within and outside of the lab will be essential to the success of this position. The role will involve the opportunity to travel and work with many world-class partner research groups. For more information please contact Colleen Iversen ( | 865 332-8816).




Qualifications Required:


  • PhD in environmental science, ecology, soil ecology, soil science, or related field Experience in experiment design, data collation, synthesis, analysis, and management Experience with investigating ecosystem responses to disturbance, with an emphasis on belowground processes Excellent written and oral communication Excellent inter-personal skills Willingness to travel to conferences and remote field locations A proven track record of publication in leading peer-reviewed journals Self-motivation and goal setting Ability to work and communicate as part of a diverse and distributed team Passion for understanding the natural world



Desirable skills are:


  • Experience with state-of-the art methods to investigate belowground biogeochemical cycling (stable isotopes, biomarkers, spectroscopy) Familiarity with one or more process-based models of above and below-ground ecosystem dynamics, including the representation disturbance dynamics in the model(s) Experience with organizing workshops or working groups with the broader community of interdisciplinary disturbance ecologists



Applications should include a cover letter and a CV with a full list of publications and a list of three referees.


ORNL is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants, including individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, are encouraged to apply.  UT-Battelle is an E-Verify employer.


For more information about our benefits, working here, and living here, visit the “About” tab at


This position will remain open for a minimum of 5 days after which it will close when a qualified candidate is identified and/or hired.


We accept Word (.doc, .docx), Adobe (unsecured .pdf), Rich Text Format (.rtf), and HTML (.htm, .html) up to 5MB in size. Resumes from third party vendors will not be accepted; these resumes will be deleted and the candidates submitted will not be considered for employment.


If you have trouble applying for a position, please email


ORNL is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants, including individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, are encouraged to apply.  UT-Battelle is an E-Verify employer.



Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the largest science and energy national laboratory in the Department of Energy system. ORNL’s scientific programs focus on materials, neutron science, energy, high-performance computing, systems biology and national security. ORNL partners with the state of Tennessee, universities and industries to solve challenges in energy, advanced materials,manufacturing, security and physics. The laboratory's science and technology innovations are translated into applications for economic development and global security. The laboratory is home to several of the world’s top supercomputers and is a leading neutron science and nuclear energy research facility that includes the Spallation Neutron Source and High Flux Isotope Reactor. ORNL hosts a DOE Leadership Computing Facility—home of the Titan supercomputer; one of DOE’s nanoscience centers—the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences; the BioEnergy Science Center—one of DOE’s Energy Research Centers; and the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light-Water Reactors, a DOE Innovation Hub.

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