Careers in the Plant Sciences

Tree Conservation Biology Program Manager/ Research Assistant

The Morton Arboretum - Lisle, Illinois, USA

Position Title: Tree Conservation Biology Program Manager/ Research Assistant
Position Type: Permanent Position
Application Review Begins: Wednesday, November 08, 2023
Application Deadline: Friday, December 15, 2023
Institution: The Morton Arboretum
Department/Division: Center for Tree Science
Field (e.g., systematics): Conservation, genetics, spatial science, ecology
City: Lisle, Illinois, USA
General Information: Are you interested in using genetics, ecology, big data, and/or spatial techniques for conservation? The Hoban Lab at The Morton Arboretum is hiring! The Morton Arboretum is a world renowned botanic garden and plant science research institute with a research department of 30+ scientists, a highly collegial and supportive atmosphere, a strong emphasis on work life balance, a research building embedded in 1800 acres of forest and gardens, close proximity to Chicago, and a mission driven focus.

Come help us achieve our mission, which we created collaboratively as a team in 2020: “to develop the knowledge and tools to strengthen conservation action and ensure adaptive capacity and resilience of biodiversity.”

Who we are. Our lab is a welcoming, supportive, collaborative, and diverse space, which supports growth and new ideas. The Tree Conservation Biology team, led by Dr. Sean Hoban, focuses on: guiding the management of plant conservation collections ex situ; proxies and indicators for genetic diversity; simulations and sampling design; understanding hybridization in the context of forest pests; biogeography and climate change; species’ threat assessments; and conservation policy. The team regularly collaborates with state and national agencies (US Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, USGS, etc.) and national and international NGOs, and performs work in the US and Mexico to save critically endangered tree species. Examples of our research include: Rosenberger et al 2021, Backs et al 2020, Mastretta-Yanes et al 2023, Zumwalde et al 2022, and Hoban et al 2021. Example summaries of our work for non-research audiences include Griffith et al 2019 and Hoban et al 2022. There are opportunities for outreach, dissemination, guiding stakeholders, international and multi-sector collaboration, on the ground conservation, and policy advice. We also value mentorship and supporting the next generation of tree scientists. Our lab mission and values are at
The position will start as soon as possible. Candidates are welcome to express interest, or ask questions, by contacting Sean Hoban (
Qualifications/Requirements: An ideal candidate will have at least a Master's degree, though an exceptional candidate with a bachelor's degree and 3+ years of practical experience would be considered. Someone with a PhD and looking for a career change, or a few years’ enhancing their CV, is welcome. This could be either a permanent position (5-10 years or more) in a conservation focused career, or a shorter (2-4 year) position to accomplish a few discrete projects and publications (e.g. to prepare for a next career step). The salary is competitive with postdoc level positions.
Necessary and desired experience: Applicants must have experience with one or more of (preferably more than one): spatial ecology/ GIS/ niche modeling; big data analysis or meta-analysis; species threat assessments; or population genetics. Skills in data management, teamwork and computer programming or R are necessary. Preferred experience includes DNA-based lab work (sequence capture, RADseq, microsats), basic statistics, laboratory or team management, and/ or conservation policy.
Other success factors: The applicant should be enthusiastic, curious, passionate for conservation, and self-motivated. They should be able to learn new skills, solve problems, communicate clearly in person and electronically, and cooperate with supervisors and co-workers. Strong attention to detail and meticulous record keeping (e.g. lab notebooks, coding, GitHub, file management) are essential!
Responsibilities: What would you do? The Program Manager (full time, fully funded position):
plans and executes conservation research projects including analysis, writing, publishing papers and presenting results at conferences
communicating with internal and external collaborators
professional development including networking, presentations, and skill development
helps plan and write grant proposals and ensure grant deliverables
manages data, supplies, and code across several projects
supervises and mentors interns and other team members
tests and improves protocols and standards
Application Instructions (submission methods, etc.): Apply at Please explain your fit for the position and describe your experience in one or more of the following, or other relevant experience, in your application letter.
Planning and executing research in the field of conservation biology
Experience in a molecular DNA lab (PCR, DNA extraction, target capture, microsatellites, DNA sequencing, NGS/ GBS); trouble-shooting and optimization of methods and protocols
Planning laboratory activities and keeping detailed lab notebook; ordering and managing supplies; organizing samples from multiple projects
Bioinformatic processing of DNA data; analysis of DNA data in a population genetic context
Geography/ spatial analysis such as ArcGIS or other mapping program; niche modeling (SDM)
Computer programming including writing and troubleshooting code; GitHub
Analysis of large conservation and/or occurrence databases e.g. Red List, GBIF, LPI, etc.
Demographic and/or genetic simulations
Writing; literature search; meta-analysis or systematic reviews
Compensation Range:
Contact Name: Sean Hoban,