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Research Associate, Instrument Scientist

UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Full time (37 hours per week)

Based in UKCEH Wallingford, MacLean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford OX10 8BB

Fixed term for 3 years

Closing date for applications is Friday 29th January 2021

Interviews to be held on Monday 8th February 2021

About Us

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is an independent, not-for-profit research institute carrying out excellent environmental science across water, land and air.  At UKCEH there are various career paths open to first-class scientists and support staff.  We have around 500 scientists and students supported by experts in the fields of IT, commercialisation, finance, communications and HR based across four sites (Wallingford, Bangor, Edinburgh and Lancaster).  Our world class research is delivered via state-of-the-art laboratories, controlled environment facilities and unique monitoring sites across many different habitat types.  Our students and employees gain from working in a stimulating environment incorporating multidisciplinary research that is enriched through our international collaborations with many universities and institutes.

For further information, please visit the UKCEH Website.

Job Purpose

A three year training programme designed around improving high quality performance of environmental observations from our field sensors around the world, and delivering scientific analysis of the data. Improving performance of our automated real time environmental observations; use data science techniques to deliver impactful information to end user applications (e.g. to test land surface and climate models, agricultural water availability etc.); and publish the results and methods.

Main Responsibilities

  • Maintaining and improving field data collection – including working with field instrumentation and instrumentation bench configuration/test/evaluation; keeping accurate records of all aspects of deployed instrumentation.
  • Data quality control – checking plots of newly acquired data, recording and following up issues – improving data diagnostics.
  • Improving automated data systems, data processing and instrumentation SQL databases – using the R language and/or Python.
  • Scientific data analyses and the development of end user information products e.g. spatial information on Soil Moisture Deficit – publishing methods and datasets.
  • Developing fundamental aspects of the COSMOS technique to improve how we derive soil moisture, and applying other novel instrume

Over the 3 years you will gain skills in:

  • Automated field measurement theory and practice applied to hydro-meteorology, soil moisture and greenhouse gas flux monitoring.
  • Practical field station servicing and maintenance skills.
  • Processing of field observations to produce derived data products.
  • Deep data analysis skills for investigating instrument performance and developing improved techniques.
  • Advanced programming skills in R and Python.
  • Analysing data using machine learning and Bayesian modelling to develop new derived data products.
  • Professional development in project management, publication of papers and generating societal impact.

Selection Criteria

Knowledge & Qualifications

  • Either a PhD, or at least 3 years of comparable skills and knowledge gained through practical working experience, in sensor observations and analysis of large datasets.
  • An in depth understanding of instrumentation principles and sensor limitations. 

Experience/Proven abilities related to the position

  • Demonstrable experience of data acquisition from sensors
  • The ability to use high-level programming programmes (R, Python, Matlab) applied to data acquisition/QC/data processing. 
  • Enthusiastic to transfer your knowledge and to train others – particularly overseas.  


  • Proven skills in the analysis of observational data and the publication of results. 
  • The ability to prioritise your own work, effectively managing your own time, and be capable of working with minimal supervision
  • Excellent organisational skills. 
  • Able to communicate effectively with stakeholders from different disciplines
  • Good written communication skills
  • Good oral communication skills

Core Behaviours & Values

  • You will demonstrate a commitment to promote and adhere to CEH values of Excellence, Integrity and Teamwork.

Other Requirements -  DBS, Driving licence, Overseas travel etc

  • Ideally a full driving licence
  • The ability to work safely and appropriately in different cultures.

Desirable skills 

  • Comfortable with occasional work at height
  • Comfortable working remotely and independently away from site
  • Experience of quality management systems, such as ISO9001, and have meticulous attention to detail in your work and its documentation 
  • Experience of fieldwork outdoors at remote UK field sites. 
  • Willing and able to work overseas with local collaborators, and assist in building their capacity. 

What we offer

To find out the benefits of working with UKCEH, please follow the link  below for a summary.  

About the Research Associate Programme

The initial appointment for Research Associates will normally be for a three-year term, however they are able to apply internally for permanent vacancies at any time. Subject to the Research Associate's performance and long term skills needs within their Science Area, appointments may be reviewed and considered for open ended positions. There is an expectation that RA will be appointed at the bottom of the salary scale and will automatically progress to the next pay point at the anniversary of their appointment.

How to Apply

To apply for this position, click the link below. As well as a CV, please provide a covering letter detailing why you may be suitable for the role.

Long term flexibility available for these posts.

UKCEH is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from people with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities. We have a guaranteed interview scheme for applicants with disabilities. UKCEH is an Investors in People organisation.

Location: Wallingford, Oxfordshire
Salary: £31,200 to £33,000 Band 6 (depending on skills and knowledge)
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract
Placed On: 18th December 2020
Closes: 29th January 2021
Job Ref: JR239
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