Research Assistant – Freshwater Microbial Ecology

Employer: Prof. Katherine McMahon (she/her/hers)

Contact: Riley Hale (, he/him/his)

Description: We are looking to hire one undergraduate research assistant to assist graduate students Riley Hale and Krystyn Kibler in collecting and processing routine field samples from Lake Mendota as part of the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Microbial Observatory time series. A typical day of fieldwork generally consists of taking a boat, provided by the UW Madison Center for Limnology, out on Lake Mendota, collecting environmental (e.g. temperature, dissolved oxygen), biological (microbes), and chemical (nutrient) data. Upon return to shore, the research assistant will help with processing the samples in the laboratory (Microbial Sciences Building). Besides field work, the research assistant will have the opportunity to learn and gain hands-on training in laboratory work, analytical methods, and computational work, including a potential independent research project in the field of environmental microbiology/microbial ecology. Description of work is subject to change based on UW Madison COVID-19 guidelines.

Note: Though field work is often more enjoyable in perfect weather, this is not always the case. Some field work may be done in less-than-optimal weather (e.g. cold, heat, rain). Safety precautions will always be taken regarding dangerous or inclement weather.

We are explicitly committed to creating an inclusive and diverse environment and encourage folks from all backgrounds to apply. No prior experience in field work is required, only a willingness to learn and make valuable contributions to science! Riley and Krystyn are excited to actively engage in mentoring the research assistant and provide them with necessary training.


  • Drive a boat and be on a boat for ~2-3 hours at a time. (Prior boating experience is not required. Training and certification will be provided and paid for by employers.)
  • Perform limnological sampling
  • Process samples in the laboratory (Laboratory experience is not required but encouraged. Training will be provided.)
  • Follow scientific protocols
  • Collect, record and process data
  • Prepare and maintain field equipment
  • Communicate findings
  • Contribute to inclusive scientific community


  • Good notetaking and recordkeeping
  • Coursework or interest in biology, environmental science, microbiology, or aquatic sciences
  • Willingness to work outdoors for some days per week (maximum 3 days/week)
  • Be comfortable to work on the water. A field day will involve carrying equipment between buildings on campus.
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Works in teams
  • Takes initiative
  • Ability to work independently and with minimal supervision (upon appropriate training period)


  • Number of positions: 1
  • Start datemid-late May 2021
  • End date: late August 2021
  • Work hours: Monday to Friday, ~35 hours/week, 1-hour lunch breaks.
  • Pay: $11.25-no experience; $11.50-some experience; $11.75-very experienced

Location: All lab and field work located in Madison, WI on on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. Housing is not provided. NOTE: research, especially field work, is not always a 9-5 job. This position requires (and offers) some flexibility in work hours.

How to apply: Please send a brief cover letter and resume/CV as a single PDF to Riley Hale ( Please include relevant field experience, course work, and research interests in your application package. For further details on these projects and positions, please contact Riley Hale. We will be accepting applications until the position is filled.

The CFL is an equal opportunity employer and is dedicated to an inclusive and positive working environment for all.

The CFL is an equal opportunity employer and is dedicated to an inclusive and positive working environment for all.