Lead Botanist - Bureau of Land Management (El Centro, CA)

Requisition Number: 
Plant Science and Conservation
Job Status: 
Reports to: 
Manager, Conservation Training Programs
This Lead Botanist role is a contract-funded position for six months (26 weeks), working on a Seeds of Success (SOS) collection crew working within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) El Centro Field Office in El Centro, California. As BLM office space will not be provided, the Lead Botanist will be provided a Verizon MiFi hotspot, laptop, and tablet (w/cellular) for conducting scouting research, participating in calls, writing reports, and using/updating the California SOS Reporting Tool through ArcGIS Online Field Maps and Survey123, as well as updating data on Google Drive spreadsheets. Due to the large size of area the crew is responsible for, camping will be encouraged to make the best use of travel time. Storage units will be rented to provide space for processing seeds, temporarily storing seeds, and staging equipment. The crew will also be provided a 4x4 work truck. The Lead Botanist will be responsible for supervising one Field Technician, coordinating with BLM and Chicago Botanic Garden staff, planning scouting and collecting trips, and conducting large native seed collections as part of the SOS program. This team will likely spend 90 percent of their time in the field. These roles will provide daily team leadership and oversight. The Lead Botanist will ensure quality control for all collections (correct species identification, proper phenology assessments and seed-collecting techniques, documentation, and processing, including data entry and depositing herbarium specimens in designated local and national institutions). The start date of the position is February 14, 2022, with a term of 26 weeks, and an end date of August 12, 2022.
Duties and Responsibilities: 

In this role you will be responsible for the following:

  • Coordinate with BLM staff to identify ecoregional priority species for seed collection, review historic collection sites, and identify gaps in geospatial data.
  • Coordinate with BLM and Chicago Botanic Garden staff to plan field operations and solve logistical problems, as well as incorporating safety plans for conducting field work safely.
  • Identify at least 30 potential collection locations of priority species through scouting, analysis of herbarium records, previous SOS collections, and vegetation mapping. In the case of insufficient precipitation for collections, the crew will be responsible for identifying at least 75 potential collection locations.
  • Collect three herbarium vouchers for each potential collection site. Take appropriate photos as instructed for seed certification.
  • Monitor phenology of target plant populations to plan and execute collections.
  • Ensure collection of all required population scouting data, seed collection data, and photos are properly recorded and shared with the Garden and BLM.
  • Update and maintain all required population and geospatial data on California SOS Reporting Tool through ArcGIS Online Field Maps and Survey123. Sync data at least twice per month.
  • As part of the team, make 20 collections using the BLM SOS protocol https://www.blm.gov/SOS (training provided); consisting of 80,000 PLS for operational collections, and 20,000 PLS for conservation collections.
  • Manage seed collection crew, carry out seed collections, and package and ship seeds to partners, keeping detailed records of all collections and shipments.
  • Ensure quality, accuracy, and timeliness of seed collections and data provided by the collection crew.
  • Participate in weekly calls with the Garden and BLM and monthly national SOS calls.
  • Maintain running Field Report spreadsheet with road and trail mileage, as well as number of potential collection sites assessed and number of collection sites monitored for seed ripening.
  • Communicate to all parties clearly, effectively, and in a timely manner.
  • Accurately report time and effort activities, adhere to all Chicago Botanic Garden policies and procedures for employees, and communicate with the Chicago Botanic Garden manager.
  • Complete end-of-season duties in a timely manner, including data entry into SOS Data Portal, and final report.

Key Garden competencies/behaviors desired:

  • Communicates in a manner that gains the trust and support of others at all levels.
  • Works effectively with others despite differences of opinion and style; builds alliances.
  • Has a tolerance for opposing points of view.
  • Strives for collaboration. Works cooperatively, as a positive contributor to the team.
  • Demonstrates a positive attitude and shows kindness in all workplace interactions.
  • Makes decisions appropriate for level of responsibility.
  • Can effectively adapt to change; can shift gears comfortably; is flexible, and embraces change with a “can-do” attitude.
  • Is self-aware; knows personal strengths and weaknesses; seeks feedback and is open to negative feedback as an opportunity for improvement.
  • Is cool under pressure; can be counted on to hold things together during tough times; can handle stress; is not knocked off balance by the unexpected; is a settling influence during a crisis.
  • Recognizes problems, constructively identifies and articulates solutions.
  • Follows safety guidelines to ensure a safe working environment and consistently demonstrates safe work behaviors.
  • Is welcoming of new hires.

Our ideal candidate will have the following:

  • Bachelor of science in botany, plant science, ecology, biology, or a related field
  • Strong plant identification skills (to species) and knowledge of plant taxonomy; strong knowledge of plant biology. Familiarity with plants and ecosystems of the western United States
  • Experience scouting, planning, and conducting seed collections (through SOS programs or other seed handling/collecting work)
  • Experience leading a field team or other supervisory experience
  • Experience working with agency, academic, private, or nonprofit partners to coordinate, plan, and execute fieldwork on public or private lands
  • Experience maintaining accurate and detailed data records (in field and in electronic databases – Excel/Access)
  • Capable of conducting field work safely in rough terrain in harsh environmental conditions
  • Experience hiking and backcountry camping, and willingness to do so for this position
  • Experience driving large field vehicles with four-wheel-drive; driving on gravel and dirt roads
  • Wilderness First Aid or other field safety training
  • Excellent organization skills and ability to handle several projects and deadlines at once
  • Self-starter, independent worker, able to learn quickly and adapt to challenges

*The Chicago Botanic Garden requires all existing employees to be fully COVID-19 vaccinated by October 15, 2021; hires after this date must be fully vaccinated upon hire or may request a medical/religious exemption after an offer is extended.*


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Physical Demands: 
This position will be primarily based in the field with only occasional office work at the beginning and end of the season. Field work often occurs in remote locations, where cellular connection is unavailable or inconsistent. Field conditions can be extreme: hot summer conditions with potential for heavy rainfall, flash floods, and lightning strikes; high altitude sun exposure; and occasional wildlife encounters (rattlesnakes, bears, etc.). Vegetation monitoring activities, planting, seeding, and watering can be physically demanding due to hiking and stooping and bending for long periods of time.
Why Apply?: 

Come work in a setting that is like no other as you support our mission: We cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life. Take the first step toward being one of the employees who make the Garden one of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Apply today. Please note that applicants who do not meet the required qualifications will not be considered.

Disclaimer: The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed by people assigned to this classification. They are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities and qualifications required of personnel so classified.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is a M/F, Disabled, and Vet EEO/AA Employer.

We are an Equal Opportunity Employer and do not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a veteran, or basis of disability, or any other federal, state, or local protected class.

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the Chicago Botanic Garden does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its programs or activities, including in employment or admissions. Please call (847) 835-8264 to contact our Title IX coordinator should you have questions or concerns.