Undergraduate Research Assistantships

Undergraduate Research Assistant / Gordon Lab

Term: Academic year

Position Description
This Gordon Lab project plans to investigate the evolution of body color across taxa based on life-history traits. The taxa to be studied include birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects (moths and butterflies). Tasks involve working with photographs and software such as Adobe (training provided if needed). Students will participate in data analysis collected from photos and write a manuscript. The data collected is part of a bigger project that aims to study how sleep ecology affects the evolution of body coloration in animals. No previous experience is required, and training will be provided.

Work Schedule
This is a paid position and would require 10 hours of work commitment per week (flexible). Although this project is going to be based out of Cornell, there might be future chances to help with field work in tropical forests. Students with a longer period of commitment will be given preference and those looking to do their honors thesis are also welcome to discuss those options.

How to Apply
Interested undergraduate students should email Udita Bansal (ub42@cornell.edu) with a little background about themselves and their motivation to join the project. You are also welcome to attach a CV. Applications will be open till the 6th of October 2022 after which suitable candidates would be asked to interview over a Zoom call/in person.

We value diversity and inclusion and seek applicants of all races, genders, and backgrounds.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Udita.


Undergraduate Research Assistant / Xu Lab

Term: Fall
Dates: October 11 – December 5 (flexible).

Project Description
The Xu Lab seeks a motivated undergraduate to assist with a research project that uses terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to investigate the three-dimensional structure of temperate forests. Specifically, this project seeks to reconstruct the leaf angle distribution in multi-layer canopies and characterize its variation across different species and light environment.

Work will occur mainly in field sites at Ithaca, with data post-processing and analysis in Corson/Mudd Hall.

Work Schedule
25-30 hours per month. Exact hours may vary depending on the weather.

Responsibilities and Opportunities
Specific duties will include: (1) setting up marking flags and reference targets in each field site; (2) TLS data collection in the field at different times of the day (pre-dawn, mid-day, and sunset) and under different weather conditions; (3) post-processing of data using specialized software; (4) extracting leaf angle information using existing algorithms in R and python. Training sessions on TLS sampling and data analysis will be held, so no prior experience is required. Students are welcomed but not obligated to attend lab meetings.

Required Qualifications/ Skills

  • Attention to detail
  • Flexibility in schedule
  • Ability to work both independently and collaboratively
  • Have a valid US driver’s license (preferably have your own car)
  • Experience with R and/or python (preferred but not required)

How to Apply
Contact Yixin Ma (ym524@cornell.edu) with: (1) a paragraph describing what you expect to gain from the research; (2) a recent resume including your major, relevant coursework, previous work/research experience and how it may prepare you for this position.

Undergraduate Research Assistants / Goodale Lab

Dates: Fall 2022

Project Description
The Goodale lab is seeking to hire undergraduate research technicians to assist in investigating carbon and nitrogen cycling in northern forests. This position will be primarily split 50/50 between two research projects:

Project 1 will examine how calcium availability affects soil fertility, wood production, and organic matter accumulation in northeast forests, by measuring long-term effects of experimental liming in the Adirondacks, NY.

Project 2 seeks to understand and quantify several mechanisms of nitrogen availability on the amount, form, and stability of soil C, through the manipulation of nitrogen and sulfur deposition in Tompkins County, NY.

Work will primarily take place in Corson-Mudd Hall with possible additional work occurring around Ithaca, NY. Further opportunities could occur out of state, with more discussion and planning.

Work Schedule
Highly flexible; approximately 6-15 hours per week, possibly on all days of the week corresponding with a student's schedule. Hours may be extended to full time depending on field work plans and student performance.

Responsibilities and Opportunities
Work will primarily consist of processing soil/root, leaves, wood samples to quantify belowground carbon allocation and decomposition. Other support includes maintaining the laboratory's space and equipment, cleaning glassware, and organizing archived samples.

Independent work is highly valued, but also questions about the lab and research are encouraged for support. Further possibilities include developing a senior thesis.

Who Should Apply
No experience necessary. Federal work-study support is welcome but not required. Applicants should be interested in forest ecology, environmental science, or related fields. Valued skills include organization, attention to detail, and ability to work both independently and with others. We value diversity and inclusion and seek applicants all races, genders, and backgrounds.

How to Apply
Contact Matthew Hecking (mh2436@cornell.edu) with: (1) a paragraph describing your interest in the position, and (2) a recent resume, including relevant coursework. Applications will be considered upon receipt until positions are filled.

Undergraduate Research Assistants / Vitousek Lab

Project Title: Integrative Field Research in Tree Swallows

Dates: Several paid positions are available each year; these research assistantships run from late May through mid-July, and are based in Ithaca, NY.

Position Description
The Vitousek Lab studies how organisms cope with challenges and respond to changing information about their environments. Combining tools and approaches from different fields within biology to test questions like: Why are some individuals more stress resilient than others? How do stressors and social interactions change the phenotype of individuals that experience them? How does this kind of phenotypic plasticity affect populations? Much of the research uses free-living tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) to test these questions. Students learn how to safely catch, band, and sample free-living tree swallows, monitor nests, and record behavior using a variety of remote monitoring devices. For details about research projects and current team members please visit the Vitousek Lab website. No experience necessary!

How to Apply
Applications are accepted annually. Please contact Maren Vitousek (mnv6@cornell.edu) by the end of January for more information and details on how to apply.