Undergraduate Research Assistantships

Undergraduate Research Assistant / Holgerson Lab

Term: Summer (with opportunities to begin work in spring semester 2022).
Dates: May 23 – August 19 (10-12 weeks, flexible).

Position Description
The Holgerson Lab of Aquatic Ecology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology seeks a motivated undergraduate student to assist with field and lab research over the summer 2022. The position will support two grant-funded research projects on freshwater ecosystem ecology: (1) quantifying wetland and pond greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage, and (2) examining pond water column mixing patterns in relation to greenhouse gas emissions and ecosystem metabolism. Field work will take place in local ponds and wetlands and at Cornell’s Experimental Ponds. Some lab work will occur in Corson-Mudd Hall on main campus. Specific duties will include sampling for water chemistry, pond organisms (e.g., fishes, amphibians), greenhouse gases, sediment characteristics, and deploying sensors into ponds. Lab work will include preparing sediment samples for elemental analysis, including drying, weighing, and packing samples into tins. Tasks require attention to detail and some tasks are repetitive, although the lab provides a stimulating environment. Applicants must know how to swim, be comfortable in small watercraft (e.g., kayak, canoe), be willing to work outdoors in a variety of weather conditions (e.g., heat, rain), and must have a valid US driver’s license. Applicants must be able to stand for most of the workday, lift and carry up to 40 lbs, and have fine motor scales for weighing small amounts of samples into tiny tins. All students are encouraged to apply, especially students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. Interest in ecology and/or biogeochemistry preferred. Preference towards students with work study awards.

Required Qualifications/ Skills/ Experience

  • Familiarity with being on the water (e.g., boating, kayaking)
  • Familiarity and enjoyment of spending much of the time outside
  • Attention to detail; ability to keep good notes and follow protocols
  • Excellent communication
  • Reliable
  • Preferred qualification (not required): successful completion of EEB 1610 (Ecology and the Environment), or equivalent

Work Schedule
40 hours per week, with typical hours being 8:30am – 5pm, although exact hours may vary depending on the day or week.
Federal Work Study Required: No
Number of positions: 1

Hourly Wage: $13.20 USD

How to Apply
Please send a copy of your resume to Meredith Holgerson (meredith.holgerson@cornell.edu). Include in your email descriptions of: 1) your path into science, 2) what you hope to get out of the summer research, and 3) any previous work experience (related to science or otherwise) and how it may help prepare you for this position. Include your major and if you are eligible for work study.

Undergraduate Research Assistants / Flecker-Rice Lab

Project Title: Soundscape Study

Dates: Summer

Project Description

Faculty mentors Dr. Alex Flecker of the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and Dr. Aaron Rice, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology are in search of 2-3 student research assistants. This Flecker/Rice collaborative eco-acoustics project is aimed at characterizing the complexity of soundscapes in streams and adjacent terrestrial habitats. Students will spend part-time outside making sound recordings, and part-time in the lab analyzing the structure of recordings and assisting in the development of a library of underwater and riparian sounds. Student assistants will also learn how to make sound recordings in nature, and will gain proficiency with sound analysis using Raven Pro software (https://ravensoundsoftware.com/software/raven-pro/).

A combination of field and lab work based around Ithaca, NY with some planned travel to the Hudson Valley, NY.

Work Schedule

The positions are full time (40 hours per week) for pay (or credit, if preferred). 

How to Apply

  • All students are encouraged to apply, especially students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.
  • Prior research experience is preferred, but not required, and we are especially interested in applicants potentially interested in continuing sound analysis work through the 2022-23 academic year.  
  • Contact Dr. Alex Flecker (asf3@cornell.edu) and include: 1) a description of your interests, 2) course and research experience, 3) a resume with the names and contact information of two references, and 4) whether you have a driver’s license and are able to drive.

Undergraduate Research Assistant / Power Lab

Project Title: Plant Disease Community Ecology

Dates: Summer

Project Description
The Power Lab is seeking a summer research assistant to support their plant virus ecology project located in Freeville, NY. The research assistant will work closely with a graduate student on a project that examines if plant biodiversity mitigates viral disease prevalence in grasses. The research assistant will assist with both lab and field-based duties. Lab duties include but are not limited to aphid colony maintenance, aphid counting, plant viral pathogen assay (ELISA). Field duties include but are not limited to field virus inoculations, plant virus surveys and vegetative biomass harvest. We will provide all necessary training and the opportunity to learn more about research topics in plant disease community ecology.

How to Apply
The Power Lab is committed to having a diverse and inclusive lab, and strongly encourage students from all backgrounds to consider conducting research with us. Please contact Beatriz Aguirre (baa84@cornell.edu) for more information on how to apply. This is a paid position. Although work study is not required, preference will be given to students eligible for work study.

Undergraduate Research Assistant / Xu Lab

Term: Summer
Dates: May 21 – August 21 (12-14 weeks, 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
15-20 hours per week during the summer. 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 summer 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 Assistant / Poveda Lab

Project Title: Seedcorn Maggot Agroecology

Dates: May 25 - July 29 (flexible start and end dates).

Project Description

The Poveda Lab is seeking to hire a motivated undergraduate research assistant for the summer 2022. Start date and hours are flexible, with a preferred start date from May 25th and options for either a part-time or full-time work schedule. This project seeks to address grower concerns about the potential ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments that are commonly used to prevent seedcorn maggot infestations. As a part of this project, we will be monitoring seedcorn maggot abundance and distribution across 50-80 farms to develop a predictive tool for seedcorn maggot occurrence. The selected applicant will assist with seed dissections and sample analysis, data organization, and preliminary experiments testing seedcorn maggot lures. No previous research experience is required, we will provide all the training needed. All students are encouraged to apply, especially students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. 

Comstock Hall.

Work Schedule
6-20 hours/week, Mon-Fri. The research assistant will largely be able to determine their own work hours.

Hourly Wage: $15.32 USD

How to Apply
Please apply by using this Google form. Contackt Dominique DiPaola for more information or if you have any questions.

Undergraduate Research Assistants / Goodale Lab



Project Description

The Goodale Lab seeks to hire undergraduates to assist with two studies investigating carbon storage and nutrient cycling in northern forests. These positions will mainly support two research projects:
Project 1 is examining how calcium availability affects tree growth, decomposition, and organic matter accumulation in the Adirondacks, NY.
Project 2 seeks to understand how nutrients and soil acidification affect the amount, form, and stability of forest carbon storage through field and lab experiments in Tompkins County, NY.


Work will occur mainly in Corson Hall, with occasional fieldwork near Ithaca, NY or other field sites.

Work Schedule

Highly flexible; approximately 6-15 hours per week during the academic year, to be coordinated with students’ schedules. Some full-time summer positions are also anticipated.

Responsibilities and Opportunities

Hourly paid work will consist primarily of processing soil, root, leaf and wood samples to quantify plant growth and ecosystem carbon storage, including sorting, grinding, and preparing samples for analysis chemical or isotopic analysis. Additional activities include maintaining the laboratory's space and equipment, data entry, and organizing archived samples. Students are welcomed but not obligated to attend weekly lab group meetings. Some students build on lab experience to pursue mentored independent research projects or honors theses.

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.