Assistant Research Scientist, Plant Sciences (UAS pilot)

University of Arizona

Tucson , Arizona

The University of Arizona is seeking a motivated field biologist or agriculturalist with a passion for small unmanned aerial systems (UASs) as they can be applied in the emerging synthesis of geomatics, phenomics, crop management, seed production, and crop improvement. Under the direction of Dr. Rick Ward, the incumbent will be in charge of a plantation and breeding nursery of a desert CAM plant where biological and agronomic studies are underway. The breeding nursery includes several thousand barcoded plants that are pollinated and harvested individually in preparation of ground breaking genetic studies. The incumbent will oversee crews of temporary labor to accomplish those and other experimental/management activities including irrigation. S/he will also plan missions, operate/maintain UASs and sensors, manage data, and apply photogrammetry and GIS, to acquire and analyze UAS-derived data that are geo-associated with individual plants/plots for longitudinal study of growth and development of plants to identify phenotypic variation and ensure optimal crop management strategies.

The successful candidate will devote a minimum of 30% of her/his time in support of UAS-based phenomics projects being conducted at Maricopa by Agricultural Engineers and Molecular Breeders working in cotton and other crops. In that capacity, s/he and Dr. Ward will be collaborators with other scientists who are pushing the frontiers of UAS use in crop improvement and management.

The successful candidate will modify and adapt standard procedures, conduct both preliminary and statistical analysis of data, assist with writing papers and manuscripts for publication, and may lead and coordinate the work of a staff.

This position is located at the University of Arizona Maricopa Ag Center, 30 miles south of the suburbs of Phoenix.

Outstanding UA benefits include health, dental, and vision insurance plans; life insurance and disability programs; paid vacation, sick leave, and holidays; UA/ASU/NAU tuition reduction for the employee and qualified family members; state and optional retirement plans; access to UA recreation and cultural activities; and more!

The University of Arizona has been listed by Forbes as one of America’s Best Employers in the United States and WorldatWork and the Arizona Department of Health Services have recognized us for our innovative work-life programs. For more information about working at the University of Arizona and relocation services, please click here.

Duties & Responsibilities
• Under the supervision of Dr Rick Ward, execute or co-execute field research and data processing as per instructions, applying appropriate judgment and discretion. This includes, but is not limited to, UAS mission planning and execution, photogrammetry, GIS, plant pollination, general agronomic practices, and adoption of new technologies.
• Contribute to the design and analysis of experiments.
• Lead acquisition, analysis, and reporting of UAS phenotyping data.
• Organize, supervise and train temporary employees ensuring that priorities are set and that work is performed safely, accurately and efficiently.
• Integrate multiple priorities and work activities to successfully meet project and seasonal deadlines.
• Work effectively as a team member at a multi-project research center to ensure that overall goals and deadlines of the Maricopa Phenomics are met.
• Process and deliver collected UAS flight results using multiple software packages; evaluate data accuracy and sufficiency, and ensure outputs meet expectations.
• Keep up to date with the latest federal/state and local regulations surrounding UAS operations and comply with Federal, State, and UA UAS Policy.
• Continually improve knowledge of current and future UAS flight technologies.
• Continually improve understanding of current and future UAS data processing software and hardware.
• Implement and track quality control procedures for data gathered by field crews.
• Maintain a highly responsive, professional communication strategy that ensures efficiencies in a multi-tasking environment.

Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities
• Knowledge of and abilities in flight planning and execution with UASs.
• Knowledge of plant biology.
• Excellent written, oral and presentation skills.
• Willingness and ability to work outdoors in variable weather conditions

Minimum Qualifications
• FAA Part 107 License
• Masters in agronomy, biology or related field, or bachelors in related field with 2 years research experience, or associates degree with 4 years research experience, or equivalent
• Experience with field crop or field biology experimentation
• Experience in:
- Mission planning and execution for fixed wing and rotary UASs, including image capture parameters.
- GIS and photogrammetry software with large data sets.
- Reporting and documentation with microsoft office products.
- Verbal, written, and oral presentation skills.
- Large (>1 TB) data set management.
- Operation and maintenance of high-end desk top computers.
- Working successfully in geographically distributed teams.
- Experience with instrumentation, testing, and calibration of UASs and sensors.

Preferred Qualifications
• Fluent in Spanish.
• Experience operating small farm equipment
• Experience in plant breeding
• Graduate school experience