Aquatic Instrument Engineer (Hydrologist)

Opportunity Type: 


The Aquatic Instrument Engineer (Hydrologist) will be part of the Aquatic Team that is responsible for developing a national program to assess physical, chemical, and biological changes in streams and lakes over 30 years. The Instrument Engineer will design the physical infrastructure to install in-situ water quality sensors in shallow streams; support buoy installation designs; lead construction of sensors infrastructure at NEON sites; revise sensor-related requirements; collaborate with mechanical ,electrical and calibration engineers to define, plan, and implement sensor operations; review/revise science measurements; document field procedures; document data product procedures; train personnel; and perform data QA/QC in order to produce high quality data products for the research, education, and decision making communities.


Boulder, Colorado

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

Specifically, the Instrument Engineer is responsible for designing and documenting the physical infrastructure of water quality sensors for NEON aquatic sites. The aquatic sensor suite includes water quality multisondes, nutrient analyzer, pressure transducers, water temperature, PAR, cDOM, and atmospheric chemistry and micromet sensors. NEON aquatic sites include small wadeable streams, large navigable rivers, and small lakes throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico -- sites span a gradient of environmental conditions: extreme low-flows to tropical-flood cycles.

In the first year, the Instrument Engineer will be responsible for developing and documenting a "playbook" of sensor installations, including to-scale blueprints, fabrication-ready designs, materials lists, and construction requirements. Installation designs and documentation will be prototyped at a Colorado stream site in 2012-2013. The position will lead the installation of sensor installation infrastructure and work will be coordinated with the Engineering team who supplies the data acquisition, power and communications at a site. This position will be responsible for modifying the designs from the playbook for site-specific installations and providing NEON-level documentation for each site. This position is not responsible for power or communication designs to the sensors, but will collaborate with the NEON Engineering Team to optimize these aspects of the work.

In addition, the Instrument Engineer will document sensor maintenance and field-calibration plans, in collaboration with NEON’s Engineering and Calibration Team. This position will develop, document and implement detailed designs and analytical protocols for in-situ sensor related data products (e.g. sensor drift statistics; data QA, gap-filling and correction; algorithms for high level data products). The Instrument Engineer will work with an interdisciplinary team of ecologists, mechanical and electrical engineers, computing engineers, and other scientists to design, develop, test, and implement statistically valid protocols to produce data products that will enable researchers to investigate the impact of climate change, land-use change, invasive species, and unsustainable water use on freshwater ecosystems of North America.

The Instrument Engineer is expected to produce reports and publications of NEON designs, procedures, and protocols and is encouraged to collaborate with the research community to investigate continental scale ecology.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Design and document physical sensor installations for water quality in-situ sensors in small, wadeable streams, navigable rivers, and small lakes.
  • Document sensor maintenance standard operating procedures (SOPs).
  • Collaborate with the NEON Calibration Team to define aquatic sensor field and lab calibration procedures.
  • Co-develop and implement data QA/QC, gap-filling, and correction plans.
  • Co-document sensor related data products.
  • Oversee construction of sensor installations.
  • Travel to NEON sites as part of the design effort and to construct sensor installations.
  • Develop sensor maintenance training program for field crews.
  • Review and revise scientific data products related to in-situ sensors.
  • Participate in the larger NEON science and engineering communities, including participating in independent research and collaborations and attending meetings/conferences.
  • Work closely with mechanical, electrical, and computing engineers.


This position can be filled as either a scientist or engineer, depending on the candidates’ experience.

  • MSc in hydrology or related engineering field AND 5+ years of experience installing and maintaining sensors in small streams of North America.
  • BSc in hydrology or related engineering field AND 10+ years of experience installing and maintaining sensors in small streams of North America.
  • Specialization in a freshwater science or engineering field with emphasis in environmental monitoring of freshwater streams and lakes.

Required Experience

  • Qualified candidates will have demonstrated experience working in freshwater ecosystems of North America. Applications that do not clearly demonstrate this will not be considered.
  • Significant experience designing and constructing sensor installations for long-term freshwater quality monitoring in small, wadeable streams of North America.
  • Significant hands-on experience with maintenance and calibration of sensors used in freshwater ecosystems.
  • Demonstrated experience quality checking, correcting, and verifying data from in-situ sensors, including defining and correcting sensor drift.
  • Significant field experience working in streams and lakes of North America.
  • Demonstrated experience working with detailed, engineer-level plans and blueprints.
  • Demonstrated experience working in a collaborative scientific and engineering enterprise.
  • Demonstrated experience collaborating with mechanical and electrical engineers.
  • Demonstrated ability to write technical and scientific documents.
  • Experience communicating in oral and written formats in a professional environment.
  • Experience working with federal and state agencies and NGOs.

Preferred Experience

  • Experience with sensor installations in large, navigable rivers and in small lakes is preferred but not required.
  • Experience with CAD or other blueprint software.
  • Experience with groundwater well sensors and sampling regimes preferred but not required.
  • Working knowledge of stream ecological function preferred.
  • Knowledge of freshwater chemistry dynamics of streams and lakes preferred.

Skills and Abilities

  • Ability to document engineering and science specifications and plans
  • Ability to read/review CAD or other blueprint documents
  • Ability to write and review science documents
  • Strong knowledge of sensor data assessment procedures and best practices
  • Strong knowledge of statistical design and analyses
  • Ability to communicate and work effectively both independently and as part of science and engineering teams
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Undertake responsibilities beyond those associated with individual projects
  • Travel to domains at least 4x/year

Physical Abilities

The candidate may be exposed to conditions in the field, and therefore must be able to traverse uneven ground such as dirt banks, stream beds, and shallow ponds carrying equipment and materials up to 40 lbs.


Required to be submitted in order to be considered for the position include:

  • Cover Letter
  • CV
  • 3 References
Expiration Date: 
Mon, 2012-12-03

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