Position Overview: The Managing Ecologist, Woodlands is responsible for leading ecological restoration, management, and related research activities in the Garden's woodland habitats, including McDonald Woods, the Garden’s 100 acre remnant oak woodland. Work with the Garden's natural areas team of ecologists to collaboratively manage natural areas across the Garden. Working with staff in the Garden’s Negaunee Institute for Plant Conservation Science and Action, as well as staff and programs throughout the Garden, the Woodland Ecologist will also help to develop and support related onsite research, learning, and community engagement activities. This includes ensuring a welcoming and inclusive environment while supervising and mentoring a diverse team of staff, students, and volunteers. Through strategic partnerships, including with the Forest Preserves of Cook County, on whose land the Garden is based, the Woodland Ecologist will also help grow the Garden’s role as a leader in efforts to restore, manage, understand, and support sustainable use of woodlands in the region.
About us: The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Science and Conservation program is a global leader in plant-based research, education, and engagement to sustain and enrich life. The Garden’s mission is grounded in the belief that caring for gardens and natural areas is fundamentally important to the well-being of everyone. We strive to make the Garden and all its programs available and accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. We value diversity in all its forms and at every level of our organization – board, staff, volunteers, and vendors. Through the diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and experience, the Garden is more effectively able to create extraordinary and welcoming experiences for our increasingly diverse audiences. We are committed to ensuring a sense of belonging to every individual we encounter, regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, intellectual ability, or economic status.
About McDonald Woods: Since 1988, ecological restoration in the Garden’s 100-acre McDonald Woods has transformed a formerly-degraded oak woodland into a natural treasure that supports hundreds of plant and animal species, including a dozen rare and endangered species. In 2013 these efforts were recognized with a “Gold Accreditation” from the Chicago Wilderness Excellence in Environmental Restoration Program. Within its 100 acres, McDonald Woods is home to five community types and a startling amount of diversity across trophic levels. In addition to restoring plant species diversity in these habitats, Garden ecologists have collected invaluable data on the diversity of organisms present in them across trophic levels. These surveys have revealed hundreds of species of mammals, birds, plants, and arthropods, with several species never documented before in the state of Illinois and some species new to science. Learn more about Jim Steffen, who is retiring after leading these efforts in McDonald Woods for more than 30 years, and his more recent work documenting moth species in McDonald Woods (more than 600 taxa and counting) in this Chicago Tribune article.
Duties and Responsibilities
1. MANAGEMENT: Lead efforts to maintain and continue to enhance and adapt management and restoration activities in more than 100 acres of remnant and restored woodlands at the Garden to support species diversity, ecological integrity, and staff and visitor safety. Includes active management of invasive species (including with the use of herbicides), conducting prescribed burns, collecting, seeding, and planting native species, removing or overseeing the removal of dead standing trees, trail maintenance, deer fence maintenance, maintaining appearance (litter collection, etc.) associated with woodland roadways and boundaries, and related activities.
2. MONITORING: Ensure continued collection and management of long-term data on plant and wildlife species in the Garden's woodland habitats to measure restoration success and management outcomes). Will also work with research staff to develop and implement a plan to synthesize and use these data to address priority management questions and inform future data collection and management efforts.
3. RESEARCH: Develop a collaborative research agenda with staff ecologists, Garden scientists, undergraduate and graduate students in the Plant Biology and Conservation program, and outside collaborators in support of woodland restoration ecology and management at the Garden and regionally.
4. LEADERSHIP: Ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment. Directly supervise and mentor Woodland Restoration Technician and co-supervise (with Prairie and River Ecologist) the Assistant Ecologist – Natural Areas. Includes recruitment, payroll/time and effort reporting, performance reviews, personnel matters, and budget development/tracking for the Woodland program.
5. COMMUNICATIONS: Serve as a point of contact for communications (internal and external) regarding the Garden’s woodland program (including McDonald Woods) to ensure accuracy and relevance of all communications.
6. PLANNING: Support strategic planning, master site planning, and capital projects relating to the Garden’s woodland program that ensure appropriate and sustainable use. Help to identify and secure funding for priority projects related to the woodland program.
7. INTERNAL COLLABORATION: Actively collaborate with other Garden departments, including:
a) Learning/Engagement and Interpretation to develop and implement programs, classes, and interpretation that help diverse audiences learn about and experience the Garden's woodlands.
b) Horticulture and Collections to manage Garden grounds, particularly related to management of invasive species. This includes communicating about any new species invading natural areas, and sharing expertise related to managing invasive species.
c) Volunteer Services to engage volunteers in work related to the woodland program.
8. EXTERNAL PARTNERSHIPS: Forge and support strategic external partnerships and engage with community partners to advance regional efforts to:
a) Research, manage, and restore woodlands, with a particular emphasis on supporting understory plant species diversity.
b) Train and employ the next generation of diverse land managers and researchers, specifically and intentionally inclusive of individuals from groups historically excluded from conservation and land management.
c) Make woodlands accessible while supporting their sustainable use by diverse audiences.
Qualifications: Minimum three years hands-on experience in natural areas restoration, management, monitoring, and prescribed burning. Experience in, or desire to learn, use of chainsaws, ropes, and mechanical devises for safely felling mature, dead or hazard trees. Bachelor degree required, MS degree in a related field preferred. Experience managing and mentoring staff, as well as volunteers and/or students. Commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. Familiarity with plants of the Chicago region preferred. Ability to key plant species out using a dichotomous key. Familiarity with Midwestern invasive plant species and management approaches. Possess or willing to obtain an Illinois pesticide applicator license and prescribed burning certifications (including Chicago Wilderness Midwest Ecological Prescription Burn Training and State of Illinois Prescribed Burn Manager). Mechanical ability to use and do minimum equipment maintenance on tools such as chainsaws, brush cutters, string trimmers, and leaf blowers.
Physical Demands: Frequent, standing, walking, bending, listening, speaking, lifting, pushing, including outdoors during inclement weather. Must be able to lift and carry 50 lbs. Licensed driver insurable by the Society.