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Postdoctoral Associate - New Roots

Job Details

St. Louis - Saint Louis, MO
Full Time
Graduate Degree


The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is recruiting a postdoctoral research associate to join the New Roots for Restoration Biology Integration Institute (NRR-BII), a five-year, NSF-funded initiative supporting integrated research and training activities at the Danforth Center and NRR-BII partner institutions in St. Louis (Missouri Botanical Garden, Saint Louis University, St. Louis Science Center) and beyond (Chicago Botanic Garden, The Land Institute, University of Kansas, University of Missouri, University of Vermont). 


Research activities of the NRR-BII focus on the overarching theme of how plant organismal systems (plant roots and shoots) relate to one another, and how those relationships influence and are influenced by plant communities and the soil ecosphere.  Land-use conversion has impacted over 75% of lands globally, resulting in a loss of ~50% of the world’s topsoil in the last 150 years. Plants provide the ecological and structural foundation of terrestrial landscapes, building soils and supporting productivity in natural and agricultural ecosystems. Through their root systems, plants connect aboveground components of terrestrial ecosystems to the soil, yet we lack a basic understanding of how plant traits, from roots to shoots, govern these connections. Informed selection of plants based on an understanding of how they interact with each other and with soil will enable restoration of degraded lands in natural and agricultural systems. 


The NRR-BII engages researchers from different disciplines (plant organismal systems biology, agro-ecology, community ecology, evolutionary genetics, microbial ecology, restoration ecology, soil science), systems (natural and agricultural contexts), and organizations (nonprofit research institutes, private universities, public universities, land-grant universities, botanical gardens) in a series of tightly coordinated projects targeting multiple representative species from three plant families (sunflower—Asteraceae, bean—Fabaceae, and grass—Poaceae). To facilitate successful completion of proposed and emerging projects, NRR-BII supports eight expertise cores that bring together recognized experts in approaches required for the proposed projects: above-ground phenotyping, below-ground phenotyping, data science and analysis, elemental profiling, microbiome characterization, multi-site field logistics, soil structure and composition, synthesis and integration. Scientific advances made by Institute scientists and trainees will improve our ability to predict belowground functional traits from aboveground phenotypes. This information can be applied to accelerate breeding efforts (for perennial crops) and selection of suitably diverse germplasm (for wild species) to use in ecologically and functionally appropriate efforts to restore natural and agricultural ecosystems


Successful candidates will be co-mentored by Allison Miller and Ivan Baxter. Postdoctoral research associates will lead research projects and/or Institute Expertise Cores, and will contribute to ongoing research across the Institute. NRR-BII Institute intentionally sustains a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion to support, train, and retain the next generation of diverse scientists who can readily integrate across disciplines and develop careers in which they can contribute to the restoration of natural and agricultural ecosystems. Postdoctoral research associates will play a key role in shaping this culture and mentoring Institute trainees. 


About the Positions:  We are seeking a postdoctoral research associate, in one of the general areas listed below. The position requires extensive collaboration among Danforth Center labs and partner institutions, and offers opportunities for leadership of specific projects and/or expertise cores. . 

  • Field data collection and analysis. Lead field-based research activities near St. Louis, MO. Apply phenotyping approaches for diverse perennial species in the field and greenhouses; integrate below-ground phenotyping with above-ground phenotypes and soil data; use genomic tools to investigate genetic basis of root-shoot covariation. 
  • Data synthesis. Lead data synthesis including multi-dimensional temporal sequences of above- and below-ground plant phenotyping data, leaf elemental composition data, and soil data; use phenomic/genomic data in a predictive capacity; help oversee one or more expertise cores. 
  • Phenotyping analysis. Contribute to the development of above-ground in-field imaging via a new phenotyping app, data pipelines and analysis. Help implement app use across projects.


Required knowledge, skills, and abilities: Positions described above require a combination of the skills listed here: 

  • Creative, collaborative, resourceful emerging leader committed to the restoration of natural and agricultural lands. 
  • Enthusiastic researcher with a strong work ethic, positive attitude, and willingness to work with large and diverse teams of researchers in a Slack work environment.
  • Aptitude for organization and multitasking, capacity to work both independently and collaboratively within a multidisciplinary and interactive research environment.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills; record of peer-reviewed publications. 
  • Experience and willingness to mentor early career scientists, including graduate students and undergraduate students. 
  • Ability to shovel and lift moderate to heavy weights; to stand, bend and lift for prolonged periods of time in summer heat, work to be performed in a hot field and greenhouse (field research postdoc).
  • Experience producing and analyzing genomic sequencing data (e.g. GBS, RAD, WGS) using command line programs, previous experience with genome wide association studies (GWAS) a plus (field research postdoc, data synthesis postdoc).
  • Experience in multi-dimensional statistical analysis, modeling, and machine learning (field research postdoc, data analysis postdoc).
  • Computer science background, experience with image analysis, data extraction, pipeline construction (phenotyping analysis postdoc).  
  • Live the Danforth Center values: Collaboration, Diversity & Inclusion, Innovation, Integrity & Respect, Environmental Sustainability, and Stewardship 




  • A Ph.D. is required in one of the following fields or a related discipline: botany, computer science, plant biology, evolution, ecology, genetics, genomics, or statistics.  


To apply:

Applicants should provide a current CV, a cover letter that includes a statement of interest in the position, past research experience and an outline of future research goals, and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition, applicants should provide contact information for at least three individuals who can serve as references. Review of applicants will begin June 9, 2023 and will continue until three suitable applicants are identified. 


About the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center:

Founded in 1998, The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is an independent, non-profit organization with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Our focus is scientific research at the nexus of food, energy and the environment to improve the productivity and sustainability of agriculture. We assemble interactive teams of scientists and develop unique platforms to discover underlying principles about how plants work. We then convert that knowledge into useful crops and products, and partner with organizations that are best positioned to solve problems where they exist around the world. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is proudly an equal employment opportunity employer. Employment decisions at the Danforth Center are based on merit, qualifications, and abilities. It is our policy that the Danforth Center does not discriminate in employment opportunities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or national origin and status as protected veterans or individuals with disabilities. If you need a reasonable accommodation to access the information provided on this web site, please contact Human Resources, at 314-587-1033 for further assistance.