Research Associate (Agricultural Water Management Scientist)

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Wallingford, United Kingdom 🇬🇧


The NERC Research Associates’ Programme is an initiative which is intended to offer individuals the opportunity to gain practical experience of working within a Research Institute, whilst acquiring specialist and wider skills that will be valuable in a range of careers.

The programme is aimed particularly at those who have recently completed postgraduate studies, but is open to individuals from other backgrounds and of all ages. Individuals will work on highly topical research projects, both important for future research within the environmental research community and appropriate to their backgrounds. Research Associates are given specific, measurable objectives which will be intended to develop their skills as a researcher and to demonstrate their suitability for a research career.

Description of work area

CEH are seeking an enthusiastic environmental scientist for a 3-year Research Associate traineeship within the Water Resources Assessment Group at our Wallingford site. The role will involve developing skills in agricultural water management and modelling through working on a variety of applied research projects in the UK, Europe and Asia.

Description of specific work to be undertaken and skills to be gained

You will be required to contribute effectively to a variety  of current and planned projects that involve hydrological modelling at field and catchment scales in the UK and internationally. Within this predominantly training role, you can expect to have developed, by the end of your 3-year appointment, expertise and a specialisation in catchment-scale hydrology and field-scale agro-hydrology. You will gain in-depth knowledge and practical experience in: hydrometeorological measurement, data processing and management; hydrological processes & modelling; irrigation systems’ hydrology; and agricultural water management.  There will be opportunities to be involved in a variety of national and international water resource projects and to apply your modelling skills overseas, especially in Europe and Asia.

Training and skills you will acquire

·         The fundamentals of hydrology (e.g. catchment water balance components, hydrological process understanding,  hydrological estimation)

·         hydrometeorological measurement and observations (hydrometric and meteorological in-situ measurements; remote sensing/earth observations; remote data acquisition methods)

·         hydrometeorological data processing,  management and analysis (automated and manual quality control methods, data visualisation, statistical data analysis using scripts, handling and interpretation of large, high-frequency datasets)

·         application of software programming languages (Visual Basic, Python or Fortran), GIS, R statistics and RDBMSs, to analyse and interpret data and produce new information products (e.g. soil moisture products from COSMOS)

·         development and implementation (calibration and validation) of stochastic and deterministic hydrological models at a variety of temporal- (from near-real time to long-term average) and spatial-scales (e.g. SALTMED at field-scale,  IHMS and PDM at catchment-scale, GWAVA at regional-scale)

·         soil hydrology property measurements and soil moisture determination using the facilities of the CEH soil hydrology laboratory

·         irrigation systems’ hydrology, irrigation water management and water use efficiency

·         scenario development and testing

·         the evaluation of uncertainty and error propagation in hydrological models

·         improved research skills in communication, stakeholder engagement, networking and scientific project planning.

Job Requirements

Skills and qualifications required on appointment

  • An MSc in a related subject (physical/environmental/agricultural science or civil engineering), or a good degree (2.1 or higher in a related subject) with relevant experience
  • knowledge and understanding of hydrology and water resources management for agriculture (irrigation) would be an advantage, as would experience of using hydrological data or applying hydrological models
  • demonstrable programming ability with Visual Basic, Python or Fortran is essential, as is familiarity with (one or more of):  geographical information systems (e.g. ArcGIS, QGIS/GRASS), relational database management systems (e.g. ORACLE, SQL Server, MySQL),  or statistical packages (e.g. R, SAS)
  • good written and oral communication skills
  • good team working skills and an ability to develop effective internal and external collaborations within the scientific area
  • good organisational and  time management skills, with an ability to work independently and to deadlines
  • ability to travel to study sites in the UK, Europe and Asia is essential.