Research Assistant - University of Essex

Paul Coulson | May 25th 2022


Research Assistant Grade 6
Contract: Fixed-term, Full-time. This post is fixed-term from May 2022 to December 31st 2025 due to funding.

Hours: Your hours of work are as required to perform the duties of your role. For this role the hours of work are 36 hours per week.

Salary: £27,116 – £30,497 per annum

Purpose of job: To support lab management and research (primarily sample preparation and analysis) in order to meet the research goals of a large multi-year ecological project


The successful candidate will join a dynamic and growing team in the School of Life Sciences and provide key support to a new UKRI-funded project ‘From Ions to Ecosystems: A Novel Framework for the Biomonitoring and Management of Vulnerable and Commercial Fishes’ led by Dr Anna Sturrock.

The project involves a large team of international researchers, using a combination of techniques to reconstruct fish health, growth, diet, pollution exposure and movement patterns. Ultimately, these data will help us understand fish habitat needs so we can protect or restore their critical habitats and support fisheries during this period of global change. The research performed on site at the University of Essex will focus primarily on the chemical and image analysis of otoliths (earstones) and eye lenses. These tissues grow incrementally from birth to death, producing growth bands (biochronologies, like tree rings) that can be used to reconstruct age and growth rate. By analyzing the chemical composition of these tissues it is also possible to reconstruct lifetime movements and health of individual fish. Focus species include tunas (South Atlantic), salmonids (UK, Ireland, California, New Zealand), plaice, sole, dab, cod and sea bass (UK). The project will use both well- established techniques, but also develop new ones, and thus the RA will need to be able to problem solve and think about ways to streamline complex processes.

The overarching goals of the research are to develop innovative tools and clear frameworks to:  Identify the critical habitats supporting fish stocks.

  • Quantify fish responses to different environmental stressors.
  • Predict how policy interventions and environmental change will influence food security and resource stability.

Duties of the Post:

The role will be varied and interesting, but the primary role is to support the PI in managing the lab and to take a major role in sample collection, preparation and analysis. The successful candidate will be trained in all tasks.

The main duties of the post are, but not limited to:

 Day-to-day lab management (e.g. purchasing equipment and consumables, helping to

coordinate lab space and users

  Managing/organising the lab database and sample archive – ensuring both physical samples and digital records are aligned and well organised.

  Collecting samples from estuaries in the UK using beach seines and fyke nets

  Travelling to collaborators to dissect and bring back samples

  Coordinating the couriering of samples to and from Essex

  Dissecting and preparing tissue samples

  Analysing element concentrations in otolith samples using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry

  Basic data analysis to check the quality and accuracy of data records.

  Imaging samples using microscope and using image analysis tools to identify and measure

the width of growth rings.

  Liaising with the team and collaborators (e.g. attending lab meetings).

  Keeping web outputs up to date (e.g. website)

  Performing occasional outreach activities (e.g. providing demonstrations to visiting school


  Any other duties may be assigned by the project Lead

The post holder should demonstrate enthusiasm, flexibility, commitment and ability to work independently, and problem solve.

These duties are a guide to the work that the post holder will initially be required to undertake. They may be changed from time to time to meet changing circumstances.

Terms of Appointment:

For a full description of the terms of appointment for this post please visit our website.

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