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Forage Breeding Project Summer Help

Group photo of the forage project summer crew

Every summer, the Forage Breeding Project hires six or seven college students to assist with establishing and maintaining research experiments and collecting data on previously established trials.

The summer employees are divided into two main groups with very different responsibilities: the transplanting crew and the harvesting crew. Some days, the entire team works together, but more frequently, the two crews have separate tasks.

There are several mandatory requirements for all positions:

  • The ability to work full-time from mid-May to mid-August. Students planning to take a day class or an extended vacation are not considered for these positions.
  • The ability to self-motivate. Student employees are expected to arrive to work on time, which is occasionally as early as 6:00 A.M.
  • The ability to work well with others. This requirement includes, but is not limited to, getting along with others. People are most fulfilled with their jobs when they feel everyone is doing his or her share.
Summer crew taking field samples

Transplanting Crew

Members of the transplanting crew assist researchers in developing new varieties of alfalfa, clover, and grasses with increased resistance to insects and diseases. Duties mainly consist of work in the field, including transplanting by hand and with machinery, hoeing, weeding, taking samples, and setting up and checking electric fences. Switchgrass nurseries will be established as part of the NEWBio Consortium. Students may have the opportunity to collect data on individual plants and compare results with data taken from other locations in the Northeast. Greenhouse work includes harvesting and processing seed, staking and tying plants, potting and moving plants, and pollinating flowers.

Harvesting Crew

The harvesting crew consists of six people harvesting forage yield trials in Ithaca and throughout New York State, as well as other fieldwork. Student employees learn basic aspects of plant breeding, including how scientific methods are applied to crop research in the field.

Harvesting crew positions have specific job requirements:

  • The ability to lift and carry 20-30 lbs many times throughout the day.
  • Attention to detail.
  • The ability to enter data in Excel.
  • Willingness to work overtime on occasion (e.g., start travel at 6:00 A.M. and return at 9:00 P.M.) or stay overnight at work location (probably two to three times per summer).

Things we do together

Over the course of the summer, the entire team will perform many tasks together (many hands make light work). These tasks may include taking quality samples and separating and planting grass clones. As a group, employees attend multiple field days, the Empire Farm days, and other learning opportunities.

On the lighter side, summer employees in Plant Breeding and Genetics team up with researchers to form an intramural softball team for six weeks during the summer. Participation is not mandatory, but those who play always have a great time.

Students interested summer employment with the Forage Breeding Project should contact Julie Hansen at to schedule an interview. A completed copy of the application is required at the interview.