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Senior Conservation Scientist

Job Location

Washington D.C


Type of Job




Published By

Publisher Name

Published Date

May 5, 2022

About the job

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The Senior Conservation Scientist plays a lead role in providing support, building capacity, and advancing research on conservation science issues.  As a senior team member of the Center for Conservation Innovation (CCI), the Senior Conservation Scientist leads a team which enhances the work of the organization to improve imperiled species and habitat conservation by integrating quality science into Defenders’ programs and by ensuring that Defenders’ science is informed by emerging policy and technology.


Reporting to the director of CCI, the Senior Conservation Scientist is the science point-person at Defenders. A significant part of this role is managing junior technical and scientific staff and interns to achieve effective integration of science in Defenders programs and partnerships. S/he oversees a variety of projects, including analysis of large and complex spatial and non-spatial datasets, outreach through visuals and web apps, and distribution of best available science. The Senior Conservation Scientist is responsible for understanding, developing, and integrating foundational and cutting-edge scientific principles and approaches to Defenders’ work.  S/he applies expertise to ensure the accurate interpretation and strategic use of science to progress Defenders’ priorities, encouraging innovative approaches to benefit wildlife conservation on the ground and through policy. The Senior Conservation Scientist serves as an advocate and spokesperson for science-based conservation and works to cultivate partnerships internally and with other organizations to advocate for conservation strategies. The position will work with our team of scientists and help develop new tools and ideas for strategically using data to improve biodiversity conservation policies and practices.



The Senior Conservation Scientist will manage a team of conservation scientists and GIS analysts to 1) provide in-house science support for Defenders, 2) build science capacity and infrastructure internally and externally, and 3) lead/advise Defenders in advancing best available science for wildlife conservation. These areas of responsibility will generally represent 60%, 20%, and 20% of the team’s time, respectively. Providing leadership and team management may represent up to 60% of the Senior Conservation Scientist’s time. The Scientist will:

Lead the CCI Science Team

  • Provide guidance and context for a team of scientists and analysts working on a variety of projects related to species and habitat conservation.
  • Manage staff, interns, and volunteers to ensure projects and tasks progress as organizational demands require.
  • Develop, coordinate, and enforce systems, policies, procedures, and productivity standards for Defenders’ science and outreach products.
  • Develop and carry out annual and long-term vision and program planning through science and spatial analysis.

Lead Defenders’ Science Support

  • Guide interdisciplinary program teams in the strategic use of science and GIS in achieving program goals.
  • Engage and develop personal relationships with staff across departments to ensure interdepartmental communication and coordination.
  • Support and advise on a variety of communications, including interpreting scientific information for non-technical audiences, contributing to social media posts, creating scientist consensus sign-on campaigns to strengthen advocacy and speaking with the press and lawmakers.

Build Defenders’ Internal Science Capacity

  • Identify opportunities to grow Defenders’ science and GIS programs and promote scientific norms and integrity throughout the organization.
  • Lead the development and maintenance of systems for obtaining and creating new data, updating existing data, ensuring data compatibility, and storing, organizing, sharing, and displaying data.
  • Coordinate technical support and training resources in support of conservation staff.

Grow Defenders’ External Science Network

  • Be the main point of contact and representative for Defenders’ science and GIS work in coalitions and other external groups.
  • Help serve as a liaison between Defenders’ staff and the Science Advisors.
  • Strengthen external science capacity to Defenders by establishing relationships with external scientists.
  • Advance open access data and reproducible science externally by leading and coordinating logistics for access to Defenders’ data.

Advance Best Available Science in Species and Habitat Conservation

  • Publish project findings in peer-reviewed journals, Defenders reports, blogs and articles, and/or other media. Communicate findings at scientific conferences and other events.
  • Perform all other related duties as assigned.


Education: Ph.D. degree or equivalent

Experience: 6 years of relevant experience; 3 years supervisory experience

An equivalent combination of education and experience may be accepted as a satisfactory substitute for the specific education and experience listed above.

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities for Senior Conservation Scientist

  1. Deep scientific expertise in several areas of Defenders’ core work (e.g., climate change, human-wildlife coexistence, connectivity, renewable energy, private lands, etc.)
  2. Strong desire to apply science and tools to advance wildlife conservation, as evidenced by a background in biodiversity conservation issues, including landscape ecology, federal environmental policies, restoration, endangered species, and climate change.
  3. Advanced experience with scientific analysis methods (e.g., population viability analysis, habitat management, population surveys and camera trapping and climate change adaptation)
  4. Experience with conservation-related spatial models (e.g., landscape prioritization, habitat connectivity analysis, species distribution models, etc.) and production cartography.
  5. Extensive experience publishing in peer-reviewed journals and other outlets on imperiled species conservation.
  6. Demonstrated ability to develop and implement a research agenda, including by bringing together contributing scientists and interns.
  7. Familiarity with GIS software and web-based map production. Expertise with R, python, and PDF organizing software is strongly preferred.
  8. Experience/ability to establish organizational protocols and systems for the acquisition, use, and sharing of geospatial and aspatial data, and the production of science.
  9. Interest and drive to pursue and develop new conservation ideas and tools. An enthusiastic promoter of the use of data to catalyze and improve biodiversity conservation.

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All employees are required to satisfactorily perform the essential duties and responsibilities of their positions. The essential duties and responsibilities listed above are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties and skills required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the job.


Defenders requires employees who engage in in-person work activities, including business travel or onsite work, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. An applicant (i) who is disabled or pregnant or who has a qualifying medical condition that contraindicates a COVID-19 vaccination or (ii) who objects to being vaccinated on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief, observance or practice may request an exemption from this vaccination policy. This determination will be made on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with applicable law. Any medical information concerning an applicant's disability will be treated as a confidential medical record in compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws.

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