Social Science Lead

Job Location

Great Plains Region / Front Range


Published By

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Type of Job




Published Date

Feb 20, 2021

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Social Science Lead

About Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV)

PLJV is a regional partnership of federal and state wildlife agencies, conservation groups and private industry dedicated to conserving bird habitat throughout portions of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Our mission is to conserve the playas, prairies and landscapes of the western Great Plains through partnerships for the benefit of birds, other wildlife, and people. The Joint Venture facilitates cooperation among a broad coalition of partners on the national, regional, state and local levels to fund and implement habitat conservation. We provide regional planning, value­-added efficiency and implementation approaches, while our partners provide financial, technical and local expertise to develop conservation projects. In addition, PLJV supports local conservation partnerships, state agencies and other partners by developing various decision support tools, as well as providing education about how to use the tools to target and deliver the most effective habitat conservation. PLJV also works with a variety of partners to inform landowners about conservation programs and to target conservation efforts in areas that will provide the most benefit.

PLJV’s consistent use of targeted communications over the last 15 years has resulted in an appreciation and frequent use of social science research to better understand and meet the needs of our audiences.

  • In 2006, PLJV conducted a survey of 1,800 landowners in the western Great Plains with the purpose of determining the baseline of landowner knowledge about playas and their willingness to conduct conservation work. Based on the survey results, we’ve focused our communication messages around playas and aquifer recharge for the past ten years.
  • In June 2013, PLJV board members and staff participated in a full­-day workshop to better understand the role human dimensions can play in reaching our Joint Venture’s bird and habitat conservation goals.
  • As a follow­up to the survey, 13 landowner focus groups with farmers and ranchers in six states were completed in the summer of 2013. The goal of this research was to better understand landowner attitudes and opinions about playa conservation (with an emphasis on impediments to conservation behaviors) to inform agencies’ strategies around encouraging and enhancing conservation of playas on private lands.
  • In November 2015, PLJV held a Playa Recharge Summit at Texas Tech University with 14 scientists and researchers who study various aspects of the playa ecosystem in order to provide answers to landowners’ questions about recharge through playas based on the most current scientific knowledge.
  • Since 2019, PLJV has been working closely with conservation partners along the Platte River on a project referred to as Vision for an Ecologically Sound Platte River (VESPR), which will be initiating a study of the perceptions, motivations, and values of people living and working within the Platte River Basin. The successful candidate for the Social Science Lead position will lead this effort, ultimately bridging social and ecological sciences in order to better design and target conservation delivery.

Position Summary

The Social Science Lead has an important leadership role in PLJV’s six­-state partnership. The Social Science Lead will guide and advise PLJV staff and partners on how to apply social science research to deliver habitat conservation and will integrate with other PLJV departments including biological science, habitat delivery, GIS, communications, and operations and finance. Specifically, the Social Science Lead will:

  • As a first priority, design and conduct a mixed methods social science study focused on communities within the Platte River Basin, and interpret results to better inform future conservation efforts within the watershed.
  • Work in an applied fashion to accelerate habitat conservation delivery across the PLJV landscape by using social science methods to better understand and address socially­-rooted habitat delivery bottlenecks.
  • Interpret, synthesize, and apply existing results from relevant social science research and maintain an updated repository of relevant social science efforts.
  • Conduct original in-house and field research and evaluation that informs habitat delivery and other PLJV priorities, such as communications and outreach.
  • Develop program capacity for ongoing social science needs and objectives by way of partnership and fund development.
  • Create and manage a human dimensions advisory team composed of other social science experts for the purpose of developing and vetting social science activities.
  • Serve as a liaison between researchers and PLJV staff, as well as the larger PLJV partnership, on high priority bird conservation social science study teams, such as NABCI Social Science Team, NAWMP Human Dimension Working Group, etc.
  • Collaborate with other social scientists responsible for developing social science tools and resources including training for conservation professionals.
  • Develop presentations on the importance of using social science in achieving habitat conservation goals.
  • Contribute to our suite of communication products by producing articles and messages about social science for newsletters, reports, and social media.
  • Attend all required staff, team, committee, and Management Board meetings.

Travel Required

  • Can be as much as 25% or greater depending on the nature and scope of an activity.
  • Frequent travel by various means of surface and air transportation is required to attend meetings and to conduct field work.

Required Qualifications

  • M.S. minimum in social sciences related to conservation, natural resources, and/or wildlife management and professional experience in social sciences related to conservation, water, natural resources, or wildlife management.
  • Demonstrated experience in working with key PLJV audiences including ranchers, farmers, water users, and small town America.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and application of social science (e.g., psychology, sociology, economics, etc.) concepts, principles, and methods as applied to wildlife or other natural resource management sufficient to execute program duties listed above.
  • Demonstrated experience in building relationships with stakeholders and decision ­makers in ensuring social science results are applied to conservation planning, program development, and policy.
  • Experience in communicating scientific results and methods to a variety of audiences, including conservation professionals, farmers, ranchers, and other on-the-ground decision makers.
  • Experience in project coordination and management of complex projects involving multiple stakeholders.
  • Expertise in qualitative and quantitative social science data collection methods (i.e., surveys, interviews, focus groups), data analysis, and statistical programs.
  • Demonstrated skills in collaborating with others on teams to accomplish shared objectives.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.

Additional Desired Qualifications

  • Applied knowledge of USDA Farm Bill conservation programs and other key Joint Venture habitat delivery programs.
  • Experience obtaining funding through grant proposals and contracts.
  • Experience with national, regional and local bird conservation partnerships.
  • Experience conducting social science research to better understand specific audiences related to habitat and bird conservation such as recreationists, private landowners or public land managers.
  • Working knowledge of birds, bird guilds, and bird habitat needs.
  • Working knowledge of habitat targeting and strategic habitat prioritization techniques such as Strategic Habitat Conservation or Landscape (Conservation) Design.
  • Prior work in, knowledge of, and appreciation of the western Great Plains landscape including the Ogallala Aquifer and playas.
  • Prior experience with important industries in the Great Plains such as agriculture, oil & gas, and wind development.

Requirements/Physical Demands

  • Must possess and maintain a valid State driver’s license.
  • While much of the work is sedentary, the Social Science Lead may need to conduct off-site meetings and evaluations that may include traversing wet, rough, uneven, or rocky surfaces in hot, cold, dry, or humid environments; and bending, crouching, stooping, or other such light to moderate physical activity.
  • Long days afield require considerable stamina, as a variety of temperature and weather extremes may be encountered.
  • Frequent travel is required.


This position reports directly to and is evaluated by the PLJV Coordinator. The Coordinator defines the work to be accomplished in terms of objectives and priorities, specifying methods and techniques only in the broadest sense. Annual work plans for the position will be developed by the position incumbent in consultation with the Coordinator, PLJV Management Board, other staff, and the PLJV HD Advisory Team. Beyond a work plan, the incumbent is largely self­-directed in accomplishing objectives. Job performance is reviewed in the context of responsiveness to objectives and priorities as determined by the Coordinator, and based on input from the PLJV HD Advisory Team and PLJV Management Board.

Salary and Benefits

Starting salary is commensurate with education, experience, and location with an expected range of $60,000 to $80,000. PLJV offers a generous benefits package, including full medical and dental coverage, HSA with annual contribution to defray medical deductibles, and a 7% salary match toward our retirement plan.

PLJVs Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Our mission to conserve the playas, prairies and landscapes of the western Great Plains includes all people of our region, and we must make a place for everyone within our work. As an organization, we are committed to making continual, measurable progress toward a just, equitable environment within our organization, our larger partnership, and the communities we serve.

We welcome the addition of differences in opinions, culture, beliefs, ethnicity, nation of origin, languages spoken, race, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability, and education.

Job Location

The job location can be anywhere with adequate access to the PLJV region.

Application Process

Interested applicants should email a resume and one-page cover letter to Mike Carter, PLJV Coordinator, at In addition to explaining your fit for the position, please relay salary requirements and desired location. The deadline for all applications is 5:00PM MST, Monday, March 15.


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