Director (Spatial Planning and Priority Setting)

Conservation International (CI)
Arlington, VA, United States
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
NGO/Civil Society
Experience Level: 
Mid-Level (5-7 Years)
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


Please note: this job post has expired! To the best of our knowledge, this job is no longer available and this page remains here for archival purposes only.

Conservation International (CI) has been protecting nature for the benefit of all for over 30 years. Through science, policy, and partnerships, CI is helping build a healthier, more prosperous and more productive planet. 


The Director, Spatial Planning and Priority Setting is responsible for leading strategic research efforts and/or technical initiatives/projects that will have a direct impact on Conservation International’s mission of empowering societies to sustainably care for nature for the well-being of humanity. Job duties incorporate a range of research and technical responsibilities.

Research duties include leading rigorous and innovative research efforts.

The Director, SPPS leads the development, testing, and implementation of Conservation International’s spatial priority setting and spatial planning efforts to ensure that natural capital (biodiversity and ecosystem services) are appropriately valued and incorporated into policy and land use decisions. This position will develop the scientific and technical rationale to accomplish this goal and supports the development and implementation of methods for identifying, mapping, and prioritizing critical natural capital (irreplaceable biodiversity and ecosystems providing benefits that cannot easily be substituted or replaced) to improve the global stewardship of natural capital. Where existing methods are not sufficient, this position will identify gaps and coordinate scientific work to fill them, including spatial analyses that bring together ecosystem service modeling approaches with socioeconomic and biodiversity data. A major focus of this position is to manage communication and collaboration with other divisions within CI and a range of relevant partners including public agencies, private sector companies, and civil society.

The position also supports CI integrated spatial planning efforts assessing tradeoffs and generate land/sea resource use plans that incorporate the values of ecosystems including their services in development planning drawing from and integrating from a range of spatially explicit approaches such as systematic conservation planning, multi criteria evaluation, scenario development, etc.

This position reports to the Vice President, Nature’s Values and Priorities (NVP) team within the Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and works in collaboration with staff from other divisions and CI country programs. NVP is a multidisciplinary unit that focuses on mainstreaming the values of ecosystems into development pathways, coordinating inputs from disciplines ranging from natural sciences (e.g., ecosystem delineation, environmental flows, species modeling), economics (e.g., tradeoffs, distribution of benefits and costs), and geography (spatial assessments of tradeoffs, conservation planning). Explicitly designing for sustainability provides a key opportunity to assess tradeoffs and generate land/sea resource use plans that incorporate the values of ecosystems including their services in conservation and development planning.

The position will contribute to responding to global challenges in alignment with CI's mission, including supporting CI’s Sustainable Landscapes and Seascapes (SLS) initiative, and will provide direct support, technical expertise and partnership to CI country programs and external partners.  The position is also expected to deliver high quality and impactful publications and presentations to advance the agenda of sustainable solutions related to CI's mission.


  • Develop, test, implement, and refine CI’s framework for geographic priority setting and metrics related to critical natural capital (the biodiversity and ecosystems that provide essential benefits to people)
  • Devise, develop and employ the scientific methods and approaches to ensure that natural capital and ecosystem services are appropriately measured, valued, prioritized, and incorporated into spatial/conservation planning and the management and policy decisions of Conservation International’s Sustainable Landscape and Seascapes.
  • Publish and disseminate original research (≥1 publication/yr) related to development of CI’s geographic priority setting approach. Accomplishing this relies on the identification of key gaps in the current state of knowledge about the links between critical natural capital and human well-being, and developing a research agenda to fill those gaps
  • Develop communications materials about spatial priority setting and metrics including, in addition to peer reviewed publications, presentations at scientific conferences, fact sheets, or blog posts. Engage in other internally or externally led publications, working groups, symposia, or other means contributing to the Director’s and CI’s credibility and thought leadership relating to conservation priority setting
  • Develop and maintain partnerships with relevant institutions with the goal of developing and refining the priority setting and metrics framework and collaborating on its implementation with partner organizations. Potential partners include non-profit environmental and development institutions, foundations, universities, and lending institutions
  • Other duties as assigned by supervisor


  • Office, some travel up to 25% of time, flexibility in work schedule to accommodate time differences with HQ and the region may be needed



  • Advanced degree in environmental science, biology or social sciences.
  • 7 or more years experience in complex scientific research and/or managing conservation or research projects or initiatives.
  • Proven publication record in scientific literature.
  • Proven ability at successfully interpreting and applying complex scientific information, data, and models and in developing creative solutions to achieve practical results.
  • Proven track record in managing complex and highly diverse projects.  
  • Minimum 5 years of work experience working on systematic conservation planning, environmental economics and/or land/water/marine spatial planning relevant to conservation and development issues
  • Advanced proficiency in policy assessment, project design, data collection, compilation, analysis and innovation in the designing and developing of concepts, applications, and technologies
  • Advanced knowledge in decision support via spatially explicit and replicable systems for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting environmental and economic data, environmental and natural resource policies, standards, and programs 
  • Demonstrated abilities in group facilitation, team building, and networking. Proven ability to build and effectively manage relationships with key partners, donors and government officials.
  • Demonstration of persistence, initiative, and diplomacy in achieving action with multidisciplinary groups outside of formal reporting structures.
  • Demonstrated experience in assessment and/or spatial modeling of ecosystem services
  • Demonstrated skills in geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, or spatial analysis software
  • Team player and the ability to work effectively across cultures and within/across organizations.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Highly organized and strong attention to detail.
  • Demonstrated problem solving skills and ability to build on existing knowledge to develop new approaches.
  • Excellent analytical skills.
  • Proficiency in statistical and/or GIS software systems and procedures, and skill in using new software applications.

View all Conservation International Career Opportunities HERE

Conservation International Values

We expect that all employees will embrace the values of our organization.

Passion: We are inspired by nature and cherish the diversity of life in all of its forms. 

Respect: We respect and trust each other, and we embrace our diversity of cultures, talents, and experiences.

Integrity: We act with integrity and are accountable for our actions.

Optimism: We are optimistic about the future of life on Earth and are confident that, with our partners, we will achieve unprecedented conservation results.

Courage: We tirelessly pursue our vision, taking bold action and persevering through challenges.

Teamwork: We work together, recognizing that openness, collaboration and cooperation are fundamental to achieving a healthy and prosperous world for all.

Equal Opportunity Employer Minorities/Women/Vets/Disabled