Lead River Scientist, California

The Nature Conservancy (TNC)

Sacramento, CA, USA 🇺🇸

Job ID: 52784

Location: California

Full/Part Time: Full-Time

Regular/Temporary: Regular


Sacramento, California, USA.

Location negotiable within CA. Sacramento or SF Bay Area preferred; candidates throughout California will be considered.



The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Grounded in science, we develop innovative solutions to the world’s toughest environmental challenges so that people and nature can thrive. Our work is guided by our values, which include a commitment to diversity; respect for people, communities, and cultures; and a collaborative, bipartisan approach. Thanks to more than 1 million members, over 400 scientists, and the dedicated efforts of our staff and partners, we impact conservation around the world.

The California Chapter is TNC’s largest state program, with approximately 230 employees working to achieve our conservation mission, from financial analysts to on-the-ground ecologists. We are currently engaged in more than two dozen large-scale conservation projects statewide—projects that are designed to develop and test ideas to increase the pace, scale, and effectiveness of conservation. Over the past six decades, we have protected 1.4 million acres, 5,000 miles of streams, and 3.8 million acres of ocean habitat in California and off the coast.

The California Chapter believes that we are most effective when we are embedded in our state’s communities, politics, media, and environmental issues. For this reason, and to reduce our carbon footprint when meeting in person, all staff live in California, including those in a home office.


The Lead River Scientist will develop and lead a diverse portfolio of applied freshwater science initiatives in California. They will have primary responsibility for developing the scientific framework needed to inform and advance innovative strategies to improve water management for freshwater biodiversity, including the assessment of water needs for instream flows and wetlands. They will be the lead expert on the ecological implications of water management in California, developing and applying scientific tools and methods to provide a robust scientific foundation to support conservation and restoration strategies for freshwater ecosystems. The Lead River Scientist will lead multi-stakeholder groups to develop modeling tools and analyses to support statewide flow predictions and implementation of ecological flow criteria. They will provide science leadership on multidisciplinary teams of ecologists, conservation practitioners, policy experts and others working to advance place-based and policy-based conservation initiatives, considering the complex nature of California’s water infrastructure, legal system, water use, freshwater diversity, and socio-political context. 


The Lead River Scientist will serve in a leadership capacity to shape science-based water management strategies to better meet the water needs of native species and habitats across California. They will provide scientific expertise, including expertise in freshwater ecology and physical processes of rivers, to Conservancy teams and partners; develop innovative scientific methods, analyses, tools, and frameworks to address river function and freshwater biodiversity; foster strategic partnerships with public agencies, private organizations, and the academic community; and communicate issues and best practices to stakeholders and other key audiences. They will undertake research, planning, and stakeholder facilitation with the intent of maximizing conservation and restoration outcomes They will help shape the Conservancy’s policy engagements on freshwater issues and bring key agency and academic relationships to bear to advance local, regional, and statewide conservation efforts. You would be part of a team of scientists with dedicated efforts to impact conservation throughout the world!   


  • Master’s Degree in freshwater ecology, fisheries, hydrology, or related field and 6-10 years related experience or equivalent combination of education and experience. 
  • Experience directing a major river conservation program of strategic importance and leading multi-disciplinary teams to deliver outcomes. 
  • Record of peer reviewed publications in scientific journals. 
  • Experience fundraising and/or writing grants and research proposals. 
  • Experience with building relationships across public, private, and NGO sectors.           


  • PhD preferred and 5-8 years related experience. 
  • Experience working on California water issues and established relationships with key water agencies and professionals 
  • Ability to navigate complex social, economic, and political landscapes 
  • Experience in decision science or structured decision-making 
  • Excellent communication skills, written, spoken and graphical 
  • Multi-language skills and multi-cultural or cross-cultural experience appreciated. 


Each person who works at TNC contributes to our goal of protecting nature for future generations. Another one of TNC’s primary goals is to cultivate an inclusive work environment so that employees around the globe feel that their unique contributions are valued. We know we’ll only achieve our mission by hiring and engaging a diverse staff that reflects the communities in which we work. We consider life experience in addition to the professional requirements listed in our postings. To quote a popular saying at TNC, “You’ll join for the mission, and you’ll stay for the people.” To learn more, head to YouTube to hear stories from staff or visit Glassdoor.  

We’re proud to support the health and wellbeing of the people we employ. We offer a competitive, comprehensive benefits package that includes healthcare coverage, flexible spending accounts, 401(k) plan with an 8% employer match, parental leave, accrued paid time off, life insurance, disability coverage, employee assistance program, and other benefits that support work-life balance. Learn more on our culture webpage.

If you’re interested in working with us, please apply—we’d love to hear from you.


Salary is based on candidate qualifications, geographic location and internal equity. Estimated salary for this position would fall within $100,750 – 142,500. The hiring team will be able to provide a narrower range to individual candidates as they move forward in the hiring process.


To apply for job ID 52784, submit your materials (resume and cover letter) online by using the Apply Now button at https://careers.nature.org/ by 8:59 PM PST on Sunday, February 5, 2023. Need help applying? Visit our recruitment page or contact applyhelp@tnc.org.

Do you have military experience? Visit our U.S. Military Skills Translator to match your military experience with our current job openings!

TNC is committed to offering accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans in our job application process. If you need assistance or an accommodation due to a disability, please send a note to applyhelp@tnc.org with Request for Accommodation in the subject line.

Where legally permissible, TNC requires all new employees to be fully vaccinated and willing to keep up to date with vaccines that protect against COVID-19. By accepting an offer of employment, you agree to comply with this requirement, unless you are entitled to a legally mandated exemption.

The Nature Conservancy is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Our commitment to diversity includes the recognition that our conservation mission is best advanced by the leadership and contributions of people with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures. Recruiting and mentoring staff to create an inclusive organization that reflects our global character is a priority, and we encourage applicants from all cultures, races, colors, religions, sexes, national or regional origins, ages, disability status, sexual orientations, gender identities, military or veteran status or other status protected by law. The Nature Conservancy is also a “big tent” organization. We believe that all people benefit from conservation and that the cause should be inclusive of everyone regardless of their political persuasion. We work hard to make conservation a non-partisan issue through partnerships with stakeholders, elected officials, and industries that span the political spectrum.





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development