Executive Director


COMPASS seeks to recruit an engaging new Executive Director to lead the enterprise in empowering scientists to engage in the public discourse about the environment.


In her 1997 AAAS Presidential address, Dr. Jane Lubchenco laid out a “new social contract for science”. Recognizing the unprecedented environmental and social changes on our planet, she called for scientists to be more effective at sharing new and existing knowledge to decision-makers and the public. In 1999, motivated by this call for action, COMPASS was founded to support scientists in their efforts to communicate. The organization provides strategic and practical support for scientists to engage without compromising the accuracy and credibility of their science.

In the early days, COMPASS focused on supporting ocean scientists, helping elevate their understanding about topics like marine protected areas and the decline of marine fisheries. Since then the organization has continued to evolve, pioneering new ways to help scientists engage with the wider world. COMPASS has expanded its scope beyond oceans, to work on a variety of topics about people and the environment such as water, wildfire, ecosystem services, and climate adaptation, while constantly expanding its networks.

COMPASS works to empower scientists to help frame and advance their engagement in critical conservation policy issues and to support scientists in thinking with an ecosystem-based mindset. The COMPASS team has trained thousands of scientists to be strong and relevant communicators, ready to engage with multiple audiences. COMPASS has supported scientists studying topics like fisheries, ocean acidification and ecosystem based management, to help get issues on the public agenda, by training scientists to communicate complex concepts in relevant and accessible (yet still accurate) ways and connecting scientists to agenda setting media. COMPASS hosts journalist fellowships for scientific societies so journalists can attend scientific conferences to meet scientists and learn about emerging science. The COMPASS team has supported scientists to meet with key policy actors across federal and state governments from agencies, the White House, and Congressional and state legislative offices. These engagements, ranging from ecosystem services to wildfire to water sustainability, have led to framing and advancing new approaches to policies and practices. COMPASS does not advocate or work towards specific policy outcomes. The organization believes that when scientific knowledge and insights are at the table, emerging solutions will be more robust and benefit both for people and the ecosystems that serve them.

In the past year, the Board and staff have been reviewing the way COMPASS has expanded its work to reach a widening network of policy makers at the state and federal level, while continuing to broker relationships between scientists and journalists in a changing media landscape.

COMPASS is a distributed organization with 15 staff located across the country (with two main offices in Washington, D.C. and Portland Oregon). The team consists of field leaders (who have worked as scientists, journalists or policy staff), who have pioneered approaches to support and connect scientists, and who have written seminal pieces (books and articles) about science communication. COMPASS’ annual budget is approximately $2,000,000/year, and continues to grow each year. COMPASS is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit.

For more information about COMPASS, please visit the website and blog: www.compassonline.org and www.compassblogs.org.

About the Position

The new Executive Director will be passionate about COMPASS’ mission and align with the organization’s core beliefs and values. These include: a passion for science and its role in helping to shape critical environmental discourse; a devotion to relationship building and bridging disparate conversations and perspectives; open-minded, inclusive and acting in a transparent manner; and a personal ethic based empathy, grace, joy and compassion. The new Executive Director inherits an organization that is thriving and fully engaged in all aspects of it programmatic activities. The new Executive Director will continue to grow the organization’s work around its organizational competencies. Moreover, this individual will be called on to be an innovative and creative force in science communication a wide range of environmental issues, including thinking about the organization’s role in helping to shape the public discourse in a changing media and policy landscape. In other words, the next Executive Director will have the opportunity to continue to establish the organization as strategic thought partner to funders, nonprofit organizations, public sector leaders, corporations and other engaged in addressing environmental issues. The broad goals and responsibilities for the Executive Director include:

  • To provide leadership in evolving and implementing COMPASS’s organizational vision, mission and strategic priorities.

  • To support the development of a vibrant future by continuing to cultivate, expand and make the best use of the Board, staff and partners.

  • To continue to expand the financial base of COMPASS, pursuing philanthropic funding sources, maintaining and growing the organization’s earned revenue portfolio, and other creative sources of revenue for the organization.

  • To attract, retain and manage a team of professional high-performing and dedicated staff who possess the capacity to fulfill the organization’s mission.

  • To expand the reach, influence and public recognition of COMPASS as a leader helping to bridge the interface between science and media and science and public policy and empowering scientists to have the courage and skills to engage in the public discourse about the environment.

Professional Qualifications and Personal Attributes:

The Executive Director will serve as a thought leader, especially about the roles of scientists in society in helping to shape public policy and public opinion. As such, the new Executive Director should ideally possess the following professional qualifications and personal attributes:

Professional Qualifications:

  • Demonstrated record of work and understanding about the interface between science and public policy and public opinion about the environment.

  • Capacity to lead, inspire and mobilize people — particularly leaders and other supporters — in advancing the vision of a vibrant, science focused communication enterprise.

  • Successful experience in developing and managing a complex budget and serving in a leadership role.

  • Management style that is goal oriented, but flexible; that respects the capabilities and independence of the team, but provides them with a clear sense of direction.

  • Demonstrated experience in developing and administering a comprehensive fundraising program and other revenue generating programs.

  • Experience building effective networks, partnerships, and/or coalitions.

  • Bachelor’s degree required with an advanced degree or equivalent experience preferred.

  • Highest level of personal and professional integrity and quality standards.

  • Demonstrated work ethic and willingness to travel extensively, often for weekend and evening engagements.

Personal Attributes:

  • Passionate commitment to the values and mission of COMPASS, including deep appreciation of both the science culture and a healthy environment.

  • Passion for bridging, connecting and developing scientists to become ever more effective when engaging in the public discourse about the environment.

  • Ability to inspire trust, lead and facilitate with strong interpersonal skills and move from ideas to action.

  • Engaging professional and personal presence.

  • Ability to think strategically, tactically and creatively.

  • Visionary, articulate, and diplomatic.

  • Possessing a sense of humor.


Compensation for the Executive Director includes a competitive salary and an excellent package of health and other employee benefits. Ideally, the Executive Director will be located in one of COMPASS’s major hubs, however, the Board is willing to discuss alternative locations that allow the Executive Director to be connected to staff, other networks, and funding prospects.

How to Apply

Interested candidates should submit a resume and cover letter responding specifically to the experience and qualifications being sought to: Daniel Sherman, President, Explore Company at [email protected] Refer to COMPASS/ED in the subject line. No phone inquiries please.