Associate Scientist (Natural Capital and Global Trade)

Arlington, VA, United States 🇺🇸


The well-being of people, the bottom-line of companies, and the sustainability of national economies depend on nature, with international trade in many products supported by forests, freshwater, pollinators, fisheries, and other natural capital. However, that natural capital base within many developing, producer countries is declining rapidly, jeopardizing both local economies and the prospects for sustaining consumer economies around the world. Conservation International seeks to improve understanding of the linkages between nature and global trade in key commodities by exploring the social and ecological footprint of commodity production on biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as the dependency of production on the services provided by those ecosystems, and relate these dimensions via often complex global supply chains, to consumer countries, governments, corporations, investors and other stakeholders.

Current information systems are woefully inadequate to address the combined issues of natural capital and trade. However, the recent development by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Global Canopy Programme (GCP) of a new ‘Transformative Transparency’ platform (TTp) offers the potential to transform our understanding of supply chains and how they relate to both nature and people for a suite of globally traded commodities. The platform seeks a step change in how commodity supply chains can be assessed, monitored and managed. In addition, by presenting an entirely new approach to mapping supply chain connections and linking places to actors over large spatial scales it provides the basis for a new frontier of research and understanding on the patterns and processes that shape commodity supply chains and the economic, social and environmental effects that they have.

Working in close collaboration with SEI and GCP, the Associate Scientist – Natural Capital and Global Trade will contribute to the continued development of the TTp, focusing on understanding the social and environmental footprint and ecosystem dependencies of production, how they influence aggregate risk exposure for downstream actors, and exploring these issues in-depth through at least one commodity + country case study


  • Responsible for the day-to-day management, implementation and success of the project, working closely with scientists from Conservation International’s (CI) Moore Center for Science (MCS), SEI and GCP, together with additional colleagues in CI and beyond, reporting to the Senior Director, Global Synthesis in MCS.
  • Scope and evaluate social and environmental datasets (across scales) for assessing country-wide patterns and temporal changes in land-use, deforestation, carbon emissions, biodiversity conservation priorities, land-tenure, human-wellbeing indicators, etc., for their utility in informing social and environmental trends at relevant jurisdictional scales.
  • Explore the use of appropriate ecosystem service data to link production footprints to impacts on different stakeholders, and to link surrounding ecosystems to their role in supporting commodity production (e.g. pollination, freshwater).
  • Review existing and nascent projects internally and among partners, that are developing standards and indicators that seek to determine social and environmental baselines or assess broader sustainability within landscapes and production jurisdictions, specifically related to commodity production or more generally – e.g. the Climate Change and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) standards and specific certification schemes such as Rainforest Alliance.
  • Review how the above indicators and performance standards can be used to connect production regions to downstream actors.
  • Working with relevant CI Field Programs, explore 1-2 detailed in-country case studies, performing in-depth analyses including: (i) quantification of the spatial and temporal dynamics of relevant supply chain(s); (ii) quantification of risk exposure of different traders and other downstream actors as linked to deforestation, carbon emissions, conservation priorities, etc.
  • Working with colleagues in CI, engage with key corporate partners to increase the accessibility and user-relevance of the TTp.


  • This is a full-time 12 month fixed term position
  • The position will be located in CI’s Moore Center for Science (MCS) in Arlington, VA.
  • Up to 2 months will be spent in Stockholm at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).
  • Further travel for periods of up to 4 weeks will be required for case study reconnaissance.



  • PhD in a relevant social or environmental science.
  • Strong quantitative skills in working with and analyzing large data sets and geospatial data
  • Demonstrated understanding of global trade issues as they relate to sustainability
  • Experience in working with issues related to the environmental impacts of agricultural expansion and land-use change.
  • Highly resourceful and demonstrated ability to work independently within a broader team of researchers and policy experts at CI, SEI and GCP.
  • Excellent communication skills and a willingness to engage with partners in highly disparate fields of research and policy.
  • Highly organized and strong attention to detail.
  • Spanish language skills.


  • 1-3 years of relevant post-doctoral or relevant professional experience.
  • Experience working in a developing country context.
  • Portuguese language skills