Earth Observation Specialist

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)

Peterborough, United Kingdom 🇬🇧

Post background

The post will be part of a team which focuses on helping countries within the UK, and its Overseas Territories, to identify how EO, combined with other information, can help meet environmental policy and operational evidence needs. The post will contribute by putting in place, or adjusting, UK solutions that contribute to these requirements, where cost effective to do so.

The majority of the team’s activity is focusing on investigating the application of earth observation (EO) data sources to biodiversity and ecosystem services. JNCC supports habitat condition monitoring undertaken by the Country Nature Conservation Bodies (Dept. of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage), and species surveillance delivered through long term partnerships with the, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH). A key part of the team’s role is delivering useful information from EO that helps target or monitor activities which aim to sustain or enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services, and provide information to support natural capital based decisions. There are exciting opportunities to link up earth observation with the field effort of the thousands of volunteers who undertake species surveillance. The combination could provide additional opportunity analytically, validation for EO analysis, improve the contextual information available to interpret what habitat condition and species can tell us about environmental change and quality, and enrich the experience for volunteers. The new Sentinel missions launched by the European Space Agency offer exciting new opportunities to achieve these various aims and the team is advanced in developing and deploying automated methods to use the regular observing that these new missions provide to deliver valuable products.

The team is also involved in providing technical support for projects in the UK’s Caribbean and South Atlantic Overseas Territories and in several South American countries where JNCC leads projects or is a partner. These international projects focus on valuing and mapping ecosystem goods and services across terrestrial and shallow marine environments where EO analysis plays a key role. Through this work, JNCC has an opportunity to promote the international use of EO based natural capital assessments at different scales (small islands and large continental areas) and different environments (low and high latitudes, terrestrial, coastal).

JNCC works closely with all the UK Administrations such as Scottish Government, Welsh Government, Northern Ireland Assembly and DEFRA. We are also members of the DEFRA EO Centre of Excellence and specific Welsh and Scottish EO coordination groups. These groups are helping to coordinate EO initiatives across government as well as researching new methods and approaches. Elements of that research are led by the JNCC team. This post will provide JNCC with additional capacity to help support requirements of all these partners. It will also provide us with capacity, working closely with IT colleagues and others, to develop services that automate the processing and delivery of EO based products where this benefits all countries of the UK.

The role of EO Specialist will be involved across all areas of the teams work and particularly in:

  • Development of methods for the automated detection of parameters or management activities on land parcels in UK that would aid the assessment of habitat condition or the identification of changes in condition.
  • Rapid ecosystem mapping in the UK Overseas Territories and elsewhere using the automated techniques.
  • Aiding with the production of standards in the generation of Analysis Ready Data from satellite imagery.

One area of particular interest is in developing the utilisation of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data across UK government bodies, given that availability of such data is now greatly increased. Experience of working with such data would therefore be desirable, but not essential.

Post Duties

The post will work across JNCC’s Evidence Directorate with a focus on terrestrial habitat surveillance, but supporting both terrestrial and marine aspects of the directorate’s work. The post is initially for three years (with the possibility of extension) to provide critical additional short term capacity, largely in projects relating to the provision of efficient data to inform mapping of habitat extent and condition as well as features relating to ecosystem services and natural capital.

The main duties of the post are to:

  • Carry out a variety of analyses using EO data for mapping of habitat extent and condition, ecosystem services and natural capital. This will include developing new methods and adapting existing ones to analyse EO and other spatial data.
  • Provide expertise to aid delivery of programmes led by other teams within JNCC, and by the Defra EO Centre of Excellence, especially where a good understanding of the potential role of EO is required. This includes the opportunity to contribute to JNCC managed projects in the UK’s Overseas Territories and in South America.
  • Contribute to the development of systems that will supply EO products to UK and devolved government users.
  • Develop an understanding of requirements within JNCC and other public sector bodies and advise on the role EO could play in meeting them.
  • Collaborate with colleagues in other agencies working in related areas to ensure a coordinated approach across government.
  • Specify and project manage technical analysis, research or evidence collation, to be carried out either in-house or contracted out. Apply JNCC’s science quality standards in delivering all evidence related work.
  • Quality assure reports from contracted projects, and extract relevant detail to disseminate through the JNCC website, presentations etc.
  • Undertake further related tasks that are likely to arise given the rapidly developing nature of this area of work.

The post-holder will be required to attend meetings and other fora at various localities in the UK and potentially elsewhere in Europe, involving overnight stays away from home.


Specialist competencies


  • A good practical experience in Earth observation analysis and processing, and its application in environmental science.
  • Knowledge of and practical experience in utilising different sources of Earth observation data
  • Ability to manipulate and analyse spatial data.


  • Knowledge and experience of habitat mapping, based on ground data or earth observation methods.
  • Experience in processing and analysing Synthetic Aperture Radar data.
  • Experience in applying time series analysis and related modelling techniques.
  • Experience of using scripting, particularly for automating processes.
  • Knowledge of ecological survey and methods for analysis of the data that it produces.

Core Competencies

Seeing the Big Picture

  • Be alert to emerging issues and trends which might impact or benefit own and teams work (Essential)
  • Actively seek out and share experience to develop understanding and knowledge of own work and of team’s business area (Desirable)

Making effective decisions

  • Identify a range of relevant and credible information sources and recognise the need to collect new data when necessary from internal and external sources (Essential)
  • Explore different options outlining costs, benefits, risk and potential responses to each (Desirable)

Leading and Communicating

  • Communicate using appropriate styles, methods and timing, including digital channels, to maximise understanding and impact (Essential)
  • Communicate in a succinct, engaging manner and stand ground when needed (Desirable) 

Collaborating and Partnering

  • Establish relationships with a range of stakeholders to support delivery of business outcomes (Essential)
  • Encourage collaborative team working within own team and across the organisation (Essential)

Delivering value for money

  • Follow appropriate financial procedures to monitor contracts to ensure deliverables are achieved (Essential)
  • Recommend actions to achieve value for money and efficiency (Desirable)

Managing a Quality Service

  • Work with team to set priorities, goals, objectives and timescales (Essential)
  • Make effective use of project management skills and techniques to deliver outcomes, including identifying risks and mitigating actions (Desirable)


Hours of work
Normal hours of work for the post are 36 hours per week over a 5-day period, Monday to Friday.  Flexi time is available

Annual Leave Entitlement

The annual leave allowance is 25 days per year, rising to 30 days per year after 5 years service.  There are also 12 days public and privilege leave.  Staff appointed on a part time basis will receive this pro rata.
The closing date for this post is 09:00 on 19 June 2017
The anticipated interview date is during week commencing 03 July 2017