Associate Scientist (Nature and The Global Sustainability Agenda)

Arlington, VA, US

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. 


Nature underpins the well-being of people, the bottom-line of companies, and the sustainability of national economies. In short, nature is integral to sustainable development – as recognized by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, the role of nature in achieving sustainable societies and economies is generally either poorly articulated, inadequately integrated, or remains unquantified. Conservation International seeks an Associate Scientist to help develop and implement a strategy to bridge the gap between what we know in terms of linkages between nature and human well-being and what we do when it comes to implementing sustainable development projects on the ground.

At the global level, the position will build on nascent research developing a conceptual framework for defining the ‘natural capital’ component of relevant SDGs. It will test that framework using highly interdisciplinary research and modeling to quantify the role of nature in achieving a selection of Goals and/or their underlying Targets. Such an approach is essential to understand, for example, the degree to which achieving many Goals and Targets depends on natural capital, as well as the spatial distribution of ecosystems most critical for providing associated ecosystem benefits. It will also permit the exploration of inevitable trade-offs between Goals and Targets as they interact over space and time, in order to assess sustainability through 2030 and beyond. It will require innovative modeling of ecosystem services at regional-to-global scales linked to specific dimensions of human well-being enshrined in the 169 Targets of the SDGs.

The Associate Scientist will also lead/support the exploration of national case studies. Conservation International partners with governments in more than 30 countries worldwide. These governments increasingly require analyses and tools to support spatial planning, decision making, and robust policy development, in support of SDG implementation, as well as capacity building and outreach to promote bottom-up innovation. Hence, the successful candidate will work with CI’s policy division, business division, field programs, and in-country stakeholders to provide guidance on how best to manage and conserve an individual nation’s natural capital base.

Based in Conservation International’s Moore Center for Science, the successful candidate will require a highly interdisciplinary mix of skillsets and a demonstrated ability to work independently towards developing and achieving innovative objectives. The position has the potential to contribute both to ongoing global science initiatives (for example, engaging with the World in 2050 Initiative) and policy instruments (e.g. the Intergovernmental Science- Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES), as well as national-to-local scale decision-making on implementation of actions in support of sustainable development.


  • Responsible for the day-to-day management, implementation and success of the project, working closely with scientists from Conservation International’s Moore Center for Science (MCS), together with additional colleagues in CI and beyond, reporting to the Senior Director, Global Synthesis in MCS.
  • Synthesize the latest thinking from across a range of disciplines (e.g. economics, social science, technology, horizon scanning) as relevant for further developing the conceptual basis for linking nature to the various human well-being dimensions of the SDGs in space and time.
  • At the global scale, explore the use of appropriate ecosystem service data and models to link natural and modified ecosystems to human well-being, in both terrestrial and marine realms.
  • Lead/support engagement with external partners working in related fields of research, including, but not limited to, The World in 2050 Initiative.
  • In collaboration with colleagues from CI’s Policy Division and Field Division, engage with in-country stakeholders to design and implement project activities that enhance countries’ abilities to leverage nature in support of the SDGs.
  • Lead the development of peer-review publication(s) emerging from this work.  
  • Other duties as assigned by supervisor.


  • The position will be located in CI’s Moore Center for Science (MCS) in Arlington, VA.
  • Travel for periods of up to 2 weeks may be required.



  • PhD in a relevant social, earth system, or environmental science.
  • Training or experience in one or more of the following disciplines: sustainability science, ecosystem services, earth system science, systems theory.
  • Excellent quantitative skills working with and analyzing large data sets and geospatial data.
  • Demonstrated ability to think at the system-level, using lateral thinking to solve complex problems.
  • Highly resourceful and able to work both independently and as part of a broader team of multidisciplinary experts, as necessary.
  • A willingness and aptitude to engage across cultures and to adapt rapidly to changing circumstances on the ground.
  • Excellent communication skills and ability to engage audiences across disparate fields of research and policy.
  • Highly organized and strong attention to detail.


  • 1-3 years of relevant post-doctoral or professional experience.
  • Experience with conservation and development in terrestrial and marine contexts.
  • Experience working in a developing country context.
  • Spanish language skills.

To apply please submit your resume and cover letter.

Conservation International is an Affirmative Action/ Equal Opportunity Employer of minorities, females, protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities.  It is the policy of CI to afford equal employment opportunity to all employees and applicants for employment. CI offers reasonable accommodation in the employment process for individuals with disabilities.  If you need assistance in the application or hiring process to accommodate a disability, you may request an accommodation at any time.  If you require an application accommodation due to a disability, please e-mail your request to [email protected] and include “accommodation” in the subject line.