Senior Director (Science of Natural Climate Solutions)

Conservation International (CI)

Arlington, VA, United States 🇺🇸


Avoiding dangerous climate change requires transformative actions across all sectors of our society and economy, including rapid energy transition, technological innovation, and unprecedented investment in natural climate solutions, all pursued urgently, globally, and in parallel. Natural climate solutions (NCS) include conservation, restoration and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage or avoid emissions across natural and semi-natural land-uses (with actions ranging from reforestation to wetland conservation and climate-smart agriculture). Such solutions offer >11 Gt CO2e/yr in cost-effective mitigation potential globally, that can be achieved without harmful impacts to food security, fiber security, or biodiversity. However, realizing the massive potential of NCS will require breakthroughs to align many sectors of society toward meeting this collective challenge and opportunity, requiring co-design of solutions pathways and the science needed to inform them. Conservation International seeks an exceptional scientist to design, implement and coordinate a transformative research agenda to inform key NCS targets and their pathways for implementation.

The Sr. Director – Science of Natural Climate Solutions, will lead the strategic development of NCS science across the institution, working closely with a network of scientists and practitioners across CI Divisions and in collaboration with core external partners. S/he will play a key and highly visible role in leading the delivery of high-impact outputs and outcomes relating to the science of NCS, developing innovative research projects and designing funding proposals that will help deliver on CI’s climate goals. Core areas of focus will include research to define critical NCS targets – for example, characterizing high-carbon ‘irreplaceable’ ecosystems and pathways for their conservation; identifying transformative means for reducing deforestation and degradation, including and in addition to REDD+; spatially defining restoration and reforestation opportunities, barriers and trade-offs; cost-benefit of various NCS pathways; and identification of the safeguards necessary to secure biodiversity, food and fiber, while enabling NCS to meet their potential at national and global scales.

Hence, s/he will have both a broad and deep understanding of the core issues relating to climate change in general and climate mitigation in particular. Deep technical knowledge will be complemented by a robust understanding of the global and national policy contexts into which NCS must integrate and evolve, together with broader strategic and project/team management skillsets. S/he will also play a critical role internally, contributing to the institutional Climate Strategy and working closely with the Climate Team, driving collaboration across Divisions and advising and mentoring key staff, as well as externally, building and leveraging strategic alliances with NGOs, multi-laterals and businesses.

Working with a high degree of independence this is an exceptional opportunity for a creative, determined individual to lead research that will directly contribute to CI’s and partner organizations on-the-ground actions to mitigate climate change through leveraging nature.


  • Provide strategic vision for, and intellectual leadership of, CI’s science on natural climate solutions (NCS).
  • Design, lead and support innovative, highly visible research on key targets for NCS and pathways for their implementation, taking full advantage of recent innovations in, and availability of, big data and associated technologies.
  • Day-to-day management of a team of scientists (5+) based in CI’s Moore Center for Science (MCS).
  • Champion engagement and coordination on NCS across a broad network of scientists and practitioners across CI Divisions, particularly capitalizing on expertise in the Field Divisions.
  • Build a network of external organizations and individuals (academics, NGOs, private sector actors), including identifying novel partnerships, to help assemble a broad coalition for driving transformational change in the global uptake of NCS.
  • Advance and influence stakeholder understanding and engagement through leading the development of high-impact peer-review publications and thought-pieces.
  • Represent CI at key scientific congresses, policy fora and scientific expert groups related to NCS.
  • Proactively identify fundraising opportunities and work with CI development staff to leverage existing, and explore new, sources of financial support.
  • Provide support to senior leadership of MCS and the institution at large, in strategic planning, partner engagement and program priorities around NCS.


  • The position will be located in CI’s Moore Center for Science (MCS) in Arlington, VA.
  • Up to 25% travel nationally and internationally may be required.



  • PhD in a relevant environmental, climate or earth system science.
  • Demonstrated (8+ years) experience conducting research and/or practice on the efficacy and implementation of nature-based climate mitigation actions (e.g. REDD+, Blue Carbon, restoration/reforestation)
  • Excellent quantitative analytical skills working with and analyzing geospatial data-sets. Experience working with remote-sensing data an advantage.
  • Robust understanding of the national and international policy landscapes relating to NCS (e.g. Paris Agreement, Nationally Determined Contributions, Bonn Challenge, etc).
  • Team management experience, leading and mentoring a cross-disciplinary team of experts to achieve innovative and far-reaching goals.
  • Demonstrated experience securing funds from public and private sources for research and implementation of NCS/climate change mitigation programs and projects.
  • Demonstrated ability to think at the system-level, recognizing that climate mitigation is multi-sectoral challenge, and 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.
  • Excellent communication skills and ability to engage audiences across disparate fields of research and policy.
  • Highly organized and strong attention to detail.


  • Experience with conservation and development in terrestrial and marine contexts.
  • Experience working in a developing country context.
  • Spanish language skills.