Research Physical Scientist and/or Research Geographer

Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
GS-12 Salary $74,596 - $96,978; GS-13 Salary $88,704 - $115,313
Jun 03, 2019
Jun 30, 2019
Education Level
Job Type
Relocation Cost
No Relocation
Sector Type

This position resides at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center located near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. EROS’s mission is “to contribute to the understanding of a changing Earth,” and with respect to its science goals and objectives, to advance land remote sensing-based research and applications that address natural and human-induced changes to the landscape and their consequences on environmental and societal health and well-being. As part of the USGS Climate and Land Use Change Mission Area, the EROS science program focuses on national to global land change issues. The specific goals of the EROS science and applications branch include:

  1. Improving land change monitoring through remote sensing research.
  2. Understanding the temporal and geographic dimensions of land change.
  3. Improving the understanding of the connections between climate and land change and their combined impacts on human and natural systems.

This position will involve conducting land change science research as part of the Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) initiative. LCMAP is a recent USGS effort that centers on developing operational, ongoing and timely capabilities for generating and analyzing moderate resolution land cover and land use data derived from Landsat for the United States. LCMAP includes several key components, including generating high temporal frequency (e.g., annual or better) land cover information and using this information to assess nationwide rates, causes and consequences US change. The USGS has the requirement for an individual with expertise in moderate resolution remote sensing and land cover/land use analysis, and who has a strong background in research and publication, to work on LCMAP.  The selected candidate will be expected to conduct new and innovative research using Landsat time series data and LCMAP-derived land cover products, with the objectives of (1) developing better land cover data sets, (2) improving our understanding of land change processes, and (3) applying those data sets and knowledge for societal benefit.   The selected individual will be expected to work as part of an already established LCMAP team. 

It is important that the research be relevant to a broad set of users within the applications community, and that it is consistent with the development of an operational framework leading towards improved and ongoing national land cover and land use assessment capabilities. While it is expected that the incumbent work independently, it is also expected that the individual work well within a team environment, and that the research is compatible with other ongoing activities within the project.  The individual will need to have the flexibility to adapt to everchanging technological advances and project priorities.  The incumbent will serve as an expert and consultant to top level managers to USGS and other government organizations. The research conducted via this project will be used by scientists, researchers, and many groups nationwide to address a wide-range of societally relevant technical and scientific challenges.

The researcher is administratively supervised by a Science Team Supervisor and works primarily on projects and tasks addressing research and application goals, objectives, and priorities defined by the LCMAP Principal Investigator in close collaboration with the rest of the LCMAP team.

Professional Standing/Research Capability: The incumbent is a recognized research leader capable of conceiving, formulating, conducting, and leading research relevant to monitoring land surface change related to Earth system processes such as anthropogenic changes, climate change, phenology, drought, invasive species and other factors.

Knowledge/Skill/Experience: The work requires an advanced professional knowledge of moderate-scale remote sensing, with background in geography, ecology, climatology, hydrology or similar fields with a focus on environmental monitoring, modeling, assessments, and/or forecasting to address scientific questions of high societal relevance.  Publications and project experience will be important in demonstrating experience.

The work requires a strong background in image analysis, and it will be important that the incumbent has expertise in one or more of the following: automated processing systems for characterizing and assessing land use and land cover change, spatial statistics and trend analysis, integration of multiple sources of information including climate data for assessing consequences of change, algorithm development, scenario modeling and forecasting, and vegetation condition assessment and monitoring.  

The position also requires knowledge of multispectral data processing algorithms to derive biophysical parameters, experience conducting research into characterizing and quantifying measurement uncertainties, understanding of validation approaches, and training and/or experience in the use of remotely sensed data for scientific research or applications. Knowledge of the Landsat series of sensors including MSS, TM, ETM+, and OLI will be especially important, and experience with other systems (e.g., Sentinel, VIIRS, MODIS) will be considered a plus.

This position requires demonstrated, exceptional communication and interpersonal skills to conduct regular engagement with the Landsat data user community (government, commercial, international) to solicit their needs for data, information products, and services and to communicate the status of mission planning and operations activities and to represent the mission science activities orally and in written documents to senior government officials and decision makers, foreign government leaders, the US and foreign press corps, commercial industry, and world scientific leaders.  The position requires the ability to negotiate effectively in areas of requirements definition, technology development, policy development, financial responsibility, and service levels to balance a wide-range of science user requirements, agency policies, budget constraints, and rules and regulations in the achievement of the mission.

Demonstrated research attainments or ability:  The researcher should have demonstrated leadership ability by making significant contributions to the professional field and also by leading research teams or leading in the formulation of productive research ideas. 


The incumbent is expected to:

  1. Conduct original land cover and land use monitoring research that is consistent with USGS missions and goals;
  2. Author publications, peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, scientific research proposals, and/or other products which have a significant impact on the scientific community;
  3. Communicate the LCMAP project direction and status to the Earth Science and remote sensing communities through professional mediums such as: journal articles, research symposia, society meeting, press releases, and newsletters.
  4. Present results of research at scientific meetings, professional societies, interagency meetings, and before the general public;
  5. Represent USGS interests on interagency and interdisciplinary science panels, teams and workshops; 
  6. Critically review manuscripts and proposals of other scientists in the incumbent’s areas of specialized knowledge;
  7. Serve on professional and technical committees with other government and non-government scientists; and  
  8. Address information needs of DOI and other federal and state agencies. The researcher is sought out for consultation by scientists and managers within the USGS and in other outside organizations as a recognized leader in areas of specialized knowledge.

The U.S. Geological survey has determined that the duties of this position are suitable for telework and the selectee may be allowed to telework with supervisor approval.