Scientist, Earth Sciences

Job Details

The USRA Science and Technology Institute (STI) seeks a Scientist to conduct Earth Science research using numerical models and geophysical satellite observations in such fields as hydrologic streamflow modeling, data assimilation, machine learning, and data processing.  

The scientist will use data from NASA and other research and operational satellites on a range of potential projects spanning hydrologic modeling to satellite and meteorological analysis including: (1) improving hydrological forecasts in the WRF-Hydro streamflow model though satellite data assimilation, (2) development of machine learning-based tools to estimate hydrological parameters from satellite observations (e.g., SWOT); (3) developing and refining satellite imagery products such as multispectral composites, and/or (4) feature detection (e.g., dust, fog, smoke) in satellite imagery through machine learning techniques. The preferred candidate should be able to express some expertise in more than one of these areas and may be expected to support development in any of the activities listed above. 

The scientist will develop algorithms, techniques, or approaches, related to these projects and test, evaluate, and validate results through standard approaches. The scientist will support the Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) center and participate in proposals for new research funding, presenting results at conferences, and publishing manuscripts. SPoRT is a NASA project to transition unique observations and research capabilities to the operational weather community to improve short-term forecasts on a regional scale.

A significant portion of these applications will deal with scientific data in a geographic context, stored in a variety of data formats. Prior experience working with satellite data, using Linux, GitHub, Python, and formats such as NetCDF, HDF5, and GRIB are strongly desired. Ability to configure numerical models and/or develop machine learning approaches is important, as well as willingness and ability to keep up with developments in these areas. The results of these projects may be evaluated by end users and transitioned to operations, having the potential to improve forecasts of weather and hydrologic events.

Essential Duties/Responsibilities:  

Major Duties: 

  • Conduct hydrologic modeling and data assimilation research using satellite and other datasets.
  • Develop and refine satellite imagery products through algorithms, techniques or approaches that improve meteorological analysis
  • Develop machine learning approaches related to feature detection in satellite imagery
  • Support SPoRT project with data processing and analysis.
  • Report results in peer-reviewed journals and science conferences.
  • Collaborate with other scientists to develop new proposals in areas of technical expertise.

Occasional Duties: 

  • Perform other duties as assigned.

Required Qualifications:


  • Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Meteorology, Atmospheric Science, Earth Science, Environmental Public Health, or a closely related discipline.                       


  • 1-3 years of post-graduate experience preferred
  • Experience in the following is strongly desired:
    • configuring, running, and analyzing output from numerical prediction models such as numerical weather prediction, land surface, and/or hydrological forecast models.
    • Use of programming and statistical tools (e.g. Python, ScikitLearn) to perform numerical model and/or machine learning model evaluation and validation
    • Generation of imagery, time series, maps, and other graphical output using Python  or similar programming language. 
    • Experience processing, interpreting, and analyzing satellite imagery 
    • Use of machine learning techniques with satellite and/or model datasets and working with large datasets
    • Participating in science workshops and conferences.
    • Publishing results in the scientific literature.
    • Writing and contributing to funding proposals.

Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:   

    • Ability to perform satellite and geophysical data processing, analysis, and visualization
    • Ability to design and conduct modeling and/or machine learning experiments.
    • Understanding of remote sensing theory and satellite data capabilities.
    • Excellent verbal and written communications skills.
    • Understanding of hydrologic and/or meteorological principles
    • Willingness to work closely with others in a team environment.
    • Discipline and initiative.


  • Communication
  • Technologically Competent
  • Desire to keep learning
  • Organized
  • Reliable
  • Punctual
  • Flexible
  • Ethical
  • Patient
  • Focused
  • Courteous
  • Professional


  • Ability to work in a Linux computing environment.
  • Ability to work with and edit computer scripts and use collaboration tools such as GitHub.
  • Proficiency in Fortran, Python, or similar programming languages.

Working Conditions:  

This job operates in a professional office environment.  This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, phones, photocopiers, etc.  Computer keyboard use for large time spans each day will be a significant part of this position. This is largely a sedentary role.  However, the employee may need to lift and/or move up to 25 pounds.


1-3 trips per year, domestic and/or international.

Applicants should apply to the posting at USRA Careers and include a letter of interest, resume, or curriculum vita. Additional information on USRA can be found at

USRA is an Equal Opportunity Employer: Minorities / Females / Protected Veterans / Disabled / Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity.


USRA is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology. USRA works across disciplines including biomedicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations. USRA engages the creativity and authoritative expertise of the research community to develop and deliver sophisticated, forward-looking solutions to Federal agencies and other customers - on schedule and within budget. Applicants should apply to the posting at and must include a letter of interest, a Curriculum Vita with list of relevant publications, a brief (maximum three pages) 5-year research plan, and a list of three references. Requested materials must be received by August 1, 2014. Additional information on current research and facilities at the LPI can be found on our website at The Universities Space Research Association is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

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