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Cooley Postdoctoral Science Fellow

Environmental Defense Fund
United States
68,250 - 68,250 USD
Closing date
Jan 1, 2023

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Put your passion and skills to work for the planet. Climate change is the most urgent issue of our time, and we need people like you to help us build a vital Earth — for everyone.

We’re Environmental Defense Fund, a fast-paced nonprofit with a growing staff of more than 850 people in nearly 30 countries. We deliver game-changing solutions that cut climate pollution and strengthen people’s ability to thrive despite the effects climate change is already having. We work wherever we can have the most impact, from local communities to top companies to governments worldwide, and even in space.

Our culture, values and commitment to diversity make EDF an exciting and meaningful place to work. Every job here makes a difference. Won’t you join us?

Program Overview

The Office of Chief Scientist (OCS) is the nexus of science at EDF, ensuring that the science that is the backbone for EDF policy positions is based on the best available information. To be most effective in this role OCS provides programmatic support for all scientists at EDF and fosters relationships with scientists outside the organization. The OCS team works on projects across all EDF programs, translating basic and applied research in the natural and social sciences into actionable ideas for colleagues who are designing programs and projects. The Fellow will work within OCS and report to a Senior Climate Scientist.

Environmental Defense Fund is seeking a Postdoctoral Science Fellow to conduct research on biosphere-climate feedbacks to the carbon cycle and implications of those feedbacks. The 2-year fellowship can begin immediately. The selected candidate will belong to a cohort of EDF post-docs that receive professional development training through mentoring and workshops, with an emphasis on sustainability leadership. The goal of EDF’s fellowship program is to provide high-quality experiences that form the foundation for individuals who seek an environmental career. This position is made possible by the EDF Founders’ Fund honoring the original founders of EDF, including Art Cooley

Overall Function

The Cooley Postdoctoral Science Fellow will conduct research on the carbon cycle implications of climate feedbacks on the biosphere. Increasingly we are seeing carbon cycle changes related to increasing wildfires, permafrost thaw, changing biogeochemistry of tropical wetlands, albedo changes, and other shifts across diverse biomes. This destabilization of ecological relationships may undermine emissions planning, can confuse projections of how the biosphere will respond, adds risk to proactive planning for adaptation and change, and will influence how the biosphere figures into climate change mitigation and adaptation planning. The Fellow will help increase EDF’s organizational understanding of how these changing processes, feedbacks, and uncertainties impact net zero emission targets needed to achieve Paris Agreement goals as well as options for mitigating these carbon cycle impacts.

The Fellow should consider our understandings of the biosphere-climate system (specifically emerging climate feedbacks and interactions) and how those play out in terms of 1) the global carbon context – scale of impact to GHG mitigation and net zero planning; and 2) local action – are there effective options for affecting those feedbacks? For example, work may focus on permafrost thaw rates and local options for mitigation, secondary/legacy effects of methane reductions, identifying areas at risk for major/novel fires and subsequent potential effective actions, or quantifying the scale of emerging precipitation – biosphere relationships in the tropics. The specific questions and goals will be co-generated by the Fellow and the OCS team of scientists, taking into account the Fellow’s skillset and interest, and are not necessarily constrained to any particular system, geographic location, or scale.

This work will result in original publishable research, “in-house” analyses for use by other EDF staff, and other communications aimed at policy makers, journalists, and the public at large.

Key Responsibilities

Tasks will include but are not limited to:

  • Conduct research on how altered climate creates and/or drives processes that feed back into climate change processes themselves, subsequent impacts on the overall system, and potential actions to influence those feedbacks. Research will be forward looking, anticipating emerging challenges. The specific research question will be based on the Fellow’s expertise and EDF-identified priorities.
  • Quantify the implications of scenarios reflecting such changes to the carbon cycle on the net zero pathways needed to meet Paris Agreement targets.
  • Lead and participate in the preparation of manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals and, where appropriate, reports/fact sheets/blog posts for general audiences on the topic of focus.
  • Become familiar with and keep up-to-date on the relevant scientific literature and policy contexts and synthesize and disseminate that information for EDF scientists and specialists in environmental policy and law. The Fellow is also encouraged to pursue projects and collaborations in their own areas of interest. 
  • Represent EDF in external meetings with a high degree of professionalism.
  • Participate in advancing EDF Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals in which people from all backgrounds and experiences feel connected, included, and empowered to address the environmental and organizational challenges in alignment with EDF values.
  • This position may require work-related travel.


  • A recent Ph.D. in Ecosystem Ecology, Earth System Science, Biogeochemistry, or a relevant specialty in the natural sciences, engineering, or environmental studies suitable to examine global carbon cycle perturbations.
  • Strong quantitative skills (statistical analysis and modeling) with proficiency in one or more of the following required: statistical software R, Python, SQL databases (e.g. PostgreSQL, Google BigQuery) and SQL scripting, JavaScript programming.
  • Spatial data analysis experience and skills using R or Python scripting (e.g. arcpy or open source equivalent), ArcPro/QGIS, Google Earth Engine, or similar are valuable, but not required.
  • A track record of relevant research including peer-reviewed publications and presentations at scientific conferences.
  • Demonstrated excellence in rigorous scientific analyses and in oral and written communication of scientific concepts to general audiences.
  • Intellectual agility and comfort working in an inter-disciplinary setting and learning new skills (on-the-job training will be provided to familiarize the successful candidate with media, policy skills, and issues).
  • Ability to work independently, using independent judgment to plan, prioritize, and organize a diverse workload in a fast-paced environment.
  • An interest and commitment to solving environmental problems through collaborative projects based on rigorous science and solutions-focused advocacy.
  • Demonstrate self-awareness, cultural competency and inclusivity, and ability to work with colleagues and stakeholders across diverse cultures and backgrounds.


Flexible, in office or U.S. remote. Potential office locations are Austin, Boulder, New York, Raleigh, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.


This is a 2-year Fellowship with an anticipated start date by May 2023.

Application Materials

Interested applicants should attach their CV and cover letter with their EDF application. The cover letter (<1000 word) should include a description of a potential/proposed avenue for investigation into emerging feedbacks and biosphere-climate interactions that meet the broad goals above in a way that exploits the skills and goals for growth during the fellowship. Please discuss the potential topic in terms of its system, where the feedbacks are emerging and changing with climate change, and in terms of methods to address the “Overall Function” goals above.

Hiring Range

We offer a strong total rewards package encompassing competitive salary, robust benefits, and professional development opportunities consistent with a modern global organization.

The pay range for this role is 68,250 - 68,250 USD which takes into account factors such as candidate experience, skills, training, internal team equity and local norms.

Environmental Defense Fund is an equal opportunity employer where an applicant's qualifications are considered without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other basis prohibited by law.


With world attention focused on both the environment and the economy, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is where policymakers and business leaders turn for win-win solutions. This leading green group, with programs from Boston to Beijing, has tripled in size over the past decade by focusing on strong science, uncommon partnerships and market-based approaches. You can be part of a vibrant workplace that welcomes diverse perspectives, talents and contributions, where innovation and a focus on results are a way of life.

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