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USFS Postdoctoral Fellowship on Effects of the 2017 Hurricanes on Regional Forest Carbon

Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Oak Ridge Participation Programs (OPP) Outreach Team
San Juan, Puerto Rico
$72,000 per year plus health insurance and travel allowance
Closing date
Apr 15, 2023

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Atmospheric Sciences, Global Environmental Change, Natural Hazards
Career Level
Student / Graduate
Education Level
Job Type
Relocation Cost
Sector Type

*Applications will be reviewed on a rolling-basis.

USFS Office/Lab and Location: A research opportunity is currently available with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), International Institute of Tropical Forestry located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

At the heart of the U.S. Forest Service's mission is their purpose. Everything they do is intended to help sustain forests and grasslands for present and future generations. Why? Because their stewardship work supports nature in sustaining life. This is the purpose that drives the agency’s mission and motivates their work across the agency. It’s been there from the agency’s very beginning, and it still drives them. To advance the mission and serve their purpose, the U.S. Forest Service balances the short and long-term needs of people and nature by: working in collaboration with communities and our partners; providing access to resources and experiences that promote economic, ecological, and social vitality; connecting people to the land and one another; and delivering world-class science, technology and land management.

The IITF mission is to develop and disseminate scientifically based knowledge that contributes to the conservation of forests, wildlife, and watersheds of the American tropics in the context of environmental change. Current research areas include disturbance ecology, climate change, forest ecosystem services, tropical urban systems as social-ecological-technological systems, and forest policy and governance.

Research ProjectThe large-scale effects of climate change, past land use and species introductions on tropical forests are not well known. Research at IITF has been combining forest inventory data from across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with geospatial data to better understand and characterize change in tropical forest ecosystems across this region. The goal of this research is to test hypotheses about tropical forest change from extreme climate events, considering forest carbon storage, tree species composition and disturbance history.

The ORISE postdoctoral fellow will conduct research with forest inventory data from the USDA Forest Service Caribbean Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (Caribbean FIA), geospatial data and statistical analysis to estimate large-scale forest changes due to climate events and later succession. The Caribbean FIA is jointly conducted by the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF). It surveys forests across Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to understand and monitor forest species composition, structure and demography. Geospatial data will include time series of climate maps and remote sensing products.

Learning ObjectivesThe participant will have the opportunity to improve their research skills in analyzing multiple complimentary datasets including geospatial data, and in advanced but established statistical methods, to estimate the effects of hurricanes on forests at regional scales. Other potential areas of development include opportunities to further develop their experience utilizing remote sensing and other geospatial data products like climate maps, with developing and testing hypotheses about vegetation change, with databases and information retrieval, and with writing for peer-reviewed publications. Additional learning will be in tropical forest ecology, Caribbean forests, estimating forest carbon storage and utilizing forest inventory data from the Caribbean FIA. The participant will also be able to further develop their skills presenting research at professional conferences or other venues. Finally, if desired, the candidate will have opportunities to conduct field research and learn related skills.

Collaborators: Collaborators will include scientists from SRS and potentially additional collaborators from Colorado State University and the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. The ORISE participant will be mentored by FS scientists from the International Institute of Tropical Forestry with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including tropical forest ecology, landscape ecology, remote sensing, forest inventory and Caribbean forest ecology. The participant will also have the opportunity to participate with collaborators with expertise in biogeochemistry, several types of statistical modeling and other fields. 

MentorThe mentor(s) for this opportunity are Dr. Eileen Helmer ( and Dr. Tamara Heartsill-Scalley. If you have questions about the nature of the research, please contact the mentor.

Anticipated Appointment Start Date: June 15, 2023; start date is flexible (earlier or later).

Appointment LengthThe appointment will initially be for one year but may be extended upon recommendation of USFS and is contingent on the availability of funds.

Level of ParticipationThe appointment is full-time.

Participant StipendThe participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience. The current stipend provided for this twelve-month opportunity is $72,000, plus a $6,547 health insurance allowance and a travel allowance of $3,000 for travel to Fort Collins, CO and for conference travel.

Citizenship RequirementsThis opportunity is available to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), and foreign nationals. Non-U.S. citizen applicants should refer to the Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens Details page of the program website for information about the valid immigration statuses that are acceptable for program participation.

ORISE InformationThis program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and USFS. Participants do not become employees of USDA, USFS, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits. Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. Health insurance can be obtained through ORISE.

Questions: Please visit our Program Website. After reading, if you have additional questions about the application process please email and include the reference code for this opportunity.


The qualified candidate should have received a doctoral degree in one of the relevant fields (e.g., Ecology, Geography, Forestry, or Climatology), or be currently pursuing a doctoral degree with completion before June 30, 2023. Degree must have been received within the past five years.

Candidates who have experience with and knowledge of remote sensing are encouraged to apply.

Preferred Skills:

  • Strong analytical skills and demonstrated experience analyzing complex datasets with the statistical program R.
  • Experience working with geospatial data including remote sensing products
  • Knowledge of forest ecology, ecosystem ecology including carbon dynamics, remote sensing, or forest inventory and monitoring
  • Experience developing novel research ideas, questions, and approaches.
  • Capacity to work independently and critically evaluate research methods and results.
  • Strong writing skills and demonstrated experience lead-authoring peer-reviewed publications.
  • Ability to communicate in an effective manner with research team members and other scientists and to give scientific presentations.

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