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Postdoctoral Researcher in Bird Friendly Coffee Remote Sensing

Smithsonian Institution
Front Royal, Virginia
Annual salary starting at $70,000 + benefits
Closing date
Dec 2, 2023

Postdoctoral Researcher in Bird Friendly Coffee Remote Sensing


Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Front Royal, VA


The National Zoo Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI)- Conservation Ecology Center ( is seeking a Postdoctoral Researcher starting in early 2024.

The NASA-funded position includes 2 years of support and can be extended for up to 4 years, conditional on performance. The position will advance SCBI’s remote sensing and wildlife research capacity. This multi-disciplinary project seeks to integrate multi-sensor remote sensing products (e.g., GEDI, Landsat, Sentinel) with Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (MBC)’s Bird Friendly Coffee ( data (e.g. bird diversity and coffee farm habitat structure) to explore how remote sensing-based information, including vegetation structure and cover and land use change can transform and streamline the habitat evaluation process required for Bird Friendly Coffee certification.

The awardee is expected to develop innovative research on processing large volumes of spaceborne waveform lidar data, as well as time series optical remote sensing data to create novel methods to characterize avian habitat suitability. Analysis results should be public facing through a a web or cellular interface optimized to help growers and certification inspectors  to initiate and complete the Bird Friendly certification process with remotely sensed metrics. This position is unique in that it leverages existing expertise and avian and habitat data of the MBC and Bird Friendly Coffee program. It will involve incorporating large volumes of both active and passive remote sensing data at the regional and country level. The project will begin with a regional focus on Panama, Colombia, and Peru. The geographic scope may expand in future years depending on data availability and a successful proof of concept.

In addition to the primary research responsibility, the awardee will have the options to:

  • Contribute to the evolution of the Bird Friendly coffee certification, which is considered the gold standard in biodiversity friendly coffees. Mentor student interns/fellows at SCBI. Contribute to and develop collaborative spatial ecology proposals and research projects. Engage in teaching professional master level GIS/Spatial Ecology courses at Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation.

The position will remain open until filled, with the desired start date of March-April 2024. Reviewing of the applications will start on November 10, 2023.

Awardee benefits include:

  • Annual salary starting at $70,000 Smithsonian trust employee healthcare and retirement benefit.


The successful candidate must have a Ph.D. in Physical Geography, Remote Sensing, Environmental Sciences, Computer Science, Ecology, or a related field by the start date of the position. Must be able to work independently yet collegially in a team environment.

Specifically, we look for candidates with:

  1. Extensive experience in remote sensing using active or/and optical remote sensing data, especially airborne or spaceborne waveform lidar data.
  2. Strong background with computing software and programming languages such as IDL, Python, JavaScript/Google Earth Engine, C++, R, etc. 
  3. Familiarity of large scale bird suitability modeling and habitat mapping.
  4. Excellent written and oral communication skills and organizational ability, and a demonstrated track record of peer-reviewed publications commensurate with experience.
  5. Interest in collaborating with ecologists and conservation practitioners to apply remote sensing methodologies and tools to advance conservation practices.
  6. Highly motivated and productive in producing project deliverables (e.g., remote sensing tools and peer-review publications).

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is located at the north entrance of the Shenandoah National Park, about 60 miles west of Washington, D.C., in Front Royal, VA. Migratory Bird Center under SCBI is located in the National Zoo in Washing D.C. SCBI’s mission is to advance the conservation of biological diversity. In meeting the Smithsonian Institution’s mandate, SCBI increases knowledge through investigations of threatened species, habitats, and communities and disseminates knowledge through advanced studies, professional training, and public outreach.


This position is subject to the Smithsonian’s background check policy. The awardee must be able to work in person in the NZCBI office in Front Royal VA or Washington D.C. at least 2 days a week. Regular meetings will also be held at the MBC office in Washington D.C.

The SOLAA application system will be open until the position is filled. Interested applicants should submit their cover letter (stating preferred starting time), CV, and the names and contact information of 3 references on the Smithsonian SOLAA system. To apply, you need to register on the Smithsonian SOLAA system ( and search for “Postdoctoral fellowship” under “National Zoological Park”. The program name is “Spatial Ecology Postdoctoral Fellowship”. Questions about the position can be addressed to Dr. Qiongyu Huang (HuangQ@SI.EDU).


  • The Smithsonian Institution provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation should contact the Human Resources Specialist listed.

Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis. To learn more, please review the Smithsonian’s Accommodation Procedures.

  • The Smithsonian Institution is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We believe that a workforce comprising a variety of educational, cultural, and experiential backgrounds supports and enhances our daily work life and contributes to the richness of our exhibitions and programs. For more information on the Smithsonian EEO program please see

• Conditions of Employment

  • Pass a pre-employment background investigation. Direct deposit/electronic funds transfer is required for salary payment. The position is open to all candidates eligible to work in the United States. Proof of eligibility to work in the U.S. is not required to apply.

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