Natural Resource, Environmental & Ecological Economics Postdoctoral Fellowships

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Dec 01, 2015


December 1, 2015, at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Please note: Late applications will not be accepted.


The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), located in Annapolis, Maryland, invites applications for two-year postdoctoral fellowships to begin between May 1 and October 1, 2016.

The SESYNC Postdoctoral Fellowship Program brings early-career scholars to SESYNC to:

  • undertake individual research projects,
  • participate in the Socio-Environmental Immersion Program, which immerses scholars in theory foundational to understanding socio-environmental systems, and
  • enhance their collaborative network, computational skills, and understanding of the science–policy nexus.

Fellows will undertake research projects that advance understanding of socio-environmental systems. Applicants are encouraged to review the SESYNC website for illustrations of socio-environmental systems research topics. We encourage proposed projects that are interdisciplinary, but we also welcome applications that are primarily focused on the economics of natural resources and the environment.

SESYNC emphasizes synthesis research, an approach that accelerates knowledge production by distilling or integrating existing data, ideas, theories, and methods to draw more reliable or generalizable conclusions and to reveal novel areas of study. Synthesis often involves merging large and/or heterogeneous data sets from multiple sources, researchers, or fields of inquiry, as well as critical analysis in evaluating arguments and interpreting evidence. It can employ a diverse array of theoretical and methodological approaches (e.g., statistical/mathematical, structured case studies comparison, cultural analytics, scenario studies, game theory, ethnographic studies, organizational theory, simulation/computational modeling, etc.).

A key element of successful postdoctoral fellowship applications will be the identification of specific research questions and how they will be addressed using synthesis methods. Applications should identify the sources and accessibility of existing data and the theoretical and analytical methods to be used. Prospective fellows should not propose projects that require extensive collection of new data. SESYNC offers substantial computational support and training opportunities for fellows. Therefore, successful applicants need not have experience in all of the technical aspects of their analyses.

Fellows have the opportunity to participate in a wealth of Center activities as observers or as active participants. These include synthesis teams that are analyzing novel databases and writing papers on areas as diverse as non-native pest risk and globalization, adaptive water governance, macroevolution of ecosystem services, and differing ecological vs. political time scales. Fellows will also participate in the Socio-Environmental Immersion Program. Unique among environmental postdoctoral programs, a learning component of the SESYNC Immersion Program will steep participants in theory foundational to understanding socio-environmental systems.

Co-Development of Research Project

Applicants awarded a postdoctoral fellowship will be asked to identify and work with a Collaborating Mentor, who will function as a project mentor to co-develop the research. Applicants should identify three prospective Collaborating Mentors in their application for the position. (An applicant’s recruitment of a specific mentor prior to the application is encouraged, but not required.) SESYNC must approve all potential Collaborating Mentors to ensure they understand the commitment they are making to your progress and success. Collaborating Mentors cannot be the fellow's PhD advisor, PhD mentor, current postdoc advisor (if relevant), or past collaborator or mentor.

Selection Criteria

Postdoctoral applications will be evaluated by the following criteria:

  • Explanation of how the proposed research will advance understanding of socio-environmental systems.
  • Novelty, creativity, and/or urgency of proposed activities.
  • Feasibility of producing meaningful synthetic research within a two-year time frame, including identifying and showing ability to access appropriate data and methods.
  • Applicant qualifications and experience.
  • Potential to contribute to and benefit from other research activities at the Center.
  • Explanation of interest in interdisciplinary and/or transdisciplinary research.

If invited, candidates must be available for interviews at the January 2016 American Economic Association (AEA) annual meeting or for an in-person interview at SESYNC between December 15, 2015, and January 31, 2016.

To be eligible for the fellowship, prospective fellows must have received their PhD within the past five years: no earlier than June 15, 2011, and no later than July 1, 2016. If the applicant has not received their PhD at the time they submit their application, a letter from their graduate advisor or a committee member must also be submitted during the screening process and with the final application. The letter should verify expectations for date of degree completion. Candidates who are offered a fellowship but do not complete their PhD by July 1, 2016, will have to reapply.


Appointments will be through the University of Maryland, and fellowship awardees must be based full-time at SESYNC’s facilities in Annapolis, Maryland. Depending on their research interests, fellows may have the opportunity to spend part of their time at the offices of our partner organization, Resources for the Future, located in Washington, D.C.

The SESYNC postdoctoral fellowship provides an annual stipend, full University of Maryland employee benefits, and a small annual travel allowance to attend meetings or to meet with collaborators.

Postdoctoral fellowships are awarded for a maximum of two years and include structured mentoring programs and opportunities to participate in ongoing Center activities.

Collaborating Mentors will also receive support to travel to SESYNC to work with the fellow.

Components of an Application

Include the following as a single PDF, using single spacing, 12-pt type fonts, and 1-inch margins.

Applications that do not submit the correct components will not be reviewed. Applications, as well as reference letters, must be received by SESYNC by December 1, 2015, at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

[1] Cover Sheet (1 page)

  • Descriptive title (“SESYNC Postdoc: ….”)
  • Short title (25 characters max)
  • Name and contact information
  • Date of PhD defense (If the defense has not yet occurred, applicants need a letter from their graduate advisor or committee member verifying the expected data of completion. Candidates who are not expected to complete their PhD by July 1, 2016, will be removed from competition.)
  • Project summary (250 words), appropriate for the public and to be posted on the SESYNC website
  • Keywords (up to 5 keywords different from those used in the title)
  • Potential conflicts of interest with members of the SESYNC Leadership Team (A conflict of interest will not disadvantage your application. Rather, we need this information to follow proper review protocol.)

[2] Research Proposal (5 pages max, including references)

  • Problem statement: Clear and concise statement of the project goals including specific research questions and how the project will advance understanding of socio-environmental systems
  • Methods to be used for the synthesis project

[3] Status of Synthesis Material (1 page max)

  • Type of material (datasets, models, case studies, theories, etc.)
  • Location and accessibility of material

[4] Anticipated Cyberinfrastructure Needs (1 page max)

If applicable, briefly describe any anticipated needs for cyberinfrastructure support. This information should include descriptions of data sets to be used during this project; new data sets or software/databases to be developed; high performance computing needs; required data aggregation or fusion; and visualization software needs. Applicants should review SESYNC's Cyberinfrastructure Support Information & Policies and are encouraged to contact SESYNC cyberinfrastructure staff prior to submission if the project’s needs are beyond the scope of services outlined in these documents.

[5] Interdisciplinary Goals (~1/2 page)

In a paragraph of 200 words max, describe one or two topics and/or methods outside your area of expertise about which you would like to deepen your knowledge. One of SESYNC’s strengths is its diverse interdisciplinary culture, which provides many opportunities for such growth. For example, an ecologist proposing a project on nutrient dynamics in marine reserves could learn social network theory and techniques to illuminate relationships among people using reserves.

[6] List of 3 Potential Collaborating Mentors

[7] Full CV of the Applicant

Please include names and contact information for two references.

Letters of Recommendation

Please arrange for two references to provide a letter of recommendation regarding your:

  • background,
  • ability to carry out the independent research as proposed, and
  • ability to engage in collaborative research as part of the SESYNC community.

These letters should be submitted directly by the recommender, separately from your application, via email to:

All letters of recommendation must be submitted by the application deadline of December 1, 2015, at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Only two will be included in your application file. If more than two are sent, we will include the first two received.

Application & Submission Process

Applications must be submitted as a single PDF file with all sections in the following order:

  1. Cover Sheet
  2. Research Proposal
  3. Status of Synthesis Material
  4. Anticipated Cyberinfrastructure Needs
  5. Interdisciplinary Goals
  6. List of 3 Potential Collaborating Mentors
  7. Full CV of the Applicant (including contact information for two references)

The application webform can be accessed here.

International applicants should review visa requirements before applying.


Please email SESYNC at:

The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer

Minorities and Women Are Encouraged to Apply

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