SESYNC - World Resources Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship: Natural Infrastructure for Water

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Dec 11, 2017


SESYNC - World Resources Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship: Natural Infrastructure for Water

Required Preliminary Screening Application due: December 11, 2017. Invited Full Applications due: February 1, 2018.

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) and World Resources Institute (WRI) invite applications for a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship opportunity focused on landscape management for water security. The postdoc opportunity is for August 2018 through August 2020, and is open to applicants who have completed their PhD in a relevant field no later than July 1, 2018 and no earlier than July 1, 2015. 

The Postdoctoral Fellow will co-develop a project to improve understanding of key hydrological, biophysical, social, and institutional conditions for successful natural infrastructure strategies. Determining why, where, and how to protect and restore forests and working landscapes as a natural form of water infrastructure (e.g., sediment pollution control, groundwater recharge, flood mitigation, etc.) is a major research challenge. WRI’s “Natural Infrastructure for Water Project” works with decision makers at all levels and across the globe to support policies and investment decisions that improve landscape management for water security objectives.  

The successful candidate will take advantage of the data science and synthesis expertise of SESYNC and the network of natural infrastructure experts and practitioners at WRI to address questions such as: What is the impact of forest restoration or other natural infrastructure designs on the mitigation of flood risks or on groundwater recharge? Do agroforestry and silvopastoral systems perform as natural infrastructure, and how do these land covers compare to native forest or other land covers in terms of their hydrologic impacts? What site conditions indicate the potential impacts of natural infrastructure strategies? What additional data are needed to better predict the impacts of natural infrastructure strategies?  

WRI has access to a wide range of global and local data including historical records and near-real-time updates covering key forest-water issues including rainfall, discharge, groundwater, surface water, forest change, land use, and related socio-economic factors. In addition, WRI’s site-specific projects have led to partnerships with researchers who collect data on topics such as fog capture of Brazil’s cloud forests and who use methods to approximate hydrological functions such as groundwater recharge of protected areas in Mexico. The successful candidate will work with collaborating mentor, Dr. Betsy Otto, Director of WRI’s Global Water Program and a team of WRI researchers focused on natural infrastructure topics. Depending on the specific project proposed by candidates, the fellow may invite a second mentor of their choosing to extend his or her network of collaborators. This mentor may be a researcher affiliated with any organization or institution, but should not be a mentor with whom the candidate has worked closely with before (e.g. previous advisor or close collaborator).

Research and analysis may be carried out at a global or regional scales, and/or at a site where WRI’s natural infrastructure project is conducting broader analysis. While advancing fundamental knowledge should be the primary goal of the fellowship, we encourage projects that could simultaneously result in knowledge beneficial to water sector decision making, local agencies, and stakeholders like those involved in WRI projects. 

The Postdoctoral Fellow will be based 4 days a week at SESYNC in Annapolis, MD and 1 day a week at WRI in Washington, D.C. The Fellow will join a cohort of Postdoctoral Fellows at SESYNC and will take part in the SESYNC Postdoctoral Immersion and other professional development opportunities. For questions about this research opportunity, contact Jasmine Qin ( or Suzanne Ozment ( directly; for questions about the SESYNC postdoctoral program, contact Dr. Margaret Palmer (

Application process

Preliminary Screening Application Deadline: December 11, 2017

1.Applicants should submit a single PDF that includes a C.V. and a detailed cover letter. The letter should explain in detail the qualifications that make the candidate suitable to undertake research on the topic of this fellowship and how the proposed project and an interdisciplinary fellowship will advance the candidate’s career trajectory.

2.Applicants who will not complete their PhD prior to the application due date must have the Director of their graduate program or major advisor submit a letter verifying that the applicant is on track to complete all requirements for their PhD by July 1, 2018. The letter should be uploaded by the applicant to the webform.

Proposal Co-Development with Collaborating Mentor

1.Successfully pre-screened candidates will be invited to co-develop a project proposal with the collaborating mentor, Dr. Betsy Otto. Project Proposals are due February 1, 2018.

2.Arrange to have two letters of reference sent directly from referee to no later than February 1, 2018, 5:00 PM ET.

3.Research Proposal (five pages max, including references). The proposal must include:

  • 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.
  • Description of prospective Fellow’s and Research Collaborator’s respective roles in the project and plans for maintaining communication throughout the project.

Apply for Preliminary Screening

The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer 
Minorities and Women Are Encouraged to Apply

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