Atkinson-EDF Post-Doctoral Fellow, Climate

With world attention on both the environment and the economy, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is where policymakers and business leaders turn for win-win solutions. By focusing on strong science, uncommon partnerships and market-based approaches, we tackle urgent threats with practical solutions. We are one of the world’s largest environmental organizations, with more than two million members and a staff of approximately 630 scientists, economists, policy experts, and other professionals around the world. We operate in 22 geographies with unique projects running across four programs. You will be part of a vibrant workplace that welcomes diverse perspectives, talents and contributions, where innovation and results are a way of life.

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Project Overview

Since 2011, Environmental Defense Fund has been working in India to slow and, ultimately, reverse the rising trend in agricultural GHG emissions that currently constitute 20% of national emissions, while aligning with the national food and water security requirements. A core component of this effort has been to fix the broken agricultural value chains in order to establish an enabling environment for innovation and farm level efficiency.  In the state of Bihar, this has been accomplished through the Dehaat (village in Hindi) model, a digital platform that provides comprehensive agricultural value chain services such as access to quality inputs, credit, extension information, and -most importantly- efficient linkages to markets to help farmers secure good prices. The Dehaat platform seeks to address constraints faced by >4 million smallholder farmers in Bihar and currently reaches 20,000 Bihar farmers, with 200,000 farmers projected by 2019.  A critical factor for realizing the potential of Bihar agriculture is the identification of management practices that improve soil quality in order to increase yields and resilience to climate shocks while reducing environmental externalities, including the intensity of net climate impacts. 

The research done by the joint EDF-Cornell Post-doctoral scientist will advance an infrastructure for assessing soil health in the context of identifying climate-smart development trajectories for staple crop production systems in Bihar.  This two year project ties in with the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future’s new Food Security Working Group, the Tata-Cornell Initiative project on soil health, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) led Soil Intelligence System investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Focused on the Indian state of Bihar, the postdoctoral scientist will be a key member of the consortium that will contribute to sustainable agricultural intensification by developing technical and intellectual capital for soil health assessment. The postdoc will use different diagnostic methods and identify promising management interventions that capitalize on advanced knowledge of soil health and help minimize climate impacts of farming.

Overall Function

This position is planned for a two year period starting in mid-2019, and the incumbent will directly report to EDF’s Senior Scientist for India program in the U.S and two Co-PIs at Cornell University. Ideal candidates will have a process-level understanding of soil science and agronomy, be adept at navigating relationships in a cross-cultural context, have strong communication skills, and a strong capacity for working within a coalition of partners.  A passion for sustainable agricultural development is also a must.

Key Responsibilities

Tasks will include but are not limited to:

  • Provide scientific leadership for the design and execution of EDF’s emerging studies for characterizing soil carbon and other soil health parameters at scale in West Champaran (Bihar, India). Field execution will be facilitated by EDF’s partner in Bihar.
  • Implement a variety of soil health assessment tools including geospatial and biogeochemical modeling, spectroscopy, and standard laboratory methods.
  • Identify key management drivers of soil health, and evaluate associations with crop yields, profitability, scaling potential, and environmental/climate co-benefits.
  • Assemble georeferenced business-as-usual and project (DeHaat) scenario database on soil fertility indicators along with corresponding farm management conditions
  • Assess soil health outcomes associated with the current DeHaat approach and revise existing recommendations according to sustainable intensification principles.
  • Publish in peer-reviewed literature.
  • Represent EDF, as appropriate, through interaction with the scientific community at large.
  • Communicate science-based insights for improving soil health management to a range of stakeholders in the research, development, and policy communities.


  • A PhD in soil science, agronomy or closely related discipline
  • Significant experience with sensors (e.g., mid-infrared spectroscopy), biogeochemical and geospatial modeling preferred.
  • Interest in expanding expertise in new areas to support policy-relevant research and science-based advocacy.
  • Demonstrated scientific expertise, including but not limited to a record of scholarly publications.
  • Ability to manage a diverse workload.
  • Strong relationship building and management skills.
  • Willingness to work with colleagues and partners of varied backgrounds and experience.
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team in a dynamic and entrepreneurial environment.
  • Willingness and ability to travel and work across different time zones.
  • Fluency in Hindi is preferable but not essential.
  • Ability to travel extensively. This position will involve around 50% of time traveling between Boulder, CO, New York, and India.


This position will be based out of EDF’s Boulder, CO office, but will be traveling extensively to Cornell University in New York and to India.


This is a 2-year, Full-Time Fellowship.


To be considered please apply by submitting your resume, cover letter, and a writing sample. For more information about the project and this position, contact Drs. K. Kritee at EDF or Harold van Es and Andrew J. McDonald at Cornell University.

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.