Atkinson-EDF PostDoctoral Fellow, Ag Waste Treatment

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 700 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.


EDF envisions a world in which people from all backgrounds and experiences feel connected to the environmental challenges we face and are engaged in creating durable, equitable solutions. We seek talented candidates who share the Core Values that allow us to experiment courageously in our work while staying true to who we’ve been as an organization for 50 years. Are you a results oriented individual who is passionate about creating environmental solutions that make a lasting difference in the world? Do you respect diverse perspectives, talents and contributions? Do you value innovation and enjoy designing and using a wide range of problem-solving tools? Do you embrace environmental goals with a sense of optimism while taking into account real-world dynamics? If you have integrity and a strong desire to uphold a commitment to science, rigorous analysis, intellectual honesty and ethical action, then EDF is the place for you.

Program Overview

EDF-Atkinson Post-doctoral Fellows will find a unique opportunity to advance joint research efforts between the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University and EDF that are relevant to informing policy and practice, while supporting the broader policy and engagement work of EDF program staff. Post-doctoral Fellows will gain experience not only in designing research plans and conducting cutting-edge applied research to answer important questions in their respective fields, but also in how to best support advocacy and the design of effective policies.


The Postdoctoral Fellowship program is intended to infuse the research being done at EDF and the Atkinson Center with greater energy, innovation, and impact by:

  • Stimulating original cross-disciplinary research and development of impactful solutions that address the world’s most pressing environmental challenges
  • Developing and deepening collaboration between the Atkinson Center and EDF in order to speed the creation and implementation of viable sustainability solutions
  • Building a cohort of environmental scientists with the intellectual skills and experience to create effective, workable solutions to the most serious sustainability and environmental questions.

The Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) is the nexus of science at EDF, ensuring that all EDF positions are based on the best available natural and social science. OCS leads EDF’s exploration of emerging issues, pioneers new projects, provides programmatic support for all scientists at EDF and fosters relationships with scientists outside the organization. EDF has partnered with the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainable Futures on the S2EBPR project. 


The costs of managing manure, especially for dairy and swine farms, leads to practices that contribute to substantial nutrient pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. While large scale U.S. livestock farms are regulated under the Clean Water Act and must have nutrient management plans, for various reasons, environmental impact remains a major challenge for the industry. Previous approaches, such as methane digesters, have not been widely adopted largely due to not being cost effective. There is an urgent need for sustainable, low carbon, energy-efficient, and even energy-positive biological nutrient removal and recovery processes for treating agricultural wastes. Our recent biotechnology breakthrough in an innovative Side-stream Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Recovery technology (S2EBPR) is a potentially transformative and low-cost biotechnology that promises to meet this need.  It relies on recycled biomass fermentation to provide an internal carbon source for achieving chemical addition-free, simultaneous biological phosphorus removal and denitrification,  presenting a promising alternative for the treatment of livestock manures with less carbon and energy requirements and potentially less N2O emissions.


Overall Function

EDF, in partnership with the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainable Futures offers this post-doctoral fellowship for recent PhDs to develop research experience at the interface of science or economics and policy. The post-doc will also participate in the joint Atkinson Center and EDF Sustainability Leadership professional development program. 


Before we introduce S2EBPR to industry and compete for large-scale grants that would fund adoption and scale-up, cost-effectiveness must be established. The postdoctoral fellow will focus on a feasibility study and develop a framework and models to evaluate the use of S2EBPR on typical dairy and swine farms, thus playing a critical role in speeding up the adoption of this transformative technology.  The fellow will obtain the input, output, system performance and GHGs emission parameters of the S2EBPR for treating both diary and swine wastes using our previously developed mechanistic biological process model.. The fellow will perform economic and land use analysis for adoption of the technology on representative farm scenarios. 


Key Responsibilities

Tasks will include but are not limited to:

  • Work with an environmental engineer, agricultural economist and environmental scientist to conduct a S2EBPR treatment technology feasibility study for dairy and swine agricultural wastes.
  • Evaluate social, economic and environmental trade-offs for adoption of technology.
  • Publish and present results in peer-reviewed venues.



  • A Ph.D. in a relevant field.
  • Demonstrated interest in microbial ecology, nutrient removal and recovery and/or waste treatment systems.
  • Experiences and training in environmental engineering, wastewater treatment, biological processes modeling and/or economics analysis are preferred.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Record of publishing is peer-reviewed journals.
  • Must be well organized, motivated, and detail-oriented.
  • Ability to multi-task, prioritize and meet deadlines.
  • Ability to work in a team setting and have the ability to work independently when projects are due.
  • Demonstrate initiative and problem-solving skills.
  • Ability to travel within the US for up to 40% of the term of this position.


This is a remote working position based out of Ithaca, New York. The Fellow will be based at Cornell University’s Gu laboratory in Ithica, NY. However, as the intent of this Atkinson-EDF collaboration is for scientists to gain exposure to working in the research/application interface at an NGO, the fellow will also spend sufficient time with EDF staff remotely and at EDF offices.



This is a 2-year, full-time fellowship that reports to Joe Rudek, Lead Senior Scientist (EDF), April Gu (Cornell) and Jennifer Ifft (Cornell).


Application Materials


Interested applicants should attach their CV/Resume and a cover letter describing how the applicant’s background and qualifications are related to the advertised position. In your CV/Resume, please include a list of publications and a list of three references. 

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.