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Lead Economist- The Nature Conservancy

The world faces pressing global challenges, from climate change to increasing food, energy and water demands. The Nature Conservancy believes we can meet these challenges and make progress towards a future that balances the needs of people and nature through major changes in decisions about natural resource management, economic development investments, and market systems. The Conservancy seeks a scientific thought leader with a proven record of success in economics to drive a high-impact global research agenda. S/he will lead development of this exciting new field within the Conservancy, synthesizing existing data and experimentally testing interventions to achieve widespread adoption of practices that balance environmental and human well-being outcomes. Research challenges may include designing and testing economic or social incentives to drive rapid uptake of sustainable management practices, such as agricultural soil management practices for crop yield and climate mitigation outcomes, or broad scale changes in individual behaviour, such as food or energy purchasing preferences. The Lead Economist will introduce and integrate a broad understanding of non-rational, heuristic decision making to a conservation context and act as an economics advisor to key organizational strategy leaders. S/he will advance organizational understanding and use of economics principles, methods, tools and measures.  As a member of the Science Cabinet, a collaborative group of the Conservancy’s top scientists, the Lead Economist will contribute topical expertise to cross-cutting science issues and represent the organization in professional conferences, university partnerships, and high-level global events around critical conservation issues.


The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working to make a positive impact around the world in more than 35 countries, all 50 United States, and your backyard. Founded in 1951, the mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. One of our core values is our commitment to diversity. Therefore we are committed to a globally diverse and culturally competent workforce.  Visit to learn more.

The Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) is the Conservancy’s centralized research unit that drives synthesis and creation of new evidence around linkages between conservation and human well-being. Lead Scientists and other science staff in OCS drive primary research and synthesis at the leading edge of use-driven science, probing for solutions to joint global challenges for nature and people. We also cultivate and engage world-class universities in partnerships that help bring global expertise in diverse disciplines to our conservation challenges.


The Lead Economist will offer technical, strategic leadership for the Conservancy’s Office of the Chief Scientist in the areas of economics and behavior change. This expertise will be applied to create change in markets, policies, practices and governance relating to a broad range of conservation issues such as climate mitigation and adaptation, sustainable agriculture intensification, grazing lands management, renewable energy expansion, optimal landscape management, water resource management, fisheries, forest management, poverty alleviation, corporate sustainability, human health, conservation finance and impact investing, and consumer choice. S/he will drive efforts to establish TNC as a global leader in the application of economics to conservation challenges at the intersection of nature and human well-being including the global climate challenge.  S/he conducts original research, publishes findings and communicates to diverse audiences to advance the evidence base for existing and emerging conservation strategies in support of TNC organizational goals.

The Lead Economist will report to the Chief Scientist, and will be an active collaborator with the Science Cabinet in the Office of the Chief Scientist – a collaborative group that brings top level thought leadership to the organization’s strategy leaders, establishes and advances critical science issues with the external academic and practitioner communities, and takes on joint research to address pressing trans-disciplinary issues in conservation.


• Fosters risk taking and innovation to strengthen the use of economics within the organization.

• Leads project teams and/or staff in support of a major economics research initiatives or projects.        

• Places special emphasis on research and synthesis that advances the evidence base for understanding the effectiveness of major conservation strategies in improving biodiversity and human well-being and how to use economics and transdisciplinary research to investigate behavior change strategies pertinent to these outcomes.                        

• Communicates findings and best practices in high-level international forums and peer reviewed publications, and cultivates an external presence in coordination with TNC Science Communications team as an expert and leader in relevant disciplines

• Provides critical, evidence-based thought leadership, advising on and influencing the creation and execution of major strategies for priority global programs.

• Leads efforts to translate findings and best available science into regionally or sectorally appropriate guidelines, tools, and/or best practice for the organization, the broader conservation community, and other key actors and sectors

• Enlists academic economists in research on challenges of interest to the organization

• Identifies, cultivates and solicits major donors and grant opportunities in support of program activities.                                      

• Plans, organizes and directs economics project programs.                                      

• Develops work plans and project budgets.                                    

• May manage a grant or contract or write a request for proposal.     

• Travels 50% or more globally.                    

• May work in variable weather conditions at remote locations, hazardous terrain and/or under physically demanding circumstances.


• PhD degree in related scientific field (preferably behavioral economics, experimental economics, natural resource economics, development economics or ecosystem service science), plus 10 years related experience in the design, execution and communication of use-inspired economics.                                        

• Post-doctoral experience.            

• Supervisory experience, including motivating, leading, setting objectives and managing performance.               

• Established connections and/or collaborations with prominent economics research and practitioner groups and individuals

• Expert knowledge of current and evolving trends in relevant disciplines.                      

• Extensive record of premier publications in top-notch peer reviewed journals.      

• Record of ability to produce economic research that balances data and resource limitations with rigor and credibility.                           

• Experience collaborating and translating economics across traditional disciplinary or sectoral boundaries and into pragmatic conservation and/or natural resource management decisions.

• Fundraising experience (with foundations, government agencies, and individuals) for broad programs and projects.                                       

• Experience creating or functioning within university partnerships.

• Experience with networking in the scientific and management communities.

• Experience working and communicating with a wide range of people. 

• Experience with decision making with legal, financial and reputational results and consequences.


• Experience in designing interventions or incentives and implementing them with demonstrated impacts on the environment

• Familiarity with the conservation sectors’ particular challenges and opportunities.

• Experience in identifying, cultivating and soliciting major donors

• Ability to resolve large-scale, complex problems through systematic, rigorous studies. 

• Ability to propose, implement and manage short and long term programmatic goals.

• Ability to participate in the formulation of broad, strategic organizational policies.

• Ability to manage and guide projects and project teams. 

• Ability to deal effectively and diplomatically with all levels of management and staff. 

• Proven negotiation and persuasion skills. 


To apply to position 44461 visit and submit resume and cover letter as one document. Application deadline September 11, 2016.

This description is not designed to be a complete list of all duties and responsibilities required for this job.