Post-doctoral Fellow, Open Ocean Carbon Storage

3 days left

Environmental Defense Fund
Various, US
Apr 28, 2021
May 11, 2021
Climate Change
Employment Type
Salary Type
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 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 our Core Values of Respect, Results, Innovation, Optimism, and Integrity, and support our Commitment to Diversity.

Solving the climate crisis requires a suite of strategies, including efforts to increase carbon stocks within natural systems like forests, soil and oceans while reducing net greenhouse gas emissions from these systems. The idea of large potential increases in carbon stocks within the biosphere has led to bold proposals with varying levels of science-based understanding of the realizable scale, efficacy or potential tradeoffs involved. The situation risks under-delivering on the climate benefits possible by drawing attention and investment to efforts with limited or even damaging impacts.

This Post-doctoral Fellow position joins a cohort of 4 other post-docs working on EDF's Nature-based Climate Solutions (NbCS) project. The overall intent of this project is to address two of the largest barriers to effective carbon credit markets: lack of clear scientific understanding and consensus on the realizable carbon storage or removal potential of the vast array of natural carbon sinks, and lack of market confidence in the integrity of carbon credits available for purchase. The NbCS team conducts research and convenes stakeholders to find agreement on the science, policy frameworks, measurement and accounting standards that underpin high-integrity credits. The project focuses on natural climate solutions where we can accelerate carbon storage most quickly because of the scale of the potential storage and the current interest in those credits. These include the management, use and protection of tropical and temperate forests, agricultural soils and oceans.

Carbon sequestration in ocean biomes represents a potentially important opportunity for mitigating climate change effects and decarbonizing the planet. In addition to 'traditional' blue carbon approaches (i.e., the protection and restoration of mangrove, seagrass and salt marsh habitats), there are reasons to believe there are major opportunities for deep sea sequestration pathways via (a) the restoration of biomass of large-bodied marine animals and (b) the sinking and burial of macroalgal carbon stores in deep sediments. Both open ocean pathways need to be critically evaluated to effectively assess the sequestration potential of open ocean systems and to characterize the benefits and risks of varying approaches. Critically, over the past 50 years, the biomass of large-bodied animals has been depleted by 80-90% globally. This has had a profound effect on the blue carbon cycle. In particular, the loss of big animals (e.g., whales, sharks, tunas, billfish) that tend to feed in deep waters and defecate in shallow waters, thereby recycling phytoplankton growth-limiting nutrients from the depths, has, through time, severely depleted the ocean's ability to absorb and sequester carbon in the depths. The potential for this 'oceanic biological pump' to sequester organic carbon may be vast. Historically constituting one of the biggest carbon sinks in the biosphere, the biological pump is the sum of numerous processes including shallow-water primary production that fuels secondary marine production of large bodied marine animals, both of which generate 'marine snow', which is the sinking of organic matter into the depths. Despite its large potential to sequester carbon, there has not been enough research to accurately measure the intricate relationships of the processes of the biological pump, or to understand the nature-based climate solutions that may be implemented in this arena to develop high-quality carbon credits. EDF Oceans seeks to better understand and quantify open ocean biogeochemical cycles and ecological relationships to scope and scale blue carbon sequestration potential in the deep sea. Through a series of expert workshops, EDF staff and partners will build scientific consensus around the processes that make up the biological pump to drive the development of new options for utilizing this blue carbon pathway to facilitate carbon dioxide removal.

Overall Function

Environmental Defense Fund seeks a recent Ph.D. recipient to research and analyze different processes within the biological pump in order to quantify the potential for open ocean carbon sequestration. The fellow will identify, collaborate with, and help to convene experts to develop an initial scientific consensus on the status of knowledge, priorities for improved scientific understanding, and to develop preliminary recommendations related to the potential benefits and risks of potential interventions. The fellow will work with members of the EDF Oceans Science Team to draft an initial strategy for EDF engagement on oceanic blue carbon and work to build partnerships and constituencies for high-quality ocean decarbonization.

Key Responsibilities

  • Analyze current knowledge of open ocean biogeochemical cycles and ecological relationships to scope and scale open ocean carbon sequestration potential;
  • Provide recommendations for EDF engagement on oceanic blue carbon;
  • Identify and coordinate workshops of scientists, economists, and social scientists to identify datasets and analyses necessary to develop the realistic magnitude of this nature-based climate solution;
  • Use analytics to integrate and synthesize the input received, focused on catalyzing data-driven science and advocacy;
  • Write papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals, and reports/fact sheets/blog posts for general audiences on the realistic versus theoretical potential of nature-based climate solutions;
  • Maintain and build ties to the academic/research communities, through outreach, presentations at workshops and conferences, informal contacts, etc.;
  • Pursue projects and collaborations in their own areas of interest;
  • Participate in EDF's professional development program for post-doctoral fellows.


  • A recent Ph.D. in oceanography, marine biology, or related science with interest in working at the interface of science and policy
  • Strong spatial analytical, statistical, and synthetic skills
  • Demonstrated record of scientific work
  • A track record of peer-reviewed publications, leadership of a research project, and presentations at scientific conferences.
  • Superior oral and written communication and networking skills
  • Familiarity with nature-based climate solutions
  • Interest in and demonstrated capacity for translating scientific theory into real-world applications and practice
  • Ability to work with and communicate effectively with researchers and non-scientists
  • Ability to work as a member of a highly collaborative team in a fast-paced environment
  • Willingness to travel


This Fellowship will preferably be based in EDF's Boston office or San Francisco office but is open to other locations and remote postings.


This position is a two-year post-doctoral fellowship.

Application Materials

Please apply to this position using a CV, a letter of interest, and any publications relevant to the above project.

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.

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