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Principal Soil Scientist (SF Bay or Remote)

Yard Stick, PBC
Oakland, California, US
Closing date
Aug 11, 2022

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Academic / Research
Conservation science
Climate Change
Salary Type
Employment Type
Full time
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Yard Stick is looking for a Principal Soil Scientist to help us fight climate change with soil. This role is Yard Stick's first full-time, in-house scientist and an ideal candidate will lead the company's experimental roadmap, publication strategy, and will be the organization's primary coordinator of outside scientific collaborations. We are a small company with big ambitions, and therefore we need someone exceptionally entrepreneurial to help us build a mission-driven company alongside Yard Stick's co-founding team.

Yard Stick's mission is clear: We must replace lab analysis of soil carbon with in situ spectroscopy if carbon removal via soils is to have meaningful climate impact. Beyond markets, of course, improved quality of measurement will also increase our ability to understand the nature of changing soil carbon stocks around the world. Our Principal Soil Scientist will help develop and communicate the scientific basis for Yard Stick's in-situ soil carbon measurement. In turn, this will enable soil carbon removal at gigaton/year impact across the globe.

This role will report to the CEO and can be based anywhere in US time zones with a priority for those in the SF Bay Area. It will include modest but fulfilling travel (including potential weeks-long trips to our lab in Oakland, CA for folks not based in the SF Bay Area) and market-rate salary and equity. We roughly expect this role to be 10% field work and 20% bench work, with the balance spent on planning, administration, data analysis, and reporting.

This is a dream job for an entrepreneurial, creative, adaptive scientist who wants to apply their expertise in a rapidly-growing startup with strong fundamentals and literal planetary-scale impact. This is a nightmare job for someone who has to be told what to do and wants to ‘work in industry.‘

We'd like to hire this person immediately.

About Yard Stick PBC
Yard Stick is a remote-first, seed-stage company, with founders based in Boston, Oakland, and Chicago. We are on a mission to reverse climate change with agriculture. Scientists and farmers alike know that climate-friendly agricultural practices have the potential to remove atmospheric CO2 at gigaton/year scale. When these practices are adopted, more carbon is stored in soils, improving soil health and fighting climate change. But significant measurement challenges have held soil carbon efforts back - until now.

By reducing the cost of soil carbon measurement by 90%+, Yard Stick will dramatically expand the opportunities for evidence-based regenerative practices to simultaneously improve ecosystem health, increase farmer income, and combat climate change.

Current soil carbon measurement technologies are slow, expensive, and cumbersome, relying on conventional soil cores and labs to quantify carbon stocks. In contrast, Yard Stick is fast and cheap - without sacrificing accuracy. Alongside our scientific collaborators, we were awarded a $3.6M grant from the DOE ARPA-E Smartfarm program in Fall 2020. For more background, check out some recent coverage in TechCrunch or Treehugger.

We‘ve also raised money from top climate VCs, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures (Bill Gates‘ climate fund), Lowercarbon Capital (Chris and Crystal Sacca‘s climate fund), MCJ Collective, and others. This financing isn't announced, because that can feel a bit cart before the horse, but we‘re happy to share more detail about our fundraising when we chat.

We offer competitive salary, equity for permanent roles, health insurance, a 401k, and home-office reimbursements. In terms of flexible schedules, we have a number of founders and other team members with young families and have a strong track record of creative, flexible approaches to hours and communication expectations which let folks feel great about their commitments both to Yard Stick and their family.

About The Role
This role will own the scientific worldview of Yard Stick. We need someone who can work cross-disciplinarily with hardware, software, field, and business teams alike to conduct the R&D required to evaluate the effectiveness of Yard Stick's offerings. This role must be as comfortable with the "brain work" of science (e.g. literature review, expert interviews, experimental design) as the "hand work" of science (e.g. soil sampling alongside our field team, scanning 100s of soil samples in our lab). Parts of the latter may be contracted to part-time team members, as necessary, whom this role would recruit.

To date, Yard Stick has relied on our Smartfarm co-PIs for scientific leadership. Specifically, our closest relationships are with Dr. Cristine Morgan and Dr. Jason Ackerson at the Soil Health Institute and Dr. Yufeng Ge at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. These three are remarkably talented collaborators who are world experts in soil spectroscopy and related topics whom we treasure… but they also have other responsibilities besides Yard Stick!

Yard Stick's Principal Soil Scientist will improve the quality of our work with these collaborators while also owning scientific responsibilities which are more appropriate for a full-time, in-house team member vs. outside advisor.

Currently, Yard Stick is focused on proof of concept of our in situ spectral probe. This Principal Soil Scientist will design experiments to validate and refine key R&D questions and publish results alongside our outside scientific collaborators. This work will happen in close collaboration with hardware and data science teams, but ultimately it is this role who will align us with best practices. Yard Stick's goal is to demonstrate the carbon and bulk density estimation capabilities of our spectral probe via publication-quality research; it's this research which this role will focus on.

To thrive in this role, you should be excited by the prospect of reporting directly to the CEO to ensure all actions of the company are informed by the best available science.

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Yard Stick's impact goals go well beyond climate science (although our #1 value is Climate Impact). Why? Our company operates primarily in the US agricultural sector, which is predicated on centuries of mass land theft and disenfranchisement of Native and Black people. This harm continues today. If we're going to work in this sector, we need to actively work to make it better.

Consistent with our core value of "Pursue Justice," we speak up about these issues, and we support emerging solutions and relevant policy efforts such as H.R.40 and S.300. We also publicly highlight the risk of further racial discrimination in emerging agricultural legislation like the Growing Climate Solutions Act.

Regarding hiring and culture, we work to create a work environment where everyone feels confident sharing their ideas, problem-solving happens openly and collaboratively, and mistake-making is welcomed. We also standardize our interview process and questions to reduce "likeability" bias, benchmark salaries against industry databases to reduce negotiation, and utilize tools like the Gender Decoder (this one is feminine-coded, fwiw). Climate change is arguably the most complex challenge ever faced by humanity - we need all of humanity activated to fight back, and that motivates us to build a diverse team.
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