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Vice President of Conservation and Science

San Diego Natural History Museum
San Diego, California, US
Closing date
Sep 20, 2023

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Academic / Research
Conservation science
Salary Type
Employment Type
Full time
Our Story

Founded as-and still officially named-the San Diego Society of Natural History, our organization traces its roots to an enthusiastic group of amateur naturalists who came together in 1874 to study the unique flora and fauna of our region. Now known as the San Diego Natural History Museum (and affectionately referred to as The Nat), the organization focuses on the natural history and unique biodiversity of our binational region of southern California and the Baja Peninsula. The Nat has more than eight million specimens, a $12M annual budget, 170 employees, and welcomes nearly 300,000 people to the Museum each year. In addition to our location in Balboa Park, The Nat hosts environmental education programs in the community, and we are engaged in scientific research throughout Southern California and the Baja California Peninsula.

While many people know The Nat as a flagship institution in Balboa Park, we are much bigger than our building. The world we live in is an amazing place. We want everyone to understand it better, enjoy it more, and love it as much as we do, so we'll all protect it for the future. Because we believe that nature is the biggest exhibition of all. For more information, please visit:

Leadership & Culture

As a member of the executive team, the VP of Conservation and Science will report to CEO, Judy Gradwohl, who joined the Museum in July 2016 as the organization's first woman president and CEO, following more than 30 years at the Smithsonian Institution. Judy's passion for and wide range of experience in natural history research, science communication, and museum management has taken the organization to new heights. Under her leadership, the Museum developed a new strategic plan focused on regional science, collections, education, and conservation. Culture is everything at The Nat, where we work hard to create an environment that gives team members a voice in the strategic direction of the institution. We celebrate innovation, entrepreneurial thinking and collaboration, without ever losing our sense of humor and camaraderie. The VP will join a convivial and dedicated Science department of 55 exceptionally talented staff, working collaboratively to help shape The Nat's future as we head into our 150th anniversary next year.

Benefits & Features
  • Salary: $120,000 - $135,000
  • Medical, Dental and Vision Coverage
  • Flexible Spending Accounts: Health, Dependent and Transit
  • Life Insurance for annual salary up to $150,000
  • AD&D and Long-Term Disability
  • 401K with match
  • PTO: 10 paid days off, 10 paid sick days, 15 paid holidays
  • Park employee discounts at stores, coffee carts, and restaurants
  • Free admission into all of Balboa Park's museums and the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park
  • For more information on The Nat's benefits please visit:


This role will need to work primarily on-site in Balboa Park, there is some flexibility for remote work. Because the mission region includes Mexico travel to the Baja Peninsula or mainland Mexico will be required.

Position Summary

Our leadership team took the opportunity to reimagine the VP of Conservation & Science position, significantly expanding the scope to focus on broader organizational development and scientific advancement. The new VP will focus in 5 critical areas:
  • Leadership: refine and drive the Science Department's mission, research, conservation activities, operations and business strategy. Oversee collections policy and ensure the quality and integrity of research.
  • Advocacy: serve as an ambassador, spokesperson and subject matter expert for The Nat through panels, public speaking, accompanying and leading tours and stewardship events, and through publishing research, white papers and position pieces.
  • Convene: develop and expand the Museum's ability to serve as a recognized leader in the field of science and conservation.
  • Advancement: support efforts to expand and diversify revenue through grants, contracts, and other new and innovative sources, including our extremely successful Paleo Sciences and Bio Sciences divisions.
  • Management: coach, mentor, and develop the Science Department team working in the Museum and in the field on both sides of the Border.

  • As a member of the executive team, the VP of Conservation & Science will report to the CEO and serve as head of our Conservation and Science Division They will have wide latitude to shape their role, including strategy and tactics in the areas listed above, as well as integrating science and conservation across Museum activities, and developing the overall culture across the organization. The VP will also oversee The Nat's business services division, which includes our well-established Paleo Services and Bio Services, with a combined budget of nearly $3M annually.

    What does success look like for the new VP of Conservation & Science? Looking out over a 3-5-year time horizon, we would envisage the following achievements:
  • Vision: play a key role in the creation of a Natural History Museum that remains extremely relevant now, and into the future; establish The Nat as the leading authority in all areas of conservation science and biodiversity in the San Diego-Baja California region.
  • Strategy: create a strategic plan for The Nat's Research Department, as well as individual plans for the Paleo Services, Bio Services, and other potential new businesses added to our portfolio.
  • Talent: lead a proactive succession planning strategy to prepare the department ahead of future retirements and enable us to attract and retain talented and diverse new team members.
  • Advancement: grow and diversify The Nat's consulting practices/business services, identifying other potential earned revenue opportunities to support our research agenda, including NSF funding and other grant sources.
  • Leadership: ensure that the Conservation and Science division is well-integrated into the Museum as a whole, and significantly contributes to the well-being and functioning of the Museum and its full range of staff.

  • Duties & Responsibilities
    • Develop and manage a $3.5M annual budget, comprised of grant-funded and fee-for-service revenue.
    • Serve as a conservation and scientific spokesperson, speaking to current and potential partners, the Board of Directors, elected officials, donors, media, and other Museum stakeholders.
    • Participate in the Museum's overall strategy planning, policy and advocacy activities, priority setting, and budget development.
    • Serve as an ambassador from the department to the rest of the Museum.
    • Monitor relevant scientific literature and conservation activities to ensure the Museum remains up-to-date with current trends and findings in the field.

    Background Profile
    • Demonstrated experience successfully leading a scientific research or science-based conservation organization. Ideally has experience working with natural history research and collections, and field studies.
    • Familiarity with scientific contracting or consulting work.
    • Strong leadership and business skills with an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to develop strategy, multi-task, motivate, set objectives, and manage the performance of a multi-disciplinary science and conservation staff.
    • Excellent communication skills, written and oral; ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with management, staff, and stakeholders.
    • Demonstrated success in fundraising, including experience with major donors, foundations, corporations, and government funders, and ability to identify new funding streams.
    • Committed to the Museum's mission, maintaining perspective, a professional demeanor, and a sense of humor.
    • An advanced degree in natural sciences, biological conservation or a related field. A Ph.D. is preferred, but not required.
    • Spanish-speaking is a plus.

    COVID-19 Vaccination Policy

    In compliance with the San Diego Natural History Museum's mandatory vaccination policy, the Museum requires proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. Accommodations based on medical and religious exemptions will be considered.

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