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Vice President for Science & Chief Scientist

National Wildlife Federation
Working from home
Closing date
Feb 29, 2024

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Conservation science
Environmental Justice
Job Level
Senior level
Salary Type
Employment Type

Job Details

Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more than six million members and supporters. The mission of the National Wildlife Federation is to unite all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in our rapidly changing world. The National Wildlife Federation believes that in order to save wildlife and ourselves, we need to ensure that everyone in America has clean air and water, safe communities, easy and equitable access to the daily benefits of nature, and protection from the ravages of climate change. These basic needs, equally necessary and urgent for all people, are foundational to bringing the conservation movement and ethos into the 21st century.

Our organization operates from offices across the country, including our headquarters in Reston, Virginia; a National Advocacy Center in Washington, D.C.; and seven Regional Centers. The Federation also works with 52 state and territory affiliates—autonomous, nonprofit organizations that take the lead in state and local conservation efforts and collaborate with the National Wildlife Federation to conduct grassroots activities on national issues.

The National Wildlife Federation is seeking a Vice President for Science & Chief Scientist to provide scientific leadership and coordination for the organization and offer scientific support to a wide array of Federation programs and teams. The Vice President for Science & Chief Scientist helps ensure that the organization stays abreast of current trends in conservation science and their implications for Federation strategies, programs, and policy positions. The position provides scientific leadership and support to conservation and education programs and works with key business units within the organization, including Communications, Philanthropy, and Marketing, to ensure the scientific integrity and accuracy of public-facing materials and messaging. The position  supervises a  Science Team and serves as convener for a science-focused community of practice consisting of staff from across the organization. The successful candidate is expected to have in-depth scientific knowledge, experience with Indigenous ecological knowledge and expertise in a field directly related to key institutional priorities—such as biodiversity conservation, fish and wildlife management, ecosystem restoration, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), or climate change adaptation—as well as broad knowledge of U.S. natural history and conservation issues. This position is a member of the Executive Leadership Team.

In this role you will:

  • Ensure that the best available science is applied to NWF programs, including the development and implementation of policy and legislative initiatives, advocacy campaigns, and on-the-ground conservation and restoration efforts.
  • Lead the national Conservation Science Team, ensuring the necessary disciplinary and regional representation, and coordinate a Federation-wide science community of practice. 
  • Oversee the organization’s science content review process, which is designed to maintain the credibility of the Federation through ensuring the accuracy and scientific integrity of externally facing materials.
  • Ensure that all science programs and practices are aligned with the core mission of protecting wildlife while being rooted in a commitment to Indigenous partnerships, equity, justice, environmental justice, and inclusion, Work with executive staff to ensure this strategic integration.
  • Advance the Federation’s work on climate-smart conservation and climate adaptation, nature-based solutions, and more broadly the incorporation of climate considerations into conservation and natural resource management.
  • Raise funds from public and private sources to support priority science and conservation initiatives; collaborate with the Philanthropy team to cultivate donors and support broader organizational fundraising efforts.
  • Engage with and develop collaborative relationships with external scientific societies, conservation organizations, and Federal, state and Tribal governmental agencies to achieve priority organizational outcomes.  
  • Serve as an expert voice in member and donor outreach and communications, and with the media. 
  • Serve as a science advisor to National Wildlife magazine, including serving on the magazine editorial advisory board and providing pre-publication science review of articles.

Qualifications we’re looking for include: 

  • Ph.D. in biological or environmental science with a focus on conservation biology, wildlife biology, zoology, ecology, botany, Indigenous land or water management, or climate change science. 
  • At least 10 years of experience working in the conservation or natural resource sector as part of non-profit, academic, or governmental institutions. 
  • Demonstrated ability to apply a multi-disciplinary approach to solving complex conservation problems.
  • Demonstrate a strong understanding of and priority for integrated approaches to conservation (e.g., one health)
  • Demonstrated prioritization of Free Prior and Informed Consent, equity, justice, Indigenous partnerships, and environmental justice and their integration with conservation science and practice
  • Ability to publish peer-reviewed articles and interpret scientific literature across disciplines for policy and advocacy.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and commitment to wildlife conservation and climate change issues; sound understanding of natural resource policy, Federal Indian Law and Policy, and legislation related to wildlife and environmental conservation.
  • Broad knowledge of U.S. species, ecosystems, and natural history. 
  • Demonstrated track record of successful fundraising from private and public sources.
  • Ability to effectively communicate scientific or technical material orally and in writing to a wide range of audiences. Original writing samples will be requested. 
  • Strong supervisory and time-management skills, ability to develop positive working relationships, and work collaboratively with peers (including remotely and in a virtual setting) in a matrix management setting. 

Physical Requirements: 

Remaining in a normal seated or standing position for extended periods; reaching and grasping by extending hand(s) or arm(s); dexterity to manipulate objects with fingers, for example, using a keyboard; communication skills using the spoken word; ability to see and hear within normal parameters; ability to move about the workspace. The position requires mobility, including moving materials weighing up to several pounds (such as a laptop computer or tablet).  

Persons with disabilities may be able to perform the essential duties of this position with reasonable accommodation. Requests for reasonable accommodation will be evaluated on an individual basis. 

Please Note: 

This job description sets forth the job’s principal duties, responsibilities, and requirements; it should not be construed as an exhaustive statement, however.  Unless they begin with the word “may,” the Essential Duties and Responsibilities described above are “essential functions” of the job, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

NWF Values:

Your actions are expected to reflect the staff values of the National Wildlife Federation: collaboration, mindfulness, empowerment, inclusivity, and mission focus.  Your competencies should include:

  • Being motivated by values of equity and responsibility to those most marginalized.
  • Consistently bringing a high level of empathy and social skills to work and interpersonal interactions.
  • Actively seeks feedback, direction, and guidance from all team members and keeps staff informed of decisions that impact them.
  • Being dedicated to advancing NWF’s internal equity transformation and compelling partners and allies to incorporate equity into their work; and
  • Passion for and commitment to NWF's mission

Applicants are invited to learn more about National Wildlife Federation’s required equity competencies at

Travel Requirements:

This role includes some travel (4-5 trips/year) to locations nationwide.

Location and Work Mode: 

The National Wildlife Federation is committed to a flexible and empowered work environment with an authentic community of care for all staff. In this position, the employee may work in the office, in a hybrid manner, or completely remotely, to be decided jointly with their supervisor in the final stages of the interview process. For more information on Work Modes, please review the benefits section of our careers page:

Compensation and Benefits:

The salary range for this position is $150000 to $170000 annually, commensurate with experience.

We are proud of our designation by Mogul as a Top 100 Workplace with the Best Benefits, and by Forbes as one of America’s best small employers! We value work-life balance and a family-friendly atmosphere with flexible scheduling.  We want you to be able to integrate work and personal life with attention to your self-care, so that your work schedule is not depleting.  We offer benefits so you feel restored and fueled through the day and week.

We offer these supports to help manage your mental, emotional, and physical health: 

  • Paid time off: Vacation that starts off at three weeks accrual based on a full-time schedule, unlimited wellbeing (this time can be used for physical, spiritual, emotional, cultural, religious or financial wellbeing for yourself, a partner, or family member – including pets), and 11 holidays.
  • We close down for a paid winter break between December 25 to January 1 to recognize end of-year stress, and time for reflection, rejuvenation, and spending time with family.
  • Up to 16 weeks of fully paid Family and Medical Leave
  • Low-cost health, dental, and vision insurance options – all outpatient mental health is covered at in-network rates
  • Therapist available at no cost
  • Pet insurance and discount perk program
  • Annual wellbeing allowance

In addition to your salary, we offer the following supports to your personal finances:

  • Retirement plan with immediate match and vesting
  • Annual year end retirement contribution
  • Tuition Reimbursement
  • Adoption and Surrogacy assistance
  • Pet adoption stipend
  • Student Loan management

Applicants are invited to learn more about National Wildlife Federation’s benefits package at


Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.  Candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, and writing sample.

For more information on our recruiting process, please review our Careers page: 

We strive to increase diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) in all elements of our work and with our partners to support the interdependent needs of wildlife and people in a rapidly changing world. We recruit, employ, train compensate, and promote regardless of race, religion, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity (including gender nonconformity and status as a transgender individual), age, physical or mental disability, citizenship, genetic information, past, current, or prospective service in the uniformed services, or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal, state, or local law. We are proud to be an equal opportunity employer. Applicants are invited to learn more about National Wildlife Federation’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at

We recognize that people come with a wealth of experience and talent beyond just the technical requirements of a job, therefore our job descriptions are guidelines, not hard and fast rules.  Your experience, which may include paid and unpaid experience, including volunteer work, helps build the competencies and knowledge that translates to our openings.  Diversity of experience and skills combined with passion is a key to innovation and a culture of excellence.  Therefore, we encourage people from all backgrounds to apply to our positions.

Please let us know if you require accommodations during the application or interview process by reaching us at or 703-438-6244.

If selected for this position, a background check will be conducted.


The National Wildlife Federation is the nation's largest member-supported conservation organization which is at the forefront of global warming issues, reconnecting our children with nature, and protecting America's wildlife and habitat.  By joining the National Wildlife Federation, we're offering you every advantage to reach beyond your potential. You'll excel in your role and accomplish goals that you can proudly stand behind, all while helping others move forward in their careers. Join us today and share more than your passion for wildlife. Share our mission to make a difference in the world.

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