Data Science Research Specialist, Twin Cities, Minnesota

Created 06/04/2021
Reference 11399057
Job type Full Time
Country United States
State Minnesota
City Twin Cities
Zip 55401
Salary Competitive
This is a full-time temporary position with an expected duration of one year. We have two positions available for this job opening. The salary range for this position is $42k-$65k DOQ.

The Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota seeks two full-time, one-year Data Science Research Specialists to focus on advancing our environmental impact modeling with an emphasis on ecosystem service assessments. This position will be on the Knowledge Initiatives (KI) team, which leads the portfolio of interdisciplinary sustainability research and scholarly activity within IonE and is a core member of the Natural Capital Project (NatCap).

The position will contribute to improving our collective ability to map sustainability across scales and contexts, from a parcel of land owned by a single individual to a county or watershed or larger. The research focuses on evaluating the consequences of land use management decisions on the value nature provides people and partitioning those costs and benefits to different stakeholders and decision makers.

Specific responsibilities include: i) improving the ability of existing and developing ecosystem services models to include distributional assessments across socio-economic groups in urban and agriculturally-dominated environments, working closely with model developers; ii) managing the application of these tools and required data to conduct ecosystem services assessments in pilot locations and in the U.S., MN and/or elsewhere; and iii) maintaining and expanding our academic network to collaborate with leading groups in the field of Nature-Based solutions in either urban and agricultural systems.

Research experience in geospatial data science or a similar field is a requirement to start this position. Work experience related to ecology, ecological economics, natural resource management, agricultural economics, sustainability and/or environmental science, while not required, would be highly desirable. Overall, the researcher is expected to balance multiple tasks and manage time efficiently to ensure project activities are completed in an organized and efficient manner.

This may be a hybrid of teleworking and in-person work, with the exact work location mix dependent on the person and job responsibilities thus preference is given to incumbents who will be located within reasonable driving distance from the UMN St. Paul campus. The person will be expected to fully participate in IonE, including engaging in person or via web-conferencing with the team, attending important IonE events in person at least once every few months, and developing working relationships with other IonE staff.

Application review will be rolling until filled. To apply, please submit a cover letter that describes your qualifications and includes a brief diversity statement, CV or resume, and contact information for at least 2 references (i.e., name, title, organization; URL to biographical sketch or similar; address, phone number, and email address; and relationship to the candidate). References would not be contacted until final candidates have been identified; candidates would be notified prior to contacting references.

Principal Duties and Responsibilities
  • 40% Model application
    • Collect and synthesize data needed to run InVEST and other ecosystem services assessment models in a diverse set of contexts.
    • Assess outcomes of ecosystem service models at different scales using land ownership data or other boundaries
    • Run ecosystem services assessments or optimization models to support site-scale, regional- and national-level spatial planning.
    • Analyze economic and environmental trends to support novel ecosystem service valuations.
    • Responsible for developing, integrating, supporting, and maintaining information systems, and applications as needed, including programming, analysis, quality control, and maintaining software development best practices
    • Developing code from specifications, enhancing/customizing existing or purchased programs or systems through code and developing additional functionality, and developing system integration plans
    • Work closely with existing environmental scientists on data and modeling of environmental impacts, translating the excel based models and data acquisition to python when possible.
  • 20% Data Management
    • Includes understanding existing databases and building/maintaining these databases as needed
    • Consulting with team members on data and database needs
    • Assisting with data management structures
  • 15% Writing & Communication
    • Contribute to scientific publications through data analysis, writing, creating figures or other support.
    • Write general-interest communications or blog posts on project outcomes.
    • Present results at meetings and conferences and assist with stakeholder workshops.
  • 15% Team Collaboration and Training
    • Communicate effectively with team members regarding technical and functional requirements.
    • Provide recommendations to improve application usability
    • Working closely with the IonE Research Software Team to follow best data and modeling practices
  • 10% Other
    • Other duties as assigned
    • Seek professional development opportunities related to the position and to support future career development goals
    • Participation in IonE community activities
    • Enhance science communication and leadership skills

Working Conditions
This position may be structured to either be in-person or partially/fully remote with preference for in-person. Applicants should expect to work with a virtual team, using tools including Basecamp, Zoom, and the Google suite of applications. Part of the work may be done on an independent schedule, upon approval, with regular meetings during core team collaboration hours (M-Th 10-4 CT). The position may involve some occasional travel for workshops, conferences, and meetings as dictated by individual projects.


Required Qualifications
  • Master's degree and two years of related experience or BS/BA degree and four years of related experience
  • Experience in data science relevant to the position description
  • Proficient in Python (preferred), matlab or similar programming language
  • Proficient with ArcGIS, QGIS or other geospatial modeling
  • Both self-directed and team-oriented
  • Ability to successfully multitask and organize workflow; manage multiple projects and schedules; and handle interruptions during scheduled work hours

Preferred Qualifications
  • Experience in environmental or sustainability science
  • Experience in peer-to-peer mentoring or teaching
  • Strong communication skills
  • Experience working on collaborative teams
  • Ability to communicate technology concepts effectively with technically proficient and non-technically proficient individuals
  • Ability to work in-person on the St. Paul campus.

About the Department

Who are we? Located just off the Campus Connector's St. Paul stop, the Institute on the Environment focuses on our world's biggest environmental challenges. Through our work, we're accelerating the energy transition, building climate resilience, improving global water and land use, and reimagining how we value nature. Our recipe is research, leadership, and communication. We believe we are most likely to achieve our mission when we integrate diverse perspectives into our work and our workplace, and we are committed to supporting an inclusive work environment and to collaborating with those most affected by the environmental issues we address in our work.

How To Apply

Applications must be submitted online. To be considered for this position, please click the Apply button and follow the instructions. You will be given the opportunity to complete an online application for the position and attach a cover letter and resume.

Additional documents may be attached after application by accessing your "My Job Applications" page and uploading documents in the "My Cover Letters and Attachments" section.

To request an accommodation during the application process, please e-mail or call (612) 624-UOHR (8647).

***If you experience any barriers or obstacles to the application process, please email IONE@UMN.EDU***


The University recognizes and values the importance of diversity and inclusion in enriching the employment experience of its employees and in supporting the academic mission. The University is committed to attracting and retaining employees with varying identities and backgrounds.

The University of Minnesota provides equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. To learn more about diversity at the U: .

IonE is committed to creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive work environment. It is IonE's mission to help people and planet prosper through just, equitable, and inclusive work with and across our community.

Background Check Information

Any offer of employment is contingent upon the successful completion of a background check. Our presumption is that prospective employees are eligible to work here. Criminal convictions do not automatically disqualify finalists from employment.

About the U of M

The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (UMTC)

The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (UMTC), is among the largest public research universities in the country, offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional students a multitude of opportunities for study and research. Located at the heart of one of the nation's most vibrant, diverse metropolitan communities, students on the campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul benefit from extensive partnerships with world-renowned health centers, international corporations, government agencies, and arts, nonprofit, and public service organizations.
Employer University of Minnesota

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