Staff Scientist

Job Type

Full Time


Details: Commensurate with experience.




District of Columbia
United States



The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization working to build a future in which nature is protected and biodiversity flourishes, where farmers, workers, and communities prosper, and where sustainable land use and responsible business practices are the norm. We envision a world where people and nature thrive in harmony.

In January 2018, the Rainforest Alliance merged with UTZ, a global program and label for sustainable farming.


In recent years, hundreds of companies have made commitments to eliminate deforestation and human exploitation from their agriculture and forestry supply chains. These pledges are a promising development for forests and peoples. However, their fulfillment is hindered by the lack of a credible, consistent, and widely-accepted framework for implementing these commitments and for monitoring, verifying, and reporting progress and outcomes.

To address this gap and accelerate progress toward fulfilling company supply chain commitments, the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) is developing and promoting a framework of common definitions, norms, and guidelines for effective and credible implementation of such commitments. Launched in late 2016, the AFi is led by a coalition of respected environmental and social NGOs with Rainforest Alliance co-leading the Backbone Team (secretariat). For more information, please visit:

The Staff Scientist will devote a significant portion of his/her effort to advancing the AFi.


The Staff Scientist will conduct scientific research, analysis, and preparation of publications in support of cutting-edge sustainability strategies, standards, and projects that the Rainforest Alliance carries out in pursuit of its mission. This includes two primary sets of activities:

  1. research and develop scientifically-based strategies, standards, and tools for implementing company supply chain commitments and sustainable landscape management to curtail deforestation and protect human rights as part of the AFi; and
  2. design, implement, and collaborate with external researchers to carry out evaluation and impact assessment research for Rainforest Alliance’s agriculture sustainability certification programs as well as broader research on the effectiveness of strategies to conserve forests, promote the sustainability of production systems, and improve human wellbeing in the context of agriculture and forestry landscapes and supply chains.

The Staff Scientist will be an integral part of Rainforest Alliance’s Evaluation & Research program and of the AFi team.


The Staff Scientist will be responsible for the following activities, plus others as assigned.

Responsibilities related to the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi):

  • Conduct research, analysis, and synthesis of the scientific literature to assess implementation processes and their effectiveness related to key elements of responsible commodity supply chains (e.g., curtailing deforestation and ecosystem destruction, avoiding forest degradation, promoting ecosystem restoration, improving land governance, and protecting human rights);
  • Collaborate with AFi partners to develop elements of the Accountability Framework related to these topics;
  • Prepare analyses or publications that articulate scientifically-based rationale for and implications of the approaches defined in the Accountability Framework;
  • Engage with selected AFi stakeholders involved in monitoring, assessment, and reporting for supply chain commitments to help align Accountability Framework norms with existing and emerging supply chain accountability tools, and to contribute input to the development of new monitoring and accountability systems, for instance based on analysis of remote sensing imagery;
  • Represent the AFi externally at selected events and in multi-stakeholder processes with a scientific and technical focus.

Responsibilities related to evaluation and research:

  • Work with the Director of Evaluation & Research and other team members to prioritize, conceptualize and design new evaluation and research initiatives based on internal and external needs and mandates;
  • Lead or support selected evaluation and impact assessment research projects on priority topics, both through original analysis of Rainforest Alliance-collected data and by collaborating with or supporting external research partners to conduct independent assessments;
  • In collaboration with Evaluation & Research program colleagues, develop and maintain research partnerships with universities and other research institutions;
  • Collaborate with external researchers and consortia to bring Rainforest Alliance’s perspectives and practical experience into selected research and thought leadership initiatives on the effectiveness of strategies to conserve forests, promote sustainable production systems, and improve human wellbeing in the context of agriculture and forestry landscapes and supply chains;
  • Produce scientific papers and publish these in appropriate venues; and
  • Provide scientific input and advice for selected Rainforest Alliance programs and initiatives, including the establishment and operation of sustainability standards, design of place-based projects in tropical producing countries, and collaborative initiatives to curtail deforestation and promote sustainable production systems.

Supervisory Responsibilities:

  • This position may supervise staff, consultants, and/or research partners.


  • Master’s degree or PhD (preferred) in ecology, forestry, natural resources management, agronomy, social sciences, or a related field;
  • At least five years of professional work experience before and/or after graduate studies, preferably focused on implementing, monitoring or researching conservation or sustainable development projects or strategies;
  • Demonstrated ability lead and manage scientific research projects from start to finish, including effective supervision of research assistants and collaboration with scientific partners;
  • Strong technical and research skills in the candidate’s field of expertise, such as statistical analysis, data management, qualitative or quantitative social science research methods, remote sensing and GIS, or others;
  • Record of scientific publications, including in peer-reviewed journals;
  • Strong ability and experience communicating scientific findings and conveying complex ideas to non-technical audiences;
  • Superior English writing and editing skills, including a high level of attention to detail;
  • Strong interpersonal skills and proven ability to collaborate with colleagues from diverse cultural backgrounds;
  • Highly organized and self-motivated, with an ability to prioritize tasks and deliver high quality work products under strict deadlines;
  • Ability to travel domestically and internationally at least 15% of the time;
  • Experience working in developing countries is a plus; and
  • Proficiency in Spanish, French, Bahasa Indonesia, or Portuguese is a plus.

Only applicants authorized to work in the United States, UK or Netherlands.

Professional Level

None specified

Minimum Education Required

No requirement

How To Apply

Apply online at Please furnish a resume and cover letter along with three work samples totaling no more than 30 pages. The work samples should be entirely or mainly your own work and should include one piece of scientific writing (e.g., a journal article or technical report), one additional piece of written work of your choosing, and one piece of work that presents scientific or technical findings in a visual, graphic, or other format or media such as a webpage, video, or interview. Combine the cover letter, resume, and work samples into one single document for upload into the online system.