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Lead Scientist in Soil Ecology

The Land Institute
Salina, Kansas
90,000 - 110,000
Closing date
Jan 15, 2023

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Applied ecology, Ecological restoration, Soil ecology
Job Type
PhD, Scientist
Organization Type

Job Details

The Land Institute, a global leader in the development of perennial grain agroecosystems, is searching for a Lead Scientist in Soil Ecology.

Job Overview

As Lead Scientist in Soil Ecology, you will strengthen our understanding of how different perennial grain species and polycultures influence a range of important soil functions, and you will contribute research on the potential of perennial grain agroecosystems to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Soil ecology is critical to achieving our goals and measuring our success. You will stand out if you serve as a leading voice in the movement to create diverse perennial agroecosystems and are able to simultaneously lead within the discipline of soil ecology while collaborating across disciplines both internally and externally.

Primary Responsibilities + Expectations

Lead a research program in ecological intensification with a focus on soil ecology.

  • Develop and oversee a program strategy and budget aligned with the organization's long-term objectives and short-term priorities.
  • Design and direct new research and continue ongoing existing projects on soil carbon dynamics and ecological intensification of perennial grains cropping systems, including, but not limited to, soil nutrient biogeochemistry, soil carbon, and microbial ecology, regulation of greenhouse gasses, intercrop community ecology, hydrology or weed ecology.
  • Work with plant breeders and other TLI programs on soil ecology questions relevant to the establishment of, yield stability of, and ecosystem services provided by perennial grain cropping systems
  • Lead, develop, and grow a research team that includes technicians and seasonal research assistants.

Steward and expand collaborations across disciplines internally and with external partners.

  • Develop and participate in collaborative research
  • Collaborate with The Land Institute’s Crop Stewardship, Ecosphere Studies, and Civic Science programs to develop ecology focused research projects that further the understanding and impact of the ecological services of perennial polycultures.
  • Grow the research for diverse perennial grain agriculture and ecological intensification globally by developing new transdisciplinary research partnerships domestically and internationally.
  • Stay abreast of leading research in the soil ecology, soil carbon sequestration, and climate change fields, and seek partnerships with key individuals or organizations pursuing similar or relevant research.
  • Network with researchers at partner institutions and organizations to establish endeavors that The Land Institute research stations cannot address.

Provide external and internal leadership through scientific and public communications

  • Partner with the development and communications teams to articulate the soil and ecological benefits of perennial grain agroecosystems to donors, partners, and the public.
  • Represent the organization by making presentations and translating research findings into stories and explanations for laypersons including donors, and partners. 
  • Communicate your scientific findings and knowledge to the public through the publication of peer reviewed journal articles.

Background + Qualifications

  • A PhD scientist with training and experience in ecology, biogeochemistry, soil science, agroecology, or related field.
  • Post-doctoral experience is preferred but not required.
  • Record of publishing experimental results related to the position.
  • Knowledge of and experience in experimental design and statistical analysis.
  • Understanding of and alignment with The Land institute’s mission.
  • Experience leading, inspiring and growing teams in a research setting.
  • Good communication skills, both written and oral and ability to communicate complex scientific concepts to lay persons.
  • Experience creating and leading research collaborations with scientists or other agricultural stakeholders

Required Competencies for the Position

Mission-Driven: You are passionate about the mission of The Land Institute to create a diverse, perennial grain agroecosystem and are interested in aligning your skills and personal genius to benefit this work.

Creative Problem Solver: You excel at strategic thinking, are open to new perspectives and better ways to do things; you are creative, visionary, and manage innovation and ambiguity well. In addition, you're interested in serving the organization's needs by developing novel solutions to organizational challenges through a consultative and collaborative approach. 

Inspiring and Inspired: You are inspired by the people around you, finding and harnessing the genius in your colleagues, partners, and vendors to meet the organizational objective. You are inspiring to others through example, and your genius is applied. 

Growth Mindset: You have the vulnerability to know what you don't know, acknowledge your opportunities for self-improvement, and use your curiosity to learn from others to grow and develop yourself and the organization.

Relational Team Player: Our success is based on what we do together; we need someone who enjoys working with internal and external teams to meet deadlines and achieve goals and believes in the power of a diverse collective to solve problems. You will be motivated by and enjoy developing meaningful professional relationships with each member of the team and external partners. 

Thrives in Changing Environment: Our current pace of growth may feel intense at times; we need a person committed to creative problem-solving, even under pressure. 


Generally available to work forty hours per week, including in person and digital meetings, primarily during 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Central Time on weekdays when most of our staff and collaborators are working. Some evening and weekend working hours will be needed. We are flexible for caregivers who might need to provide rides or support, attend appointments, or be available for caregiving.

Location + Travel

This role is grounded in the Central Great Plains at our Salina, KS campus. This role will be supported with a travel budget that includes mileage reimbursement, and you will be provided with a laptop computer.

Compensation + Benefits

The Land Institute offers an excellent benefits package and a competitive salary commensurate with experience. 

Salary / 90,000-110,000

  • Remote-friendly work environment
  • Paid parental leave
  • 403(b) Retirement with employer contributions
  • Medical, dental, vision, & life insurance
  • Short-Term and Long-Term Disability
  • Voluntary Life Insurance
  • Accidental Insurance
  • Critical Illness Insurance
  • Flexible Spending Account
  • Dependent Care
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Professional Development 
  • Paid holidays
  • Generous PTO
  • Complete laptop workstation and set up for remote work

Who we are + What we do

The Land Institute co-leads the global movement for perennial, diverse, regenerative grain agriculture at a scale that matches the enormity of the intertwined climate, water, and food security crises. Founded in 1976 along the Smoky Hill River just south of Salina, Kansas, we are an independent 501c3 non-profit organization that seeks to reconcile the human economy with nature's economy, starting with food. The transdisciplinary team of scientists and researchers, together with global partners, are developing new  perennial grain crops, like  Kernza©, and  diverse cropping systems  that function within nature's limits and researching the  social transformation  required for a just, perennial human future.

We aim to create a grain agriculture system that functions more like a natural ecosystem, featuring the critical attributes of perenniality and diversity. This approach has the potential to be intrinsically regenerative, simultaneously rebuilding soils, protecting water resources, and efficiently cycling nutrients while fostering biodiversity above and below ground while providing food for people.

Ecology and ecological intensification are critical to our mission to reconcile the human economy with nature's economy, starting with food. Therefore, The Land Institute focuses scientific endeavors on developing perennial grain crops for food. The robust ecological package of benefits these crops can provide are further enhanced by growing them in diverse polyculture mixtures.

Our scientists are leaders in perennial grain breeding and they collaborate with over fifty partner researchers in 18 countries internationally. Our collaborators include some of the world’s top geneticists, plant breeders, and ecologists. In addition, we advise and direct funding for graduate students pursuing perennial grain and ecological intensification research through the Perennial Agriculture Project.

Our main headquarters near Salina, KS, include greenhouses, research laboratories, post-harvest processing facilities, 223 acres of field plots, and 478 acres of prairie and trail. Eight programs including breeding, and ecology share field and lab equipment. This approach balances the needs of leading-edge scientific research with the organization's values related to living and pursuing our work within ecological limits. We work to limit carbon-intensive resources as much as possible while pushing the work forward with urgency. While our facilities have expanded significantly in the last ten years, our campus remains modest compared to academic or industrial facilities.

The Land Institute’s research is funded primarily through philanthropic donations from individuals and foundations. This strategy allows the organization to remain agile and responsive to new opportunities, scientific data, discoveries, and innovations. Our Impact team generates revenue through fundraising activities and works closely with the science team to develop insights and communicate the impact of our research. Researchers pursue grant opportunities in alignment with the organization's objectives and with the primary purpose of increasing The Land Institute’s network of collaborators working toward a diverse, perennial future. As The Land Institute works to scale our activities, programs will collaborate to manage growth and strategically prioritize short- and long-term research activities. 

To Apply

Please go to and submit your CV and a statement telling us why you are interested in this particular position at The Land Institute.

Form cover letters will not be accepted.  


Initial review of submissions will begin on or around December 15, 2022. The position will remain open until filled.

The Land Institute is an equal opportunity employer and embraces the opportunity to provide employment to qualified individuals regardless of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. We are pleased to provide reasonable accommodations to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions.



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