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Natural Science Research Director

The Land Institute
Salina, Kansas
$110,000- $135,000 + Benefits
Closing date
May 18, 2024

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Agroecology, Other
Job Type
Management / Executive
Organization Type

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. An independent 501c3 non-profit founded in 1976, the organization seeks to reconcile the human economy with nature's economy, starting with food. The transdisciplinary team of scientists and our global partners are developing new perennial grain crops, like Kernza®, and diverse cropping systems that function within nature's limits while researching the social transformation required for a just, perennial human future.


Job Summary - How You’d Fit In + Stand Out

As the Natural Science Research Director, you will be the strategic and operational lead of The Land Institute’s efforts in perennial grain crop breeding (Kernza, legumes, oilseeds, sorghum, and wheat), crop protection genetics, and soil, intercrop, and crop protection ecology. With deep knowledge and research experience, you will comprehensively understand each research area. Through collaboration with cross-functional colleagues in fundraising, perennial cultures, crop stewardship, operations, and communications, you’ll leverage your department knowledge to develop a robust natural science research strategy and growth priorities integrated with organizational vision and cross-programmatic themes. 

With your expert relationship-building and collaborative leadership, you will directly manage the natural science research leads, including priority-setting, ongoing feedback cycles, employee development, compensation reviews, staffing, and annual evaluations, supported by the People and Culture department (HR). You’ll develop and support an evaluation system that includes external review. You will also develop a system for shared resource accounting and allocation among natural science programs. Through your deep understanding of programmatic needs and strategies, you will inform and collaborate on the budget process, organizational financial priorities, communications, and funding strategies. You will deploy a consultative input, feedback, and recommendation process with the Lead Scientists, fellow Directors, and the Executive team to inform your decision-making. You will report to the President and are expected to engage effectively in a highly cooperative, collaborative, and cross-functional environment.


Primary Responsibilities + Expectations

Research Leadership

  • Direct the natural science research department and its programs.
  • Develop integrated department-wide research strategy and growth priorities that align with organizational vision and cross-programmatic themes.
  • Lead the development, implementation, and management of a resource accounting and allocation process that facilitates, measures, and optimizes ROI for natural science program shared resources in conjunction with operations.
  • Articulate organizational goals and priorities to direct reports in alignment with leadership direction.
  • Develop, implement, and manage a periodic external review process to inform research strategies and priorities and optimize legitimacy and effectiveness.
  • Advocate for natural science research, The Land Institute, its organizational vision, and growth initiatives through presentations, publications, public speaking, and press interviews. Recommend and elevate lead researchers and team members to contribute their unique experiences and expertise.

Team Management

  • Manage natural science research lead scientists, including research agendas and activities, priorities and goal-setting, ongoing feedback cycles, compensation reviews, team staffing, culture-building, and evaluations.
  • Promote and lead the program’s professional development initiatives and identify and recommend opportunities to help realize organizational goals and priorities.
  • Work closely with People & Culture and lead researchers to co-create updated job descriptions that clarify roles and responsibilities Set and manage expectations, create structures, and guide leads in managing and supervising their teams.
  • Translate organizational vision and growth initiatives to generate clear guidance to leads to develop natural science research strategies and priorities.
  • Model organization core values and culture and champion organizational vision and change management initiatives, including new behaviors, training, tools, and messaging across the organization and your department staff.

Cross-Functional Cooperation & Collaboration

  • Deploy consultative input, feedback, and recommendation process with the Lead Scientists, fellow Directors, and the Executive team to inform your decision-making.
  • Develop and recommend strategic initiatives in cooperation with Directors and provide expert consultation on organizational strategy to the Executive team.
  • Collaborate on organizational-wide financial priorities, fundraising and funding strategies, operations, communications, human resources, and budgeting.
  • Create regular reporting patterns to solicit, synthesize, and deliver natural science research progress, learnings, insight, impact, and opportunities and share them internally, with the Board of Directors, Director, and Executive teams, and tactically with fundraising and communications.
  • Lead, co-lead, or contribute to cross-programmatic special projects and growth initiatives internally and externally with partners.

Qualifications - Who You Are

  • You hold a Ph.D. in a field relevant to developing perennial grains crops and agricultural systems (e.g., plant genetics, soil ecology, agronomy, crop physiology, crop development, etc.)
  • You have experience directing research groups and holistically coordinating many diverse programs and projects.
  • You have demonstrated leadership and management experience.
  • You have strong relationship-building and influencing skills.
  • Your approach to decision-making includes assessing and weighing potential risks, options, and rewards and developing a strategy to mitigate potential risks of action and inaction of various research agendas.
  • You have effectively led a significant workplace transition.
  • You have a keen interest and expertise in assessing and calculating research return on investment.
  • You have fundraising acumen and an interest in developing funding, communications, and partnership strategies for long-term research programs.
  • You are highly collaborative and cooperative and lead through relationship and consensus-building.
  • You are excellent at time management, prioritization, and decision-making.
  • You have a proven ability to create and deliver public presentations using visual, verbal, and written content to convey information.

Diversity + Inclusion

  • Participate in The Land Institute’s diversity initiatives.
  • Develop, maintain, and honor relationships with diverse groups and people.
  • Build relationships with diverse partners with a mind toward further collaboration.

Organizational Competencies 

  • Mission Driven: You are passionate about the mission of The Land Institute and are interested in aligning your skills and personal genius to benefit this work.
  • Courageous: You do not retreat or shy away from hard things. You face challenges and conflict with professionalism, grace, and resolve.
  • Boundary Spanner: You bring an interdisciplinary skill set and model self-awareness in your preferences. You are motivated to learn and adapt to span boundaries with people across various perspectives.
  • Inspiring and Inspired: You are inspired by the people around you, finding and harnessing the genius in your colleagues to meet the organizational objectives, and you are inspiring others through example and your own genius applied.
  • Growth Mindset: You have the vulnerability to know what you don’t know, admit your flaws, and learn from others to grow and develop yourself and the organization.
  • Creative Collaborator: You believe in the power of a diverse collective to generate ideas and solutions. You excel at strategic thinking, being open to new perspectives, and managing innovation. You bring a playful, positive approach to the work, like meeting new people and deepening connections with those you already know.
  • Excited by Change: You embrace nascent and evolving situations and enjoy engaging new people, ideas, and possibilities. You think about change holistically: internal, external, organizational, and cultural. You like iterating systems, building efficiency, and operationalizing design. You are willing to jump in and contribute to new projects as needed. 


Job Details + Working Conditions


  • Generally available to work forty hours per week via in-person and virtual meetings, primarily from 8 am to 5 pm Central Time on weekdays when most of our staff and collaborators are working.
  • Some evening and weekend working hours will be needed for conferences and special events.
  • 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 based at The Land Institute’s main campus in Salina, Kansas, USA.
  • Primary travel will happen within the United States, but international travel may occasionally occur on an infrequent basis.
  • Estimated travel is up to 10% of the time for conferences and meetings with collaborators or remote programs and staff.
  • You will have a laptop computer and access to commuter vehicles.

Environmental + Working Conditions

  • Prolonged periods of sitting at a desk and working on a computer and phone
  • Occasional work in field and laboratory research settings
  • Work in a general office environment
  • Travel in varying conditions (10%)


To apply: Submit a C.V. and letter of interest addressed to The Land Institute President. Application review will begin on May 3, 2024. 


Compensation + Benefits

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

The salary range for this position is $110,000-$135,000 annually

  • Partial remote-friendly work environment
  • Paid parental leave
  • Competitive, equitable compensation
  • 403(b) Retirement
  • 403(b) Employer contributions
  • Health Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Vision Insurance
  • Employer-provided life Insurance
  • Flexible Spending Account
  • Dependent Care
  • Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance
  • Voluntary Life Insurance
  • Accidental Insurance
  • Critical Illness Insurance
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Paid holidays
  • Generous paid time off
  • Complete laptop workstation and set up for remote work

The Land Institute is an equal opportunity employer and embraces the opportunity to employ 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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