Communities & Conservation Research Associate

Wildlife Conservation Society   Fairbanks, AK   Full-time     Research
Posted on June 21, 2024

Position: Communities & Conservation Research Associate

Reports toSocial Science & Co-Production Specialist, Arctic Beringia and Regional Director, Arctic Beringia

Position Managed: NA

Location: Fairbanks, Alaska

Country Program/Sector: North America Program, Arctic Beringia

Scope: Alaska with regional connections in Canada.

Position Type: Full-Time

Organization Background:

The Wildlife Conservation Society (“WCS”) is a New York not-for-profit corporation founded by statute in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society. WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through research, science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. That mission is achieved through our global conservation programs (WCS currently oversees a portfolio of more than 500 conservation projects in 65 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and North America, and the oceans between them) and through the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks–the Bronx Zoo; the New York Aquarium; and the Central Park, Queens, and Prospect Park Zoos (the City Zoos).

Program Overview:

The WCS Arctic Beringia Program aims to protect Arctic wildlife such as polar bear, wolverines, walrus, Arctic fox, muskoxen, seals, and shorebirds from pressures related to a rapidly changing climate and the onset of new industrial development. At the same time, WCS works to ensure the region’s communities can continue to depend on local resources for food, as well as economic and cultural vitality. Implementing conservation in such a rapidly changing environment can only be effective through working with scientists, local experts, and Indigenous communities. Our geographic focus spans from the Russian far-east, across the North Slope of Alaska, and into western Canada. The Arctic Beringia program also leads conservation efforts for Arctic breeding birds across the migratory flyways adjacent to the Pacific. Finally, based in Fairbanks, our work also engages directly with local efforts to reintroduce wood bison across their historical range.

Job Summary: 

The WCS Arctic Beringia Program has built a strong foundation of species, habitat, and issue-based projects across the three country components of our region – Canada, Russia, and the United States. Our work is closely tied with local food security needs, and often co-produced with Indigenous partners. Current focal areas include marine mammals and shipping, carnivore conservation, avian conservation, healthy coastal fisheries, wood bison (re)introductions, and habitat restoration.

To increase our impact, we are looking for a new addition to our team with experience in social science and community engagement and interests in co-producing research with Alaska Native Peoples and applying participatory research to conservation contexts. This person will primarily work with the Social Science and Co-Production Specialist along with partners at the Ahtna Intertribal Resource Commission (AITRC), the National Park Service (NPS), and various Tribal governments to co-design and implement participatory research around food sovereignty, potential wildlife (re)introductions (e.g., wood bison), and social-environmental change. The Social Scientist will also support other participatory and co-produced research efforts, relationship-building with Indigenous and community partners, reporting, and outreach based on programmatic needs.

Overall, the Social Scientist will provide an important and timely support role for our current social science and co-production activities, partnerships, and outputs.

Major Responsibilities:

  • Co-produced research and engagement 50%: This position will support current research projects and programs, with a specific focus on implementing participatory social science in partnership with rural Alaskan communities, Tribal consortia and governments, Indigenous organizations, and federal agencies. This is not limited to designing and coordinating interviews, circle dialogues, surveys, mapping, and/or workshops as requested. While support will be across several co-production projects, this position will be particularly engaged with culturally significant mammals, namely, boreal ungulates and Arctic carnivores.  
  • Communications, reporting, and outreach 40%: the position will use key knowledge streams (academic, technical, and Indigenous) to accomplish impact. The candidate will work with the Social Science & Co-Production Specialist, Regional Director, and project partners to ensure that project reporting, outreach, and communication goals are met and attend to local needs and cultural sensitivities. Part of this task will involve designing high quality editorial, graphic, and/or multimedia outputs that are customized for specific end users and outlets.
  • Relationship-building 5%: contemporary conservation work in Alaska requires building and maintaining productive relationships with partners that transcend any specific project. This necessitates a commitment to understanding and learning across cultures and jurisdictions when considering how best to align research, conservation, and community priorities. The position will continue to cultivate respectful, ethical, reciprocal, and productive relationships with transdisciplinary partners, including Alaska Native communities and groups.
  • Fundraising 5%: Assist in identifying grant opportunities, coordinate with staff scientists on applicable projects, and work with Regional Business Manager to draft budgets.

Job Qualifications:

  • A master’s degree, or at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent with 1-2 years of relevant field/research experience (paid or unpaid) in social science, community engagement, wildlife conservation, environmental science, inter-/transdisciplinary science, or a related field.
  • Understanding and experience working with Indigenous partners, or strong willingness to learn
  • Experience or a strong interest in mixed-method and participatory social science, including research design, data collection, and analysis.
  • Strong interpersonal and communications skills (both verbal and written)
  • Comfortable operating in a dynamic environment and responding quickly to sudden needs and opportunities.
  • Fluency in English
  • Ability to multi-task and engage with a transdisciplinary regional team.
  • Comfortable working in complex traditional and diverse cultural settings; an ability to adapt approaches to local cultures and project situations, while maintaining a high professional standard.
  • Strong organizational and time-management skills.
  • Respect for WCS’s goal, mission, and vision, and an ability to integrate WCS Core Values into everyday work (respect, accountability & transparency, innovation, diversity, equity, & inclusion, collaboration, and integrity).

Additional Relevant Skills:

  • Experience living in and/or working with Alaska Native/rural Alaskan communities preferred.
  • Geospatial analysis and software experience
  • Demonstrated skills in graphic communication or popular writing are a plus.
  • Self-Reliance in Remote Work Environments
  • Willingness and ability to travel to remote field sites and communities.
  • Willingness to work flexible hours that may include weekends and public holidays.

Additional Requirements

  • Expected travel: 75% of the position’s time will be spent in Fairbanks, 25% time potentially traveling to remote communities, as needed project meetings, conferences, and training.

Application Process:

Interested candidates who meet the above qualifications should send their cover letter and resume to arcticberingia@wcs.org, with the subject line "Communities and Conservation Research Associate". The application period closes August 30, 2024. 

WCS is an equal opportunity employer and the organization complies with all employment and labor laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination in hiring and ensures that candidates from all backgrounds are fairly and consistently considered during the recruitment process. We are dedicated to hiring and supporting a diverse workforce. We are committed to cultivating an inclusive work environment and look for future team members who share that same value.

The organization provides equal employment opportunities for all qualified candidates. The organization does not discriminate for employment based on age, color, disability, gender identify, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by laws and regulations.

Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for an interview.