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20-4. Integration of economics and climate adaptation to support natural resource management


Closing Date: January 6, 2022

This Research Opportunity will be filled depending on the availability of funds. All application materials must be submitted through USAJobs by 11:59 pm, US Eastern Standard Time, on the closing date.



Changing climate patterns are complicating natural resource and land management in the Midwestern United States by shifting temperature baselines (Pathak et al. 2017) and amplifying the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events (Zhang and Villarini 2021). To help natural resource managers plan, mitigate, and adapt to future climate, ecological research actively seeks to improve our understanding of the ecological impacts of climate change. A management emphasis has emerged that focuses on adopting robust adaptation approaches that are not only ecologically viable but also socially and economically feasible across a range of future climate scenarios (Wilby and Dessai 2010). By integrating economic approaches into ecoclimate impacts research, a more holistic socio-ecological evaluation of climate vulnerability and tradeoffs of adaptation measures can be communicated to decision-makers.

In the agricultural landscape of the Midwest, collaborative partnerships among agricultural producers, communities, and natural resource managers are critical to conservation success. Using an economic lens, stakeholder values (e.g., agricultural profitability, recreation benefits, flood damage, species conservation) can be represented as ecosystem services and can be included in modeling efforts to improve our understanding of socio-ecological climate vulnerability as well as trade-offs of different adaptation actions. Further, multi-scaled assessments can provide insight at both local, regional, and watershed perspectives. Together, inclusion of ecosystem service valuation and quantification of the demand for those services at multiple scales can enhance frameworks for understanding trade-offs of different climate adaptation scenarios and inform regional adaptation decisions.

The Mendenhall Fellow will develop a framework for integrating economic approaches into ongoing research on climate vulnerability and adaptation in the context of natural resource management. This research will occur in cooperation with Research Advisors and their interagency research teams, which include other Federal agencies, state agencies, and universities. Potential original research topics include developing an economic framework that builds upon existing climate vulnerability tools; developing new methods to integrate economics into climate change vulnerability assessments to support natural resource management; and developing local and watershed trade-off analyses of climate adaptation actions by simultaneously evaluating multiple ecosystem services. The work will build upon ongoing research activities and recently launched spatial decision support tools (e.g., the Watershed-based Midwest Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Tool; Delaney et al. 2021) developed at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center and can include collaborations with USGS decision-science and ecosystem services expertise from other science centers such as the Fort Collins Science Center and the Eastern Ecological Science Center. The Fellow will also be able to participate in stakeholder workshops focused on identifying climate vulnerabilities, natural resource science needs, and barriers to climate adaptation. By leveraging these resources and existing networks, the Fellow will bring innovative economic analysis to a number of timely management challenges. Research products could take the form of a decision-support tool or interactive graphical dashboard that has broad utility within the region; peer-reviewed manuscripts are an expected product. Ideally, the Fellow would have a background in natural resource economics, quantitative skills, and a good understanding of ecological systems.

The Fellow will work closely with the listed Research Advisors and their respective research teams at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center. At our Center, interdisciplinary research teams work with natural resource managers on a wide range of natural resource challenges that could benefit from economic applications. Beyond climate impacts and adaptation research, focal research areas at our Center include wildlife ecology, ecosystem restoration, river and landscape ecology, toxicology, and invasive species management. Dependent upon the Fellow’s career goals and research interests, Research Advisors will facilitate networking opportunities with other USGS centers, including the Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, and local universities, and guide relevant trainings to expand the Postdoctoral researcher’s knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas.


Delaney, J. T., K. L. Bouska, J. D. Eash, P. J. Heglund, and A. A. Allstadt. 2021. Mapping climate vulnerability of aquatic-riparian ecosystems using decision-relevant indicators. Ecological Indicators 125: 107581.

Pathak, P., A. Kalra, and S. Ahmad. 2017. Temperature and precipitation changes in the Midwestern United States. implications for water management. International Journal of Water Resources Development 33 (6): 1003-1019.

Wilby, R. L. and S. Dessai. 2010. Robust adaptation to climate change. Weather 65 (7): 180-185.

Zhang, W. and G. Villarini. 2021. Greenhouse gases drove the increasing trends in spring precipitation across the central USA. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 379 (2195), 20190553.

Proposed Duty Station: La Crosse, Wisconsin

Areas of PhD:  Environmental/resource/ecological economics, ecology, fish and wildlife management, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet the qualifications for one of the following: Research Economist or Research Ecologist.

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)

Human Resources Office Contact:  Audrey Tsujita, 916-278-9395,