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18-32. Integrating energy, mineral, and other natural resource assessments


Closing Date: January 6, 2020

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.


This is an opportunity for a talented postdoctoral fellow to join an interdisciplinary team of scientists in developing new approaches and tools to create compelling and useful Multi-Resource Analyses (MRAs). The USGS regularly assesses the quantity undiscovered energy and mineral resources in this country and worldwide, as well as the quantity and quality of other natural resources. We are now moving towards better integration of those assessments.  Our goal is to create a next-generation suite of analytical products that will be used by land and resource managers to make decisions about how to manage public resources in this country. MRAs will integrate scientific information about those resources, recognize and model changes to those resources caused by natural events and human actions, address the interrelationships among natural resources, and consider the economic and societal consequences of these changes. The USGS has a growing body of work on MRA and related topics (Jenni et al., 2018; Diffendorfer et al., 2017, Haines et al., 2013). The focus of this Research Opportunity is to further advance development of MRA methods and tools. The Mendenhall Fellow’s research may be centered on any of the physical, economic, or decision science aspects of the MRA. To that end, we solicit proposals focused on one or more of the following research areas which are the primary components of an MRA described in Jenni et al. 2018. Note that we do not expect any single proposal to address all of these elements and we encourage candidates to define a research proposal on aspects of particular interest to them.

1. Integration of baseline natural resource assessment: USGS energy and mineral resource assessment procedures have been in place for many years, but there are no equivalent procedures for collectively assessing the many other natural resources in a region, nor an established means of integrating geologic, biophysical, and socioeconomic resource assessments. An innovative methodology to synthesize co-located natural resource data in a study region is needed. As one example, research could focus on how recent advances in data synthesis, automation, integration, and AI can allow the integration of multiple resource assessments to provide meaningful information on resource quantity, quality and importance. 

2. Decisionmaker- and stakeholder-driven scenario identification and analysis: Natural processes and events and human decisions can change landscapes, their natural resources, and the benefits those resources provide. Resource managers need to make decisions despite significant uncertainty and there is a need for robust techniques that can provide an improved understanding of future conditions that could occur under a set of decision-relevant scenarios. As one example, research could explore the potential for a set of generalized scenarios related to energy and mineral development strategies that could be applied consistently across many regions, or on how scenarios and alternatives to scenarios capture and communicate alternative futures to decision makers and stakeholders.

3. Integrated, Dynamic Models of Physical and Biological Interrelationships: Understanding how stressors, disruptions, and decisions can change future conditions of co-located natural resources requires an understanding of the interrelationships among those resources. Research is needed to develop integrated, dynamic models of the physical and biological relationships among resources. For example, research could focus on quantifying the individual and population-scale impacts of petroleum development on collocated species, or quantifying the social and economic impacts of recreation areas being used for mineral resource extraction.

4. Valuation and Economic Analysis: The MRA aims to provide relevant information considering the connection between natural resources and people. Ecosystem services valuation provides one set of useful tools; additional research is needed on methods to evaluate how the biophysical changes modeled under different scenarios affect the economic and other values people derive from the multiple resources. For example, research could focus on connecting the valued aspects of the resources to quantitative measures of value, with particular interest in economic valuation; on designing leasing and/or development alternatives that offer different balances between impacts to existing value and values derived from resource development; or on modifying risk assessment tools and approaches to integrate consideration and valuation of low-probability, high-consequence events (such as spill or leak) into the economic analysis. 

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


Jenni, K.E., Pindilli, E., Bernknopf, R., Nieman, T.L., and Shapiro, C., 2018, Multi-Resource Analysis—Methodology and synthesis: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1442, 81 p.,

Haines, S.S., Diffendorfer, J.E., Balistrieri, L., Berger, B., Cook, T., DeAngelis, D., Doremus, H., Gautier, D.L., Gallegos, T., Gerritsen, M., Graffy, E., Hawkins, S., Johnson, K.M., Macknick, J., McMahon, P., Modde, T., Pierce, B., Schuenemeyer, J.H., Semmens, D., Simon, B., Taylor, J., and Walton-Day, K., 2013, A framework for quantitative assessment of impacts related to energy and mineral resource development: Natural Resources Research, v. 23, no. 1, p. 3–17.

Diffendorfer, J.E., Beston, J. A., Merril, M. D., Stanton, J. C., Corum, M. D., Loss, S. R., Thogmartin, W. E., Johnson, D. H., Erickson, R. A., Heist, K. W. 2017. A method to assess the population-level consequences of wind energy facilities on bird and bat species. 65-76 in “Wind Energy and Wildlife Interactions: Presentations from the CWW2015 Conference”. Springer, New York, New York. ISBN: 9783319512709

Proposed Duty Station: Denver, CO or Reston, VA

Areas of PhD: Decision science, economics, geography, geological and Earth sciences, hydrology, landscape ecology, 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: Research Economist/Economist, Operations Research Analyst, Research Social Scientist, Research Physical Scientist, Research Geologist, Research Geophysicist, Research Ecologist, Research Geographer

(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,