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OPEN POSITION: Post-Doctoral Fellow in Farmer Adoption of Climate-Smart Practices

Position Description

A two year post-doctoral position (with potential funding for a third year) is available at the University of Vermont under the mentorship of Dr. Meredith Niles, in collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Jo Thompson at the University of Georgia.  The expected start date is negotiable, with a preferred start date by February 1, 2023.  This post-doctoral position will contribute to two USDA-funded projects focused on enabling farmer adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices that help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change. 


The first project is a USDA Sustainable Agricultural Systems grant working across dozens of institutions and states focused on cover crop precision agriculture.  Additional information about the project and team can be found here:  In collaboration with Dr. Thompson at University of Georgia, this “science in society”-oriented project involves characterizing, mapping, and analyzing the information ecosystem of a large-scale, transdisciplinary sustainable agriculture research collaboration using mixed social science methods, including participant observation, qualitative interviewing, social network analysis, and farmer survey data analysis. The majority of data for the project has been collected, including farmer surveys, a survey of the research team, and in-depth interviews with cover crop adopters in nine states.


The second project is a USDA Interdisciplinary Engagement in Animal Systems (IDEAS) grant, in collaboration with researchers at Colorado State University and UC Davis, which seeks to characterize and model the expected impacts of climate change on the US Dairy system, and the mitigation opportunities.  The post-doctorate will work with Dr. Niles to implement a nationwide US dairy farmer and consumer survey, develop outreach and engagement materials for the dairy industry, and develop educational materials for high school and university students.  The farmer survey will focus on farmer perceptions and adoption of climate change adaptation and mitigation practices, as well as barriers and opportunities for dairy farmers for climate-smart practice adoption. The consumer survey will focus on perceptions of the US dairy industry, dairy industry climate-smart agriculture practices, and understanding of the sector.

In addition to these projects, the post-doctorate will also have the potential to contribute to other international projects including those in New Zealand and with smallholder farmers across low and middle-income countries, exploring adoption of climate-smart practices.


Salary and Benefits

Salary range will be between $54,000- $60,000, depending on experience.  There are also a number of generous benefits associated with the position, which can be found at:  The post-doctorate will also have opportunities for professional development and travel associated with the projects.

Colleagues and Mentorship:

The Niles Lab at the University of Vermont focuses on food systems, environment and health from a behavior and policy perspective. The lab utilizes mixed methods approaches, particularly focused on quantitative social science and data science, including the integration of multiple kinds of datasets. The students and post-doctorates within the lab are inter and transdisciplinary scholars, working in fields including food systems, nutrition, plant and soil science, ecology, data science, and complex systems. The lab is funded through a number of projects from the US Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation and varying foundations, all focused on sustainable food security and systems in a changing environment and complex world.


The Social Sustainability of Agri-Food Systems Lab led by Dr. Thompson at University of Georgia applies expertise in qualitative and mixed-methods social science to develop knowledge about the relationships between human/environmental health, social justice, agroecology, and food systems. As social scientists embedded in the College of Ag & Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia, their inter-/transdisciplinary work focuses on the social sustainability of agriculture and food systems – from collaborations aimed at developing knowledge and outreach to support farmers in adopting conservation agricultural practices (i.e., cover cropping) to those focused on community food systems and food justice (i.e., produce prescription programs, farm to school).


Required Qualifications:

  • A PhD in a relevant field related to social sciences, food systems, data science or networks, political science and/or plant, soil or agricultural sciences among others.There is no specific disciplinary PhD requirement, so candidates from many different disciplines, departments and interdisciplinary programs are encouraged to apply if their experience is relevant.

  • 2+ years of experience with mixed-methods social science research:

    • Ability to analyze quantitative survey data, including social network data, using statistical analyses and network analysis.

    • Demonstrated capacity to develop social science surveys

    • Familiarity with programming (e.g., STATA, R, Python) oriented toward social science applications.

    • Ability to collect and analyze qualitative data (e.g., Atlas.ti, NVIVO, or QDAminer).

  • Publication record, evidenced by peer-reviewed publications

  • Independent work ethic


Preferred Qualifications:

  • Experience working with agricultural producers in social science research

  • Experience working with large research teams, including ability to work across disciplines and with remote academic and non-academic partners

  • Interest/experience in mentoring graduate/undergraduate students

  • Demonstrated capacity for communication of research findings among diverse audiences including farmers, non-profits, policymakers, developers and/or funders.


The University of Vermont is an Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, or any category legally protected by federal or state law. Applicants are welcome from any region, and there are no associated citizenship requirements.


Application Process:

To apply for this position please submit:

  • A cover letter that details experience and interest in the position including experience working on survey development, network analysis, and across large teams

  • A full CV

  • At least one, and up to three peer-reviewed publications

  • Contact information for three references


Top candidates will be invited to interview through video-conference, with the possibility of a campus visit. 


In order to be fully considered for the position, applications should be received by December 15, 2022.  Applications should be sent to Rebecca Mitchell, Food Systems Research and Action Coordinator at

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