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USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral  Research Fellowship Program

14-2. Standardized Mapping of Global Terrestrial Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services

We seek a postdoctoral fellow to map standardized terrestrial ecosystems of the planet at a 250 meter spatial resolution. This opportunity is associated with USGS leadership of a global ecosystems mapping task as part of an intergovernmental protocol called the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). GEOSS is an initiative of the consortium of nations forming the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). In addition to mapping ecosystem distributions, the Fellow will innovate in the areas of ecosystem services mapping, essentially through attribution of mapped ecosystem occurrences with ecosystem service production potentials derived through application of benefit transfer models. The ecosystem services work will focus primarily on two aspects of natural capital, carbon sequestration, and habitat provision for wildlife.

Ecosystems provide a number of goods (e.g. food, fiber, fuel, etc.) and services (e.g. water purification, pollination, flood control, etc.) necessary for human survival. Societal well-being depends on the availability of these ecosystem goods and services in sufficient quality and quantity. However, the Millennium Assessment (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005) reported that globally, of 24 ecosystem services measured, 15 were in decline and another 5 currently stable but threatened. It concluded that compromised production and delivery of ecosystem goods and services was a serious, global concern, and recommended subsequent evaluations at finer scales with more rigorous spatial analysis. Today, the characterization of the production, flow, and consumption of ecosystem services is emerging as an important science strategy, and has become a science priority for the USGS.

The general nature of the work undertaken by the Fellow will be to advance the science of ecosystem distribution mapping and mapping and evaluating ecosystem services. The work will require both concept and methods development, for which there will be a great deal of latitude. The research must necessarily be particularly innovative because most current analyses and maps of ecosystem services production use spatial analysis units that, interestingly, are not ecosystems. Many of these assessments use watersheds, or land cover, or geopolitical areas, or raster pixels as the spatial analytical unit. It is logical, however, that since ecosystems are the "service provider" units for ecosystem services production, ecosystem occurrences would be desirable spatial analysis units. There is an increasing need to strengthen the spatially explicit characterization of ecosystem services production, and to better anchor the provisioning of the service to the underlying ecosystem that is producing it.

The ecosystem mapping effort will follow published protocols (Sayre et al., 2013; Sayre et al., 2009) developed during several continent-wide ecosystem mapping efforts. These protocols will need to be modified for global implementation of ecosystem mapping at 250 m, a relatively fine spatial resolution for mapping global features such as terrestrial ecosystems. The overall ecosystem mapping approach includes mapping the biophysical environment (landforms, climate regions, surface moisture, lithology, etc.), associating known locations of vegetation assemblages with these biophysical settings, and modeling ecosystem distributions using classification and regression tree (CART) predictive analytics concepts. This approach seeks to model ecosystem distributions from a knowledge of their biophysical settings, rather than interpretation of ecosystem distributions directly from remotely-sensed imagery.

This work will directly support the GEO Ecosystems program and the GEO Biodiversity Observation Network. It will also contribute substantially to the GEO Forest Carbon Tracking program, the GEO Global Forest Observatory Initiative, and the USGS/USFS/USAID SilvaCarbon initiative.


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being. Island Press and World Resources Institute, Washington, DC. 137 pages.

Sayre, Roger, Comer, Patrick, Warner, Harumi, and Cress, Jill, 2009, A new map of standardized terrestrial ecosystems of the conterminous United States: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1768, 17 p. (Also available online at

Sayre, R., P. Comer, J. Hak, C. Josse, J. Bow, H. Warner, M. Larwanou, E. Kelbessa, T. Bekele, H. Kehl, R. Amena, R. Andriamasimanana, T. Ba, L. Benson, T. Boucher, M. Brown, J. Cress, O. Dassering, B. Friesen, F. Gachathi, S. Houcine, M. Keita, E. Khamala, D. Marangu, F. Mokua, B. Morou, L. Mucina, S. Mugisha, E. Mwavu, M. Rutherford, P. Sanou, S. Syampungani, B. Tomor, A. Vall, J. Vande Weghe, E. Wangui, and L. Waruingi. 2013. A New Map of Standardized Terrestrial Ecosystems of Africa. Washington, DC: Association of American Geographers. 24 pages. (Also available online at

Duty Station: Reston, VA

Areas of Ph.D.: Ecology, ecosystem geography, ecosystem science, phytogeography/biogeography, vegetation science, and 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 one of the following qualifications - 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, educations, and research proposal. The final classifications of theposition will be made by the Human Resources specialist).

Research Advisor: Roger Sayre, (703) 648-4529,

Human Resources Office Contact: Jennifer Daberkow, (303) 236-9566,

Go back to Summary of Opportunities

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
URL: Sayre.htm
Direct inquiries to Rama K. Kotra at
Maintained by: Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program Web Team
Last modified: 17:58:03 Tue 23 Jul 2013
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