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USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral 
Research Fellowship Program

S8. Institutional/policy analysis of opportunities and barriers associated with climate change adaptation processes

In the context of climate change, adaptation has been defined as the adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment that exploits beneficial opportunities or moderates negative effects.  Executive Order (EO) 13514 requires federal agencies to develop recommendations for strengthening policies and programs to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate. To further the adaptation efforts, EO 13653 titled preparing the United States for Climate Change, called for the modernization of federal programs to support climate resilient investments, managing lands and waters for climate preparedness and resilience, the creation of a Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, and the creation of a State Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Efforts of the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience have resulted in the development of national principles for adaptation that are leading to crosscutting and government-wide adaptation policies, plans, and actions. The principles and associated considerations for adaptation planning processes and implementation include local, state, regional, national, tribal, and international issues. Federal agencies are required to plan for adaptation. To facilitate this adaptation the DOI has established the Climate Science Center system (  

The National Climate Assessment provides an adaptation process that includes the following components ( characterizing vulnerability, developing options, implementing actions, monitoring outcomes, and reevaluating strategies. During this process there are many barriers that may impede adaptation efforts. Barriers are obstacles that can delay, divert, or temporally block the adaptation process. Example barriers include: a gap between scientific findings and application in adaptation and management decision-making, difficulties in using climate change projections for decision-making; lack of resources to begin and sustain adaptation efforts, lack of coordination and collaboration within and across political and natural system boundaries as well as within organizations; institutional constraints; a lack of leadership; and divergent risk perceptions/cultures and values. Similarly, opportunities may be discovered within the adaptation process along with good practice adaptation activities that highlight how barriers may have been overcome to successfully plan and implement adaptation. Research on the barriers and opportunities of planning and implementation processes is important to facilitating successful adaptation across institutions and scales.

Under this Mendenhall Research Opportunity we seek a postdoctoral research scientist to improve our understanding of climate adaptation processes within United States federal agencies and Tribal Nations with particular attention to the policies guiding the process and institutional capacity to implement adaptation actions on the landscape, specifically addressing opportunities and barriers associated with adaptation planning and implementation processes. The scope of the proposal must include, but is not limited to, adaptation processes in relation to Tribal Sovereign Nations within the North Central Climate Science Center (NC CSC) domain (see: Climate change is expected to have a larger effect on some segments of society because of social vulnerability. Tribes have unique cultural, economic, and political characteristics that may present greater risks than other populations. In response to the Presidential Executive Orders the Bureau of Indian Affairs has asked that each BIA Region create a plan to create a roadmap and establish timelines to address these critical climate issues.

Within these broad boundaries the candidate could explore a wide range of topics including but not limited to:

Candidates should possess strong skills in applying both qualitative and quantitative social science methods in the context of climate change. A successful proposal will use a mixed methods approach including both qualitative and quantitative research techniques; advance the understanding of how science can better connect to climate adaptation planning and implementation processes from the regional to local levels; and contribute to the advancement of institutional analysis and/or policy related science.

The project will be conducted in collaboration with a team of representatives from the USGS Fort Collins Science Center (, the USGS North Central Climate Science Center (, and Colorado State University Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory ( including Nina Burkardt, Rudy Schuster, Jeff Morisette, Shannon McNeeley, and Dennis Ojima, with the objective of integrating the work in the NC CSC adaptation foundational science area (

Proposed Duty Station: Fort Collins, CO

Areas of Ph.D.: Political science, anthropology, sociology, environmental studies, or other behavioral or social science; or related disciplines appropriate to the position

Qualifications: Applicants must meet the qualifications for a GS-0101 Research Social Scientist. (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).

Research Advisors: Nina Burkardt, (970) 226-9275,; Rudy Schuster, 970-226-9165,

Human Resources Office Contact: Mario Jones, (303) 236-9576,

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Direct inquiries to Rama K. Kotra at
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Last modified: 14:49:45 Mon 08 Dec 2014
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