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USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program

17-18. Geoinformatics research for USGS science

As a leading federal natural-science research agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is well-positioned to harness the massive growth in Earth systems data to answer societally relevant questions.  Collaboration and integration of data from multiple sources is fundamental to conducting the USGS's mission of providing reliable scientific information that helps reduce loss of life and property from natural disasters and informs the management of water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.  Towards this end, technological advances now make it possible to run fully interactive, scalable and data-proximate science workflows remotely on both high-performance computing (HPC) facilities and in the Cloud, using community-driven, open-source components.  Scientists need only a web browser and internet connection to process and analyze massive amounts of data stored off-site.   Research is needed to understand how best to integrate this capability into the next generation of USGS science.

The focus of research under this Opportunity is to investigate and develop interactive, scalable workflows on HPC and the Cloud for targeted science use cases, addressing technical, institutional and cultural challenges of compelling interest to USGS programs. Leveraging technological innovation to address the growing exposure of human populations to natural hazard risks is a recognized agency priority.  The recently released USGS Circular “Science for a Risky World” [1] states that harnessing advances in technology and employing experts with skills in advanced computing will help generate products and information that reduce risk.

The candidate will have a wide latitude for shaping the outcomes of this project, including the development of new workflows for simulation, spatial analysis, machine learning, visualization, and distribution of information products. For example, aerial or satellite imagery of coastal areas before and after storms can be processed with photogrammetry algorithms to determine elevations, classified using machine learning tools to extract landscape features, and analyzed to evaluate landform change. Storm impact metrics could be developed from terabytes of coastal ocean simulation data; products could include vulnerability assessments and new approaches for delivering this content to stakeholders. Assessments of ensemble modeling using the National Water Model could be generated and products distributed in Cloud-friendly formats. The advances made will benefit not only the individual science use cases explored, but the broader USGS and the greater international research communities. In the event that the project involves content delivery, the candidate will be encouraged to engage with stakeholders from the project initiation through to its conclusion to ensure the development of optimally effective products and delivery mechanisms.
The USGS is working with a successful community of scientists and developers supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Google, Amazon and Microsoft and has already developed proof of concept examples that demonstrate the utility of these interactive, scalable, data-proximate workflows for USGS science.

The incumbent will benefit from mentoring relationships within USGS Land, Water, and Hazards Mission Areas, the USGS Community for Data Integration, the NSF-supported Pangeo Project, and the Earth System Information Partners. The incumbent will also likely be in the position to mentor USGS scientists in applying new geoinformatics techniques to their research. Applicants should have experience with Python or R; experience with Docker, Kubernetes and parallel workflows is a plus.

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisors, below, early in the application process to discuss project ideas.

Proposed Duty Station: Woods Hole, MA; Middleton, WI; or Tucson, AZ

Areas of Ph.D.: Oceanography, hydrology, geophysics, meteorology, computer science, geoinformatics, data science, engineering, environmental science, or other relevant discipline (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive relevant knowledge and skills may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants could meet one of the following qualifications: Research Geologist; Research Geographer; Research Hydrologist; Research Oceanographer; Research Engineer; Computer 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 Advisor(s): Rich Signell, (508) 457-2229,; Jordan Read, (608) 821-3922,; Jess Walker, (520) 670-5019,

Human Resources Office Contact: Katherine Heller,, 703-648-7408


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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
URL: Signell.htm
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Last modified: 11:07:39 Fri 08 Feb 2019
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