Director of Sustainability & Resilience Science - Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)

Post Date: 8/29/2022
Opportunity Type: Job
Organization/Grantor: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)
Position/Title/Fund: Director of Sustainability & Resilience Science
Deadline: October 1, 2022
Location: Republic of Panama

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama seeks a leader to expand our capabilities in research related to understanding tropical marine and terrestrial systems as well as the research, education, collaboration and outreach that support evidence-based conservation of these systems and the people that depend on them. Working collaboratively with scientists leading core sustainability and resilience science initiatives and projects in marine and terrestrial areas, the Director of STRI Sustainability and Resilience Science will lead the process to define priorities for this initiative, support cohesion and growth of a broad portfolio of existing programs, establish new programs and initiatives, and maintain their own self-directed research program focused on tropical conservation biology, resilience, sustainability and/or coupled human-natural systems. It is further expected that the Director will work with leadership, staff scientists, and external collaborators to conceive, develop, and craft proposals for funding to support sustainability and resilience science.

STRI is headquartered in the Republic of Panama, with modern research and laboratory facilities, a library with extensive holdings in the natural and anthropological sciences, and terrestrial and marine field stations throughout the country. STRI has a vibrant and collaborative scientific community of 27 staff scientists and hosts over 1200 scientific visitors per year, including Fellows and Interns supported through a Fellowship program. Staff scientists maintain diverse research programs in the ecology, evolution, physiology, development, and behavior of marine and terrestrial organisms and ecosystems, both ancient and modern, and the role of human interactions in shaping tropical environments. Strong interdisciplinary links between our scientists and the broader Smithsonian community provide excellent opportunities for addressing large-scale long-term research questions that are not possible elsewhere. 

Applicants should have a PhD degree and knowledge of tropical research, global change, sustainability, biodiversity, conservation biology and/or coupled human-natural systems. We are specifically looking for applicants who are bilingual (English and Spanish), have demonstrated research competency in environmental social science, and a deep understanding of the role of science in conservation, sustainability, and sustainable development. The applicant must also have experience in making effective and persuasive oral presentations and possess the ability to interpret prospective donors’ interests and to craft recommendations for connecting these interests to STRI’s research and fundraising goals.


STRI-Sustainability Structure, Strategy, and Growth (40%)

  • The Director of STRI-Sustainability will lead the process to define priorities for the initiative, manage resources, establish, and manage programs, and raise funds to support the growth of the initiative. The incumbent will work closely with STRI leadership and a core set of staff scientists working on sustainability and resilience science. His/her work will include engaging and supporting a wide range of sustainability-focused tropical research, training and outreach on land, in coastal habitats, and at sea and growing STRls focus on environmental justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the STRI-Sustainability portfolio. In addition, the Director of STRI- Sustainability will be responsible for identifying growth areas, gaps, and opportunities for STRI in Panama, in the region, and throughout the tropics; defining key boundary-spanning positions that will help increase the reach, relevance, and impact of the work in STRI-Sustainability; and working to raise funds to support key center initiatives. The incumbent's work will involve advancing partnerships across Smithsonian units, and with our strategic partners in Panama, in the region, and around the word.

Research (40%)

  • The STRI-Sustainability Director will be expected to maintain their own research program focused on one or more aspects of tropical sustainability and / or coupled human-natural systems in the tropics. The STRI-Sustainability Director will support and mentor fellows for the center, and in support of their own research. The incumbent will be responsible for developing, writing, and executing scientific grants and proposals, and seek funding from various sources.

Supervision (20%)

  • The Director of STRI-Sustainability will supervise and support a broad portfolio of programs and projects, each led by a program manager, technical lead, or a STRI staff scientist. The incumbent will assign projects and tasks, provide technical direction, prepare performance plans, and complete performance appraisals, facilitate training, resolve conflicts, initiate disciplinary action when required, and nominate staff for awards for exceptional performance. Staff reporting to the director will evolve rapidly in the first few years as the center matures, but it is expected that the Director of STRI-Sustainability will have at least 4 direct reports when they begin the position, and this number is expected to double within the first 2 years of service.


  • Knowledge of tropical research, global change, sustainability, biodiversity, conservation, or coupled human-natural systems
  • Demonstrated research competency in environmental social-science (social-sciences focused on the complex relationships between people and environment)
  • Deep understanding of the role of science in conservation and sustainability
  • Strong program management experience, and exceptional organizational and project management skills
  • Deep experience working on conservation, sustainability, and resilience of tropical systems, with direct experience with co-design, and co-implementation of research working with non-science partners and or partners in multiple sectors
  • A good understanding of conservation and sustainability agendas and needs at multiple scales -global tropics, new world tropics, Panama
  • Strong, demonstrated scientific writing skills and excellent in-person communication skills in Spanish and English
  • Ability to act diplomatically, effectively, and independently with a variety of constituencies in the U.S. and internationally
  • Ability to work within a complex business and cultural environment
  • Demonstrated ability to raise research funds
  • Demonstrated commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in leadership, scholarship, and engagement
  • Demonstrated ability to successfully lead fundraising efforts in a major cultural or scientific organization to secure annual results of multi-million-dollar external financial support
  • Skill in fiscal accountability and financial reporting methods
  • Skill in written communication sufficient to accomplish effective donor communications, grant applications, and sponsorship proposals that secure substantive financial support from foundations and corporations. Ability to communicate orally in order to successfully make effective and persuasive oral presentations for support of cultural projects that secure financial support from a wide variety of donors
  • Ability to successfully supervise an advancement program staff of a complex cultural or scientific organization
  • Ability to analyze the connections between fundraising goals and donor interests in order to make recommendations about the prospects, and alternatives, for funding sources
  • Ability to provide advisory service and guide board members, officers, and senior staff leadership of cultural or educational nonprofit organizations to achieve multi-million- dollar campaign goals
  • Knowledge of current philanthropic and public relations interests of foundations and corporations to facilitate successful selection of appropriate sources for projects and to determine best manner of cultivation.
How to Apply:

Interested candidates should submit the following to

  1. Cover letter
  2. Curriculum vitae
  3. Statement of research, accomplishments, and vision
  4. Three significant publications
  5. Names and contact information of three references.

These materials should be submitted as a single PDF file labeled LastName_FirstName_SustainablityDirector.pdf. Review of applications will begin on 1 October 2022. Additional queries can be made to the search committee chair, Dr. W. Owen McMillan,

Contact Info: Dr. W. Owen McMillan,