Cornell University, Lab of Ornithology

Position ID:Cornell-Lab-RACAP3 [#21030, WDR-00029563]
Position Title: Research Associate: Data Scientist
Position Type:Other
Position Location:Ithaca, New York 14850, United States [map]
Subject Areas: Visualization
Appl Deadline:2022/07/01 11:59PMhelp popup* (posted 2022/01/25, listed until 2022/07/01)
Position Description:    

*** the listing date or deadline for this position has passed and new applications are no longer accepted. ***

* this map is a best-effort approximation. Open in Google Maps directly.

Research Associate: Data Scientist 
Cornell Lab of Ornithology 
College of Agriculture & Life Sciences 
Ithaca NY

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a globally focused institution with the mission to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.

The Center for Avian Population Studies (CAPS) is one of the major programmatic units at the Lab and home to eBird, a global citizen science project that has become the largest biodiversity monitoring system in existence. By engaging hundreds of thousands of volunteers worldwide, eBird functions as an on-the-ground avian sensor network providing an unparalleled source of fine-scale, year-round information on bird populations. 

The goal of the eBird Status and Trends (S&T) project is to use the information collected by eBird to become the go-to source for publicly available high-quality, high-resolution data visualizations, and tools describing where bird populations occur and how they change through time. To translate eBird observations into robust data products we use custom modeling workflows designed to fill spatiotemporal gaps based on remote sensing data while controlling for the biases inherent in species observations collected by volunteers. The workflow generates estimates of species’ distributions and abundance, measures how they change over time, and identifies the features of the environment associated with populations. Leveraging the broad coverage and fine scale of eBird, these estimates are generated with high resolution across global extents making it possible to address a wide variety of important ecological and conservation applications.

Job Description/Position Function:

To achieve these goals the eBird Status and Trends (S&T) project is seeking a Data Scientist to join our team. This work is at the interface of machine learning, statistics, and ecology and will span a range of topics from sampling design, exploratory analysis, visualization, and discovery to prediction, validation, quantification of uncertainty, and statistical inference.  The Data Scientist will play a leading role researching and developing the quantitative analyses used to generate and apply S&T data products. You will work closely with other team scientists to improve and extend models of species’ distributions, abundance, and trends, as well as developing new methods to create additional data products.  Common challenges we encounter include the separation of dynamic, multiscale ecological signals from the inherently noisy, biased observations collected by volunteers in a data-rich, big data production-scale environment. The Data Scientist will also participate in projects demonstrating how S&T data products can be used in impactful ecological and conservation applications and decision-making activities. This will take place through internal collaborations with CAPS and Lab scientists as well as with external partners and collaborators. 

Duties and Responsibilities:

Research (50%)

  • Develop a research program aligned with the vision and strategic goals of the S&T project and the Center for Avian Population Studies. 
  • Improve and extend existing species distribution, abundance, and trend models to have better precision, accuracy, geographic, taxonomic scope, uncertainty estimates & computational efficiency. 
  • Incorporate new features to improve descriptions and inferences about ecological and citizen science observation processes. 
  • Publish data science advances in peer-reviewed scientific journals and conference proceedings, and give presentations at professional meetings.
  • Develop and foster national and international collaborations with data scientists, ecologists, and conservation practitioners. 
  • Participate in and lead proposal and grant writing to seek funds for S&T project development and postdoctoral student support. 
  • Work collaboratively with other PIs in the Lab to identify, seek, and secure funding to support the broader strategic goals of CAPS.

Development & Applications (30%)

  • Work with S&T data engineering & visualization teams to translate research into workflow and product improvements. 
  • Collaborate with CAPS Conservation Science team projects to demonstrate novel and impactful applications of S&T products for conservation planning and decision-making.
  • Identify and develop novel S&T data products and applications (e.g. construct features capturing novel sources of variation in observation process, using data products to create indicators/generalization of other ecological processes). 
  • Be involved in communication and coordination between eBird data collection and data analysis teams. 

Mentoring and capacity building (15%)

  • Mentor and supervise CAPS postdoctoral fellows 
  • Actively participate and contribute to regular team, CAPS, and Lab meetings 
  • Provide guidance and mentoring to undergraduate and graduate students at Cornell University.
  • Teach lab workshops, or Cornell campus seminars & guest lectures. 
  • Collaborate, guide, and advise CAPS and Lab researchers and technical staff on data science.

Contributing to activities at Cornell and the Lab of Ornithology (5%)

  • Engage with projects at other Centers at the Cornell Lab
  • Participate in campus activities and seminars
  • Contribute to project meetings, campus and Cornell Lab Seminars and talks
  • Engage with the Philanthropic Development and Communication programs at the Cornell Lab when needed

Term of position:

This is a full-time (100% FTE) position and will be located in (Ithaca, New York). This is a three-year appointment with possible extension depending on available work, funding and performance.

Required Qualifications: 

  • PhD in data science, statistics, computer science or a related field with a strong background in data science. 
  • At least 2 years of postdoctoral experience. 
  • A strong record of success conducting applied independent data science research and related scholarly activities (e.g., presenting and conferences and meetings)
  • Strong record of publishing scientific papers in peer reviewed journals
  • Experience applying broad range of data science methods in challenging, large data settings.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills needed to convey quantitative information and ideas in written reports and presentations to a diversity of audiences
  • Detailed knowledge of R to work with project codebase
  • Demonstrated experience leading and working as part of a team and coordinating projects.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Experience with causal Inference, interpretable ML techniques, spatiotemporal analysis, high resolution remote sensing data, citizen science or other complex observational datasets.
  • Experience with using deep learning or computer vision within a structured model framework
  • Experience designing, implementing, testing, validating, and interpreting machine learning and statistical methods with large ecological or environmental datasets or within production environments.
  • Experience mentoring postdoctoral fellows and supervising students.
  • Experience identifying and writing funding proposals.
  • Experience with Python, shell scripting for automation, SLURM, or HPCs 
  • Familiarity with best code practices for reproducibility. 

Salary or Rewards/Benefits:

Salary commensurate with experience. 

Cornell provides great benefits that include professional development, access to wellness programs, employee discounts with local and national retail brands, broad range of comprehensive health care options, and generous paid leave provisions:  3 weeks of vacation, 13 holidays (including end of year winter break), paid family leave, and superior retirement contributions.

Application Instructions:

Interested applicants should submit a CV, letter of interest, contact information for 3 references and a statement of contribution to diversity, equity, and inclusion via Academic Jobs Online at the following link:  Applications must be submitted by 7/01/22.  If you have questions about this position, please email

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Life. Changing.

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Application Materials Required:
Submit the following items online at this website to complete your application:
And anything else requested in the position description.

Further Info:
159 Sapsucker Woods Road
Ithaca, New York 14850