Principal Soil Scientist (Remote)
Yard Stick PBC
Oakland, CA, USA
Posted on Thursday, January 4, 2024
About The Role
Yard Stick is looking for a Principal Soil Scientist to help us fight climate change with soil.
The Principal Soil Scientist will spearhead our science team. This looks like designing and implementing Yard Stick’s research goals and roadmap, defining the scientific partnership strategy, and making sure high quality soil science principles are integrated across all Yard Stick functions.
Yard Stick’s mission is clear: We must replace lab analysis of soil carbon with in situ spectroscopy if carbon removal via soils is to have meaningful climate impact. Beyond markets, of course, improved quality of measurement will also increase our ability to understand the nature of changing soil carbon stocks around the world. The ideal candidate is a soil scientist who is passionate about high-quality proximal sensing research and mapping, particularly in regards to soil carbon. This candidate will have demonstrated successful leadership and motivation of a small team and values radical candor and company culture.
This role will lead a team of our current Senior Soil Scientist, Sarah Coffman, and report to our cofounder and Chief Technology Officer, Kevin Meissner. This scientist can be based anywhere in US time zones, with the ability to travel ~10-20% (combination of field work, science meetings, as well as company and scientific partner on-sites).
This is a dream job for a pedometrician or soil scientist with proximal sensing experience who enjoys applying their knowledge to real world problems through high-quality and rigorous lab and field research. Someone who wants to nurture engaged and multidisciplinary research teams without the red tape of government and academic institutions will enjoy this work at Yard Stick.
We would like to hire this role ASAP.
About Yard Stick PBC
Yard Stick is a remote-first climate tech startup with cofounders based in Boston, MA and Oakland, CA. We are on a mission to reverse climate change with agriculture. Scientists and farmers alike know that climate-friendly agricultural practices have the potential to remove atmospheric CO2 at gigaton/year scale. When these practices are adopted, more carbon is stored in soils, improving soil health and fighting climate change. But significant measurement challenges have held soil carbon efforts back - until now.
By reducing the cost of soil carbon measurement by 70-90%, Yard Stick will dramatically expand the opportunities for evidence-based regenerative practices to simultaneously improve ecosystem health, increase farmer income, and combat climate change.
Current soil carbon measurement technologies are slow, expensive, and cumbersome, relying on conventional soil cores and labs to quantify carbon stocks. In contrast, Yard Stick is fast and cheap - without sacrificing accuracy. As a testament to our technology’s potential, alongside our scientific collaborators, we were awarded $18M across six USDA Climate-Smart Commodities projects, and we have additional grant financing from ARPA-E, NSF, CDFA, and other discerning grant-makers. We’ve also raised another nearly $18M from top climate VCs, including Toyota Climate Venture Fund, Lowercarbon Capital, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (Bill Gates’ climate fund), Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Extania, Pillar VC, MCJ Collective… the list goes on!
For more background, check out some coverage of Yard Stick in TechCrunch, Fast Company, and AgFunder.
We offer competitive salary and equity (benchmarked to 75th percentile of high-growth US tech compensation), health/dental/vision insurance, a 401k, and home-office reimbursements. We have many team members with young families and have a strong track record of creative, flexible approaches to hours and communication expectations which let folks feel great about their commitments both to Yard Stick and their lives outside of work.
- Manage Yard Stick’s Soil Science Team, currently one full-time scientist with the potential to grow in the near future.
- Develop and refine methods and best practices for measurement of SOC, IC, bulk density, etc. via conventional laboratory analyses.
- Manage our science roadmap and experimental strategy for advancing the state of the art of rigorous SOC measurement.
- Proactively identify any lab data or experimental sampling challenges and develop creative experiments, solutions, and initiatives to solve them.
- Represent Yard Stick alongside our outside grants strategy partner to identify, evaluate, and apply for grant opportunities that advance our objectives. Help deliver on grant projects that we win.
- Own our publication strategy and collaborate with our industry and academic partners to publish and present on Yard Stick’s work.
- Ensure that Yard Stick’s offering satisfies relevant MRV protocols (e.g. CAR SEP, Verra VM0042).
- Collaborate with the software, hardware, and data science teams to accelerate the testing and deployment of Yard Stick’s in-situ probe.
- Support marketing, business development, and sales efforts to effectively communicate soil science concepts to non-scientist stakeholders and collaborators.
Qualifications (Must Have)
- Advanced degree or comparable expertise in soil science and pedology. Whether or not you have an MS or PhD, you have the expertise of one. You have a working understanding of how soils vary across a landscape, ecosystems, and farming systems.
- Strong understanding of soil carbon and GHG dynamics of soils and soil use, especially in broadacre agricultural contexts. You understand how agricultural practices and climate impact intersect. You’re an expert in the principles of soil science especially insofar as they are related to quantification of soil carbon stocks and stock changes over time.
- Familiarity with public soil data sets, stratification techniques, and/or digital soil mapping technologies and strategies. Yard Stick thinks about soil sampling and its intersection with soil datasets with regularity. You have a demonstrated understanding of field- and region-scale soil variability. You know how soil characteristics change across the US, ideally with an emphasis on the Midwest, and can use that understanding to inform experimental plans. You’ll comfortably go explore the use of SSURGO data sets, emerging stratification techniques for designing soil carbon sampling plans, and you’ll happily dig into a carbon market’s guidance on quantifying stock uncertainty for an afternoon.
- Ability to link scientific insight to company strategy. You instinctively interpret information in terms of what Yard Stick should do, and you proactively highlight emerging science’s implications for Yard Stick’s offerings. You’re constantly interrogating Yard Stick’s worldview against what you’re learning from research to ensure we’re truly prioritizing real climate impact. You’re not afraid to confront senior leadership with conflicting evidence that may require an adjustment to the company’s direction.
- Ability to advance company strategy via focused research. You understand the business strategy and commercial intent of Yard Stick and proactively identify gaps between our current capabilities and where we need to be. You lead the soil science team to design experiments and conduct research in order to close that gap.
- Utmost confidence to communicate Yard Stick’s scientific approach to multiple audiences. Not only are you able to direct Yard Stick’s’ scientific approach based on your above qualifications, but you can clearly articulate and defend our approach to the wider soil science and climate science communities, investors, your team members or even your next door neighbor. You can direct who goes to which scientific meetings, what we present, and who we prioritize networking with.
- Experience leading a small to large research team. You have led and managed a team of graduate students or entry to senior level employees. You know how to motivate a team, contribute to company culture and enthusiastically lead tactical efforts.
Qualifications (Nice to Have)
- Awareness of current issues in soil carbon MRV. You’ve heard of soil carbon marketplaces, you’ve at least perused emerging protocols and you’re interested to learn more about how they work, and how measurement, reporting, and verification, Yard Stick’s field, is a key part of how they can grow in credible climate impact and commercial attractiveness.
- Successful leadership of high-value grant proposals. Yard Stick has already won over $4M in grants, including large awards from DOE and an NSF SBIR. Currently, our grant work is led by our partner Climate Finance Solutions. You would liaise closely with this partner and experience navigating the grant writing (and grant winning!) landscape is highly attractive to us.
- Experience working with commercial hardware and software offerings. You can anticipate challenges that come with deploying new technologies and softwares. You are adaptable to new tech and can articulate clear bugs or feature needs to a technical team.
- Personal, durable enthusiasm for the challenge of climate change. It matters to you that you’re working on a problem of existential significance. You get fired up by the fact that your work can help avoid others’ suffering. You’re briefly overwhelmed by the scale of the problem... and then you’re right back in the ring doing your part.
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Yard Stick’s impact goals go well beyond climate science. Why? Our company operates primarily in the US agricultural sector, which is predicated on centuries of mass land theft and disenfranchisement of Native and Black people. This harm continues today. If we’re going to work in this sector, we need to leave it better than we found it.
Consistent with our core value of “Pursue Justice,” we speak up about these issues, and we support emerging solutions and relevant policy efforts such as H.R.40 and S.300. We also publicly highlight the risk of further racial discrimination in emerging agricultural legislation like the Growing Climate Solutions Act and in press coverage ensure that the discrimination in past and present US agriculture is part of the conversation right alongside more typical topics like who our customers are, or how our tech works.
Regarding hiring and culture, we work to create a work environment where everyone feels confident sharing their ideas, problem-solving happens openly and collaboratively, and mistake-making is welcomed. We’ve recently organized lunchtime all-team discussions on issues like labor equity in Florida produce, Pigford v. Glickman (the largest US civil rights settlement in history), and other contemporary moral concerns in agriculture. When hiring, we standardize our interview process and questions to reduce “likeability” bias, benchmark salaries against industry databases to reduce negotiation, and utilize tools like the Gender Decoder. Climate change is arguably the most complex challenge ever faced by humanity - we need all of humanity activated to fight back, and that motivates us to build a diverse team.