Job Opportunity

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Tropical Forest Physiology & Demography

ForestGEO & NGEE-Tropics

The Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO) and Next Generation Ecosystem Experiments-Tropics (NGEE-Tropics) invite applications for a postdoctoral fellowship in tropical forest physiology and demography. The role of soil water status in regulating the structure, composition and dynamics of tropical forests remains poorly understood. Accurate predictions of tropical forest structure and responses to changing climate, rising CO2, and disturbance require a much deeper understanding of the interplay between soil water availability and forest growth, function, and functional composition.

The fellowship will integrate physiological and demographic data to improve predictions of how tropical forest dynamics respond to seasonal and episodic drought in an Earth System Model. Detailed field measurements of soil water and physiological function, e.g., sap flow, plant carbohydrates, wood production, and stable carbon isotope ratios, will be conducted in Pasoh Forest Reserve in Peninsular Malaysia. Field measurements will be linked to long-term ForestGEO data from the Pasoh 50-ha forest dynamics plot in partnership with the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia. Analyses of the resulting physiological and demographic data will test hypotheses regarding the physiological mechanisms that underlie forest demographic responses to climate, and will be used to evaluate and benchmark Earth System Model representations of forest response to drought.

The Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO) is a global network of forest research plots and scientists dedicated to the study of tropical and temperate forest function and diversity. ForestGEO conducts long-term, large-scale research on forests around the world to increase scientific understanding of forest ecosystems, guide sustainable forest management and natural-resource policies, monitor the impacts of environmental change, and build capacity in forest science.

ForestGEO is one of several institutions involved in the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiments-Tropics (NGEE-Tropics), a ten-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER). NGEE-Tropics aims to fill critical gaps in knowledge of tropical forest-climate system interactions. The overarching goal of NGEE-Tropics is to develop a predictive understanding of the role of tropical forests in the Earth’s coupled biogeochemical cycles and forest disturbance/recovery processes and how they will respond to changing environmental drivers over the 21st century.

Candidates should hold a PhD in forest ecology, plant physiology, hydrology, or environmental science, strong written and communication skills, and demonstrated ability to work in a team environment. They should have demonstrated expertise in technical field measurements, the use of dataloggers, and instruments for monitoring dynamic physiological and environmental conditions (e.g., soil water, sapflow, etc.). Candidates should have a strong analytical background, with expertise in handling large datasets in R software, an established record of research, and scholarly publication in tree physiology and/or forest demography. Candidates with empirical, theoretical or modeling backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

The position will be based at the ForestGEO headquarters at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. The position will be co-supervised by Drs. Stuart Davies (STRI) and Nate McDowell (DOE Pacific Northwest National Lab). The fellowship requires travel for extensive field work in Malaysia and may involve travel to other tropical forest countries involved in the ForestGEO and NGEE-Tropics programs.

The appointment is for one year initially, with an opportunity for a second year based on successful performance. The starting date is flexible; earlier start dates are preferred. Compensation is equivalent to standard Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow salary. 

To apply, send a single PDF file containing a cover letter including a statement of research interest, CV, contact information for three references, and three relevant publications or manuscripts to Lauren Krizel, ForestGEO Program Manager,

Closing date for applications is 20 October 2023. For further information, contact ForestGEO Director, Stuart Davies, ( or Nate McDowell (  

Job Locations: 
Washington, DC, USA