Principal Soil Scientist 

Yard Stick Published: June 2, 2022
Prefer SF Bay Area, CA
Skill Level
Senior Level
Job Type
Climate Change / Program Management / Scientific

When you apply for this position, please say you saw this job on Green Dream Jobs!!


Yard Stick is looking for a Principal Soil Scientist to help us fight climate change with soil.
This role is Yard Stick’s first full-time, in-house scientist and an ideal candidate will lead the company’s experimental roadmap, publication strategy, and will be the organization’s primary coordinator of outside scientific collaborations. We are a small company with big ambitions, and therefore we need someone exceptionally entrepreneurial to help us build a mission-driven company alongside Yard Stick’s co-founding team.
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. Our Principal Soil Scientist will help develop and communicate the scientific basis for Yard Stick’s in-situ soil carbon measurement. In turn, this will enable soil carbon removal at gigaton/year impact across the globe.
This role will report to the CEO and can be based anywhere in US time zones with a priority for those in the SF Bay Area. It will include modest but fulfilling travel (including potential weeks-long trips to our lab in Oakland, CA for folks not based in the SF Bay Area) and market-rate salary and equity. We roughly expect this role to be 10% field work and 20% bench work, with the balance spent on planning, administration, data analysis, and reporting.
This is a dream job for an entrepreneurial, creative, adaptive scientist who wants to apply their expertise in a rapidly-growing startup with strong fundamentals and literal planetary-scale impact. This is a nightmare job for someone who has to be told what to do and wants to "work in industry."
We offer competitive salary, equity for permanent roles, health insurance, a 401k, and home-office reimbursements. In terms of flexible schedules, we have a number of founders and other 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 family.
We’d like to hire this person immediately.
About Yard Stick PBC
Yard Stick is a remote-first, seed-stage company, with founders based in Boston, Oakland, and Chicago. 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 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. Alongside our scientific collaborators, we were awarded a $3.6M grant from the DOE ARPA-E Smartfarm program in Fall 2020. For more background, check out some recent coverage in TechCrunch or Treehugger.
We've also raised money from top climate VCs, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures (Bill Gates' climate fund), Lowercarbon Capital (Chris and Crystal Sacca's climate fund), MCJ Collective, and others. This financing isn’t announced, because that can feel a bit cart before the horse, but we're happy to share more detail about our fundraising when we chat.
About The Role
This role will own the scientific worldview of Yard Stick. We need someone who can work cross-disciplinarily with hardware, software, field, and business teams alike to conduct the R&D required to evaluate the effectiveness of Yard Stick’s offerings. This role must be as comfortable with the “brain work” of science (e.g. literature review, expert interviews, experimental design) as the “hand work” of science (e.g. soil sampling alongside our field team, scanning 100s of soil samples in our lab). Parts of the latter may be contracted to part-time team members, as necessary, whom this role would recruit.
To date, Yard Stick has relied on our Smartfarm co-PIs for scientific leadership. Specifically, our closest relationships are with Dr. Cristine Morgan and Dr. Jason Ackerson at the Soil Health Institute and Dr. Yufeng Ge at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. These three are remarkably talented collaborators who are world experts in soil spectroscopy and related topics whom we treasure… but they also have other responsibilities besides Yard Stick!
Yard Stick’s Principal Soil Scientist will improve the quality of our work with these collaborators while also owning scientific responsibilities which are more appropriate for a full-time, in-house team member vs. outside advisor.
Currently, Yard Stick is focused on proof of concept of our in situ spectral probe. This Principal Soil Scientist will design experiments to validate and refine key R&D questions and publish results alongside our outside scientific collaborators. This work will happen in close collaboration with hardware and data science teams, but ultimately it is this role who will align us with best practices. Yard Stick’s goal is to demonstrate the carbon and bulk density estimation capabilities of our spectral probe via publication-quality research; it’s this research which this role will focus on.
To thrive in this role, you should be excited by the prospect of reporting directly to the CEO to ensure all actions of the company are informed by the best available science.

Qualifications - Must Have

  • Advanced degree or comparable expertise in pedometrics, proximal soil sensing, and similar soil science disciplines. Whether or not you have an MS or PhD, you have the expertise of one. You have a working understanding of geospatial workflows, basic GIS software and GIS data manipulation techniques, and spatial computing in R, Python, or other relevant languages.
  • Absolute comfort with actionable literature review. You love having a bunch of papers dumped on your proverbial desk with a request to “figure it out.” You are comfortable cold-emailing a researcher to check your understanding of their work. You’re unafraid asking “dumb” questions of experts well outside your domain to make sure Yard Stick has the best possible understanding of a given topic.
  • 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 familiar with principles of soil science (pedology knowledge is highly desirable), 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.
  • Experience designing, executing, and documenting high quality soil bench work. Yard Stick has an existing field team which owns our field sampling efforts. You’ll likely join them in-field for learning and collaboration, but your attention will be focused more on what we do with soils once they get to our lab. You’re comfortable designing experimental SOPs with very high attention to detail, and you’re OK spending a week or two at the bench cranking through a few 100 samples if that’s the best way to get the work done. If bench work exceeds your capacity, you have experience hiring and managing small teams conducting experiments together.
  • 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’s opinions with conflicting evidence that may require an adjustment to the company’s direction.
  • Strong ability to organize and communicate information well, including experimental data. Since you’ll often be the only person with a specific piece of information or experience, documenting, interpreting, and sharing it well is paramount. Doubly so since Yard Stick is a remote-first company. You conduct sophisticated data analysis on your and others’ work regularly and excellently, and when asked to present your findings to teammates you know that designing that moment of communication itself is half the work. You know others don’t see the data the same way you do, and you tailor your approach to ensure comprehensibility in your audience. You code switch between scientific and less-technical audiences with aplomb.
  • Strong personal independence and entrepreneurial autonomy. You don’t sit around waiting for somebody to answer your question, but rather get it done one way or another with what you’ve got. You assess the situation, consider solutions, make a plan, and execute. You tend to get way out ahead of everybody else and anticipate others’ needs well.
  • Authorization to work in the United States.

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 methodologies (e.g. CAR SEP, Verra VM0042/IALM) and you’ve 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.
  • Facility with engineering problem-solving. While we have an exceptional hardware team at Yard Stick, if you’re “handy,” you’ll be an even better teammate. When you imagine high-quality experiments, can you also dream up great jigs and fixtures to make your work go faster, more predictably, and with less error? Do you know your way around a workshop? If something breaks in the field, can you hack it back together? If so, we’d be glad to hear about it.
  • Successful leadership of high-value grant proposals. Yard Stick has already won nearly $2M in grants, including large awards from DOE and an NSF SBIR. Currently our grant work is entirely led by a partner organization. You would likely liaise closely with this partner and experience navigating the grant writing (and grant winning!) landscape is highly attractive to us.
  • 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.

Compensation and Other Details

  • Market salary and equity commensurate with expertise, benchmarked to 70th percentile of SF Bay Area compensation. Directionally, we expect a salary of ~$100-140k and equity of 0.2-0.3%. We offer to extend post-termination exercise periods to 10 years when you leave so you don’t get screwed out of your options.
  • Unlimited PTO and sick leave and paid caregiver leave. 6 weeks primary caregiver (fka “maternity leave”), 2 weeks secondary caregiver (fka “paternity leave”). Caregiver leave extends to surrogacy, adoption and other ways in which families grow.
  • Healthcare, dental, and vision insurance, 401k, and other benefits such as One MedicalKindbody, and Talkspace memberships.
  • Role can be based anywhere in US time zones, with a priority for SF Bay Area-based candidates, as the role will require material bench work at our lab in Oakland, CA.
  • We’ll buy you a computer and provide a work-from-home reimbursement to use how you please.

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Yard Stick’s impact goals go well beyond climate science (although our #1 value is Climate Impact). 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 actively work to make it better.
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.
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 also 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 (this one is feminine-coded, fwiw). 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.

When you apply for this position, please say you saw this job on Green Dream Jobs!!

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