Policy Assistant/Associate

About the Nicholas Institute

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University improves environmental policymaking worldwide through objective, fact-based research to confront the climate crisis, clarify the economics of limiting carbon pollution, harness emerging environmental markets, put the value of nature's benefits on the balance sheet, develop adaptive water management approaches, and identify other strategies to attain community resilience.

The Nicholas Institute is part of Duke University and its wider community of world-class scholars. This unique resource allows the Nicholas Institute's team of economists, scientists, lawyers and policy experts to not only deliver timely, credible analyses to a wide variety of decision makers, but also to convene these decision makers to reach a shared understanding regarding this century's most pressing environmental problems.  http://nicholasinstitute.duke.edu/

Position Summary

The Policy Assistant/Associate will report to both the Ecosystem Services Program Director, Lydia Olander, and the Oceans and Coastal Program Director, John Virdin, on project and initiative development and follow-through. In this full time grant funded position with annual renewal the Policy Assistant/Associate will work with the three current research associates in these programs, the many other students and faculty collaborators at Duke and other Universities involved in this work, as well as agency, institutional, and NGO collaborators.  This position is expected to begin in January 2019, but there is some flexibility on start date. Below is a summary of examples of the work that may take place over the first year of this position.  The work portfolio is likely to evolve over the course of a year.

  • Engage in project work supported by the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (CASC). Duke University has recently joined the CASC consortium and will increase its engagement with the center’s mission and work. One project involves literature research, geospatial mapping (GIS) and database management for natural capital accounting and for assessing how ecosystem service provision in the Southeast region are affected by global change.  Applications may include prioritization for the Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability (SERPPAS) a partnership of federal agencies and states and using natural capital accounts to inform management of Department of Interior land management.
  • Support a project on ecosystem service logic model development for coastal restoration strategies for the NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserves in North Carolina and Florida.
  • Support a project funded by the Gulf Research Program to develop ecosystem service logic models related to commonly applied gulf restoration strategies. This work may involve logic model development with resource managers in the Gulf, ecological and/ or socio-economic research, and support for 5 Gulf-state working groups.
  • Support the work of a project to develop ecosystem services logic models for the Department of Defense across a broad set of land and coastal management issues for base management.  This is part of a project to develop a flexible and adaptable tool to model ecosystem services provision/impairment by the bases and by surrounding communities.
  • Support work to measure the contributions of small-scale fisheries to sustainable development, at national and global levels, together with the Duke Marine Lab and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. 
  • Support a project funded by the Oak Foundation to inventory and map small-scale fishing organizations worldwide, and targeted governance capacity needs assessment of national, regional and global organizations.
  • Support collection and analysis of economic data on larger-scale coastal fisheries in West Africa, to help the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission assess the benefits of current foreign fishing agreements.

Additional responsibilities may include policy research, literature reviews, data management, GIS, statistical analysis, synthesis and review of environmental science, editing, drafting memos and sections of reports, drafting presentations, and coordinating events, webinars, and workshops.  It is possible that this work would lead to opportunities to travel and present work results.


  • Strong organizational and interpersonal skills to enable working with groups on large projects
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Familiarity with the policy, economic, legal and/or scientific aspects of the environmental program arena, with some understanding of ecosystem services necessary.  Additional familiarity with environmental markets desirable.
  • GIS and spatial analysis
  • Statistical analysis
  • Ability and willingness to travel


Candidates with a master’s degree in an environmentally related field or skill set are preferred.  Minimum qualification is a bachelor’s degree with two years of work experience in a relevant field.

To Apply

Apply to this requisition online through the Duke HR system: