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Earth Observation Data Scientist

UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Full time (37 hours per week)

Based at UKCEH Lancaster, Library Avenue, Bailrigg, Lancaster LA1 4AP

Fixed term for 3 years

Closing date for applications is Thursday 21st January 2021

Interviews to be held on Thursday 28th January 2021

About Us

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is an independent, not-for-profit research institute carrying out excellent environmental science across water, land and air.  At UKCEH there are various career paths open to first-class scientists and support staff.  We have around 500 scientists and students supported by experts in the fields of IT, commercialisation, finance, communications and HR based across four sites (Wallingford, Bangor, Edinburgh and Lancaster).  Our world class research is delivered via state-of-the-art laboratories, controlled environment facilities and unique monitoring sites across many different habitat types.  Our students and employees gain from working in a stimulating environment incorporating multidisciplinary research that is enriched through our international collaborations with many universities and institutes.

For further information, please visit the UKCEH Website.

Job purpose

A three year training programme designed to contribute across a range of projects with skilled EO practitioners, field-ecologists and application/software developers.

Satellite-based Earth Observation is undergoing a step change and UKCEH seek a talented Earth Observation data scientist to help us realise the benefits.

The main focus of this work regards the development of efficient, state-of-the-art systems for mapping and monitoring of land cover and habitats at scales from regional to national and beyond. Key outcomes will be enhanced methods for land cover change detection, habitat condition and natural capital assessment and associated products.  

The work will help us understand the vegetation response to climate change, changing land management practices and will support a range of ecological analyses and conservation objectives.

We are looking particularly for individuals who can help us turn our research into operational production systems, to continue and enhance UKCEH’s 30 year record of producing  national scale, satellite-derived land cover information products; for this solid geospatial and scientific programming skills will be beneficial.

Main Responsibilities

  • To enhance UKCEH’s satellite-based EO capacity.
  • To support the development of algorithms, methods and software to generate land surface information products, including: land cover maps, change maps, habitat extent and condition maps and maps of key ecological variables.
  • To help develop operational data production systems
  • Integration of multi-scale data  including Sentinel-1 & 2, Landsat, Lidar, aerial photography and in situ measurements derived from field survey and ground-based sensor networks.
  • Data analysis and reporting.
  • Publication of datasets and peer reviewed journal papers

Over the 3 years you will gain skills in

The post requires a broad range of skills in Earth Observation, programming, data analysis and research, so training may cover any of these areas, including Google Earth Engine, Python, R and Jupyter notebooks. The training will also cover general academic skills, including presenting and scientific writing, or working in particular packages, such as QGIS.

Training will be given in aspects of global change ecology, providing the successful applicant with the knowledge necessary to understand the policy context and research background to their work as well as to clearly understand the role and origins of ecological field observations in validating and building models that combine EO and survey datasets.

Skills Criteria

Knowledge & Qualifications

  • PhD in relevant subject, or a Masters and with relevant research equivalent experience
  • Demonstrable knowledge in the application of remotely sensed data for ecological analyses
  • Knowledge and ability to process raster and vector data sets in relevant software packages

Experience/Proven abilities related to the position

  • An ability to work with optical and radar data
  • Experience of processing raster and vector data sets in relevant software packages
  • Demonstrable interest in the application of remotely sensed data for ecological analyses
  • Ability to lead and write clear scientific reports and peer reviewed papers.
  • Use of general purpose programming languages to solve complex geospatial or scientific problems; for example C, C++, Java, Python.
  • An ability to script with Google Earth Engine.
  • Ability to manipulate and analyse spatial data.  For example using gdal, R, Python or equivalent.


  • Ability to solve problems and develop processing workflows
  • Ability to work with minimal supervision
  • The ability to present work clearly to expert and non-expert audiences.

Core Behaviours & Values

  • You will demonstrate a commitment to promote and adhere to CEH values of Excellence, Integrity and Teamwork.

Desirable skills 

  • Database programming.  Experience of querying and manipulating geospatial, relational databases. For example Oracle Spatial or PostGis, SQL, PSQL.
  • Experience of machine learning methods.

What we offer

To find out the benefits of working with UKCEH, please follow the link  below for a summary.  

About the Research Associate Programme

The initial appointment for Research Associates will normally be for a three-year term, however they are able to apply internally for permanent vacancies at any time. Subject to the Research Associate's performance and long term skills needs within their Science Area, appointments may be reviewed and considered for open ended positions. There is an expectation that RA will be appointed at the bottom of the salary scale and will automatically progress to the next pay point at the anniversary of their appointment.

How to Apply

To apply for this position, click the link below. As well as a CV, please provide a covering letter detailing why you may be suitable for the role.

Long term flexibility available for these posts.

UKCEH is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from people with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities. We have a guaranteed interview scheme for applicants with disabilities. UKCEH is an Investors in People organisation.

Location: Lancaster, Lancashire
Salary: £31,200 to £33,000 Band 6 (depending on skills and knowledge)
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract
Placed On: 18th December 2020
Closes: 21st January 2021
Job Ref: JR241
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