SESYNC-RTI Postdoctoral Fellowship: Modeling the Impacts of Climate Variability on the Nutritional Value of Crops and Potential Effects on Human Health and Well-being

Printer-friendly versionPDF version
May 31, 2017


The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) and Research Triangle Institute (RTI) invite applications for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship opportunity, focused on modeling the impacts of climate variability on the nutritional value of crops and potential effects on human health. The Fellow will work in residence at SESYNC in Annapolis, MD as a full participant in SESYNC’s Post-doctoral Immersion Program, and will work with Dr. Robert Beach of RTI as their primary Collaborating Research Mentor.

This opportunity is open to applicants who have completed their PhD in a relevant field within the last two years (no later than July 15, 2017 and no earlier than August 15, 2015).  Applicants are expected to propose ideas for a data synthesis or modeling project that contributes to our understanding the social and/or public health dimensions of the relationship between climate variability, crop nutritional value and human health and well-being.  Preference will be given to projects that have the potential to advance understanding of socio-environmental systems and thus projects that involve the incorporation of several social or environmental data sets are encouraged. The Fellow will conduct independent scholarship related to the project leading to one or more research papers.

The SESYNC Immersion Program is designed to advance the fellows’ understanding of theories and methods foundational to research on socio-environmental systems and to advance their understanding of the science-policy nexus. Successful candidates will have made clear in their applications how progress on their proposed projects may benefit from participation in the Immersion Program and/or how the program aligns with their specific career objectives.

Modeling Climate Variability, Nutrition, and Human Wellbeing

Climate variability has already begun to affect global agriculture, with impacts expected to increase in future decades. While there have been a number of studies exploring the potential implications for agricultural production and markets at national and global levels, there has been relatively little attention devoted to the effects on nutrition and health outcomes. This gap has been increasingly recognized in recent years, with growing interest in expanding the focus of climate change impacts studies to address these vital issues. Changes in productivity induced by climate change are expected to impact nutrient availability through effects on relative returns to alternative land uses that will influence landowner decisions regarding crop mix and production practices. In addition, there is evidence that increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide results in crops containing a higher proportion of carbon in their tissues and reduced levels of certain key macro- and micro-nutrients. This change in the composition of harvested crops would tend to make crops less nutritious and further contributes to concerns surrounding nutrition and health effects under future climate scenarios. This shift towards less nutritious food also potentially contributes to the double burden of malnutrition, including both undernutrition and obesity. A collaborative research team led by Dr. Robert Beach at RTI and including colleagues at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is working to characterize and model the complex dynamics between climate variability, nutrition, and human health and wellbeing.

The Postdoctoral Fellow will take advantage of the data science and synthesis expertise of SESYNC and the agricultural climate impacts modeling expertise at RTI, and will bring their own expertise in the social and/or public health dimensions of the impacts of climate variability. The successful candidate will co-develop the project with collaborating mentor Dr. Robert Beach, an agricultural and natural resource economist and Fellow at RTI. Dr. Mary Muth, director of the RTI Food, Nutrition, and Obesity Policy Research Program, will also contribute mentorship for this effort. Questions could include: What are the impacts of changing atmospheric CO2 concentrations on nutrient content of different kinds of crops, and how will that impact decision-making about crop production? How might climate variability alter food production and trade patterns globally, and what implications does this have for the availability and accessibility of nutritious foods? What are the implications of changes in nutrient availability for global health outcomes, and how do these differ by social and ecological setting? How might consumers change their consumption patterns in response to the price and nutrient effects experienced under alternative climatic conditions?

Applying is a two-stage process: a qualification step and a proposal submission step. 

To Qualify to apply, submit a combined PDF of your C.V. and a detailed cover letter to SESYNC's Application Webform. The letter should: 1) outline one or more potential research projects (<1 page total for both ideas together); 2) provide in detail the qualifications that make the candidate competitive for this opportunity(< ½ page); and 3) how the project and an interdisciplinary fellowship at SESYNC will advance the candidate’s career trajectory (½ page). 

Qualifying Applications may be submitted until 5:00 pm Eastern Time on May 31, 2017; applicants will be informed within one week if they are invited to submit a full proposal and if so, will be given instructions.    

Invited full proposals (< 5 pages) are due June 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm ET. 

Invited applicants that have not yet received their PhD are required to submit a letter from their graduate advisor along with the full proposal. The letter should verify expectations for date of degree completion.  Invited applicants will also need to arrange to have two letters of reference sent directly from referee to SESYNC by the June 22 deadline.  For questions about the postdoctoral project, contact Dr. Robert Beach ( directly; for questions about the SESYNC program, contact Dr. Kristal Jones (  


The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Minorities and Women Are Encouraged to Apply.

Share: Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Linked Icon