Director of the Center for Conservation Innovation

Location: Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Department: Center for Conservation Innovation           
Supervisor: Senior Vice President of Conservation Programs                                                       
Salary: $120,000 - $130,000


The Director of the Center for Conservation Innovation works in the Washington, D.C. headquarters to oversee the Center, a multidisciplinary policy department within Defenders focused on improving conservation for imperiled species, and its core staff.  This highly interdisciplinary position focuses on three related but distinct program areas: 

  • Using data, science, and technology to develop innovative approaches to conserve at-risk and imperiled species and their habitats.  This program area enhances Defenders’ science and advocacy by taking advantage of the enormous growth in data analytics, often referred to as the “data revolution.”  The program focuses on creating web-based products that can be shared with our conservation partners and expanded if appropriate.  Data analytics and visualization, computer programming, and information technology are core technical skillsets for the program.  Although the program will initially focus on ESA projects, it will expand to other Defenders conservation programs (e.g., federal lands) depending on staff interest and organizational resources.

  • Developing and advocating for innovations in laws, policies, and practices to conserve at-risk and imperiled species, especially under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).  This work focuses on developing the next generation of laws, policies, and practices for species conservation in ways that are innovative but pragmatic.  The work will emphasize bold ideas that are designed to address the future of conservation, especially in an increasingly human-dominated landscape.  To find enduring solutions for wildlife, the Director will pursue non-traditional collaborations with other stakeholders, especially resource-management agencies and the regulated community.  The Director will also oversee traditional forms of advocacy for the Center including rulemakings, legislative and executive branch lobbying, and media outreach.  

  • Overseeing the geographic information systems (GIS) and the science programs, both of which provide institutional support for all Defenders departments.  Both programs overlap considerably with the Center’s data, science, and technology program.  The GIS program also coordinates with Information Technology staff on GIS software licenses, computer hardware requirements, and other areas of overlapping responsibility. 

The Director also advises and provides leadership on endangered species issues of importance to Defenders, including significant ESA listing and recovery decisions, ESA rulemakings, and organizational strategic planning relating to at-risk and imperiled species.  This work involves extensive interfacing with other departments within Defenders’ Conservation Program, particularly Field Conservation, Landscape Conservation, and Conservation Law.  

The Director is responsible for cultivating relationships with key stakeholders in federal and state agencies, other environmental organizations, academia, and regulated entities to grow the Center’s work and its effectiveness.  This includes proactively establishing new relationships, maintaining or improving existing relationships, and helping to uphold Defenders’ reputation as a pragmatic, innovative thought leader on endangered species conservation.   

The Director oversees all core staff in the Center and coordinates with staff in other departments that engage with the Center.  This responsibility includes identifying, coordinating, and encouraging the activities of Center staff, as well as career coaching and development.  The Director is also responsible for finalizing the budget, fundraising, and other important operational duties for the Center.  


  • Oversee the Center for Conservation Innovation, including its advocacy campaigns, data and technology program, and geographic information systems (GIS) and science programs.  Forecast, set objectives, secure resources, and establish priorities for the Center.

  • Oversee all Center staff, including by identifying, coordinating, and encouraging their work activities.  Identify gaps in Center staffing and budgeting, work to fill those gaps, and communicate the results to the Senior V.P. of Conservation Programs. 

  • Raise funding for the Center, with a focus on collaborating with the Development Department to engage foundations and high-dollar private donors.

  • Work with Center staff to generate new advocacy and science products, including Defenders white papers and analysis, peer-reviewed publications, online applications (“apps”), GIS analysis and maps, and external presentations.

  • Actively seek and incorporate innovations to improve endangered species conservation and Defenders’ imperiled species work.    

  • Coordinate the Center’s work with other departments, including Field Conservation, Landscape Conservation, Government Relations, Conservation Law, and Communications. 

  • Cultivate relationships with key stakeholders in federal and state agencies, other environmental organizations, academia, and regulated entities on ESA matters.  Proactively establish new relationships, maintain or improve existing relationships, and help uphold Defenders’ reputation as a pragmatic, innovative thought-leader on the ESA.

  • Facilitate and promote the integration of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice strategies into the Center’s work. 

  • Finalize the budget and other key operational documents and decisions for the Center.  Represent the Center on the Senior Management Team and on interdepartmental issues involving the organizational strategic plan.


Education:  Advanced degree in environmental/public policy, natural resources, natural resources law, conservation biology, or related discipline, with experience in successful advocacy for natural resources protection

  • Experience: 8+ years of progressively responsible experience (which may include graduate study) is required in at least one of the following areas:  developing and implementing programs to conserve biodiversity, federal policy development, working with land or species management agencies, or organizing campaigns for non-profit organizations.  Experience in working with federal conservation or land management agencies, and knowledge of the laws and regulations affecting wildlife management is also essential for this position.

  • An equivalent combination of education and experience may be accepted as a satisfactory substitute for the specific education and experience listed


  • Requires experience directly supervising multiple staff and securing funding for conservation programs

  • Requires interdisciplinary skills and practical experience in translating cutting-edge science into programmatic initiatives to conserve species and ecosystems  

  • Excellent writing and verbal communications skills  

  • Strong interpersonal skills with ability to work effectively with other staff members in an interdisciplinary team context


  • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to use a computer and communicate with others while doing so. 


  • General office working conditions, the noise level in the work environment is usually quiet.


Interested applicants please reference Director, Center for Conservation Innovation in your subject line and submit a letter of interest and resume to us via e-mail at:

It is the policy of Defenders of Wildlife to provide equal employment opportunity to all qualified individuals without regard to their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or any other characteristic protected by law, in all personnel actions.

Defenders of Wildlife is a national, non-profit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native wild animals and plants in their natural communities. Our employees work in an environment that is inclusive and honors each of our unique perspectives and backgrounds. We believe that the conservation of biological diversity is best advanced by the contributions of people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, beliefs and cultures.  We strive toward a collective goal of including all people in the conservation of our Nation’s wildlife and wild places.


All employees are required to satisfactorily perform the essential duties and responsibilities of their positions. The essential duties and responsibilities listed above are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties and skills required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the job.strive toward a collective goal of including all people in the conservation of our Nation’s wildlife and wild places.