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Earth Observation Specialist

Ref No: 2020/29
Grade: H
Type of appointment: Permanent
Location: Peterborough
Team: Ecosystems Analysis

Published: .

Who is JNCC?

We’re the environment’s best kept secret. Established in 1990, we’re the UK’s statutory adviser on issues affecting the natural environment across the UK and internationally. Our primary role is advising all four Governments of the UK. With most of our work being within Government, our public profile is low but our impact is high. Our combination of scientific and analytical excellence with deep knowledge of how to facilitate joint working across jurisdictions allows us to deliver a much-valued service to the UK and other governments.

What’s the role?

JNCC’s Ecosystems Analysis team brings together three key functions to provide scientific nature conservation advice to the governments of the UK, the devolved administrations and the UK Overseas Territories. Firstly, we run a suite of national species surveillance schemes in collaboration with a range of partner organisations, gathering data from citizen scientists on birds, bats, butterflies and plants using pre-determined sampling protocols, and on all other taxa from ad-hoc recording. Secondly, we have an analytical and modelling capability, bringing together data on species, habitats and natural capital to inform policy making, implementation and monitoring in the UK and internationally. Thirdly, we work with Earth observation data from satellite sensors, developing processing standards and methods to facilitate use of these data sources by our government and statutory nature conservation agency partners as well as using them ourselves for habitat mapping and natural capital assessments. This is the part of the team where this role sits.

As the post holder, you will help us integrate EO into the practical management of the environment for biodiversity and natural capital. JNCC is working on a range of projects in this field, with a wide variety of partners across the UK, its Overseas Territories, and internationally. You will get the opportunity to implement innovative solutions that make a real applied difference to the people and environments that we work with.

You will investigate where new technologies or scientific developments can help meet our requirements for work planning, implementation and delivery. This is often carried out in partnership with research institutes, NGOs and others. You will be part of a team that has, over the last few years, worked on the development of methods for mapping the extent of habitats, establishing standardised processing of optical and SAR data for the UK, and production of standard metrics from imagery that will provide information to meet the needs of multiple applications. More recently we have been starting to investigate how parameters derived from EO data can be integrated with habitat and species data collected across the UK for modelling pressures and identifying changes in habitat condition.

You will also contribute to projects internationally by providing expert advice on types of analyses and appropriate use of EO data. These include the UK’s Caribbean and South Atlantic Overseas Territories and in several South American countries where JNCC leads projects or is working with partners from industry or government. These international projects focus on valuing and mapping ecosystem goods and services across terrestrial and shallow marine environments where EO analysis plays a key role. Through this work, JNCC has an opportunity to promote the international use of EO based natural capital assessments at different scales (small islands and large continental areas) and different environments (low and high latitudes, terrestrial, coastal).

You will work with IT and data science colleagues to produce innovative ways of analysing the high volumes of data now available from the Copernicus Programme, using cloud-based systems. This represents an exciting new opportunity to improve our knowledge of the environment and enable country conservation delivery bodies to be able to better meet their evidence needs in a cost-effective manner.

Who are we looking for?

Someone with practical Earth observation data analysis skills, preferably including experience of working with radar data, and the ability to apply the data to address new questions and challenges. Someone able to communicate the outputs of that analysis clearly to inform decision making. Positive and enthusiastic about the evidence, you’ll be happy to share it, willing to spend time adapting your presentation so that it can be understood by different users, and comfortable and open about uncertainty and levels of confidence in our data. Full details of the role are included in the job description.


We’re small enough (c. 200 staff) that you’ll know everyone by name, but big enough that we have all the skills, resources and people you’ll need to get the job done. We are flexible and welcoming, and we focus on supporting our staff with the freedom and tools they need to get their jobs done. You will benefit from our inclusive and lively workplace culture, training and CPD opportunities, excellent holiday and pension benefits, as well as an exciting job in a unique environment.

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Post Duties

  • Carry out a variety of analyses where EO is needed as a significant input, working with JNCC colleagues with other technical or stakeholder-facing skills where appropriate.
    • Analysis will include developing new methods and adapting existing ones to analyse EO and other spatial data.
    • Extracting from EO research, methods that can be deployed practically to help ensure SAR data can make a greater contribution to environmental applications.
  • Project management within the team, focussing on projects that will require some EO analytical components.
  • Provide expert advice on types of analyses and appropriate use of EO data. to aid delivery of programmes led by other teams within JNCC, and key stakeholders.
  • Support a variety of other spatial/analytical projects as required.
  • Contribute to the development of data management systems that will enable JNCC to provide EO based outputs over large geographic scales within the UK and elsewhere.
  • Maintain a current overview of relevant EO methods and research.
  • Develop an understanding of EO requirements within JNCC and other public sector bodies through networking, research and investigation.
  • Manage data effectively with team and JNCC standards and ensure effective quality control and quality assurance is carried for analyses/products produced.



To be a successful candidate you will have:

  • A relevant degree or equivalent qualification.
  • Ability to understand, and apply, Earth observation data from new and different sensors whether satellite, aerial or drone and understand the physics behind it.
  • Ability to manipulate and analyse spatial data including experience of using scripting, particularly for automating processes.



To be a successful candidate you will have:

  • A relevant degree or equivalent qualification.
  • Relevant experience in the analysis of Earth observation data for environmental applications (note that ecological experience is not required but may be helpful).
  • Experience of communicating technical detail through a variety of media.
  • Knowledge of statistical or modelling methods.



  • Communicating and Influencing.
  • Working Together.
  • Seeing the Big Picture.
  • Delivering at Pace.

In the event that we receive a large volume of applications we reserve the right to conduct the sift based on the lead behaviour.

Please see the CS Behaviours framework for more details at this grade. 


Technical Skills Test

If you are invited to interview you will also have the chance to demonstrate your technical skills in a brief test.

Hours of work: Full-time

Normal minimum hours of attendance for the post are 36 hours per week over a 5-day period, Monday to Friday.

Flexi time is available. This post may also be suitable for job share.

Annual Leave:

The annual leave allowance is 25 days per year, rising to 30 days per year after 5 years’ service. There are also 12 days public and privilege leave. Part-time staff will receive this on a pro rata basis.

Salary: £27,946 per annum

Find out more about the benefits of working at JNCC.


The closing date is 09:00 on Monday, 26 October 2020.

Interviews are expected to take place on Tuesday, 10 November 2020.

Please be aware that at this time interviews may take place either over the phone or by video conference.

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