Soil Carbon Field Scientist (CA-Based)

Oakland, CA /
General /

Yard Stick is looking for a California-based Soil Carbon Field Scientist to help us fight climate change with soil. This role is an essential part of Yard Stick’s primary on-the-ground operations, deploying our novel soil carbon measurement technology as well as traditional soil testing methodology on fields across the US.  We are a small company with big ambitions, and therefore we need someone highly entrepreneurial, reliable, and committed to building a mission-driven company alongside Yard Stick’s co-founding team. 

California-based with significant travel, market rate salary with generous equity, looking for a full-time candidate excited by both field work and desk work.

We’d like to hire this person to start mid September, 2022.

About Yard Stick PBC

Yard Stick is a remote-first, seed-stage company, with founders based in Boston and Oakland. We are on a mission to reverse climate change with agriculture. Scientists and farmers alike know that climate-friendly agricultural practices have the potential to remove atmospheric CO2 at gigaton/year scale. When these practices are adopted, more carbon is stored in soils, improving soil health and fighting climate change. But significant measurement challenges have held soil carbon efforts back - until now.

By reducing the cost of soil carbon measurement by 90%+, Yard Stick will dramatically expand the opportunities for evidence-based regenerative practices to simultaneously improve ecosystem health, increase farmer income, and combat climate change. 

Current soil carbon measurement technologies are slow, expensive, and cumbersome, relying on conventional soil cores and labs to quantify carbon stocks. In contrast, Yard Stick is fast and cheap - without sacrificing accuracy. As a testament to our technology’s potential, alongside our scientific collaborators, we were awarded a $3.6M grant from the DOE ARPA-E Smartfarm  as well as other highly competitive grant programs which reward technical merit like NSF SBIR. For more background, check out some coverage in TechCrunch or Treehugger.

We've also raised money from top climate VCs, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures (Bill Gates' climate fund), Lowercarbon Capital (Chris and Crystal Sacca's climate fund), MCJ Collective, and others. Details of the financing aren’t announced in a press release or article, because that can feel a bit cart before the horse, but we're happy to share more detail about our funding when we chat.

We offer competitive salary and equity, health/dental/vision insurance, a 401k, and home-office reimbursements. In terms of flexible schedules, we have founders and other team members with young families and have a strong track record of creative, flexible approaches to hours and communication expectations which let folks feel great about their commitments both to Yard Stick and their family.

About The Role

This Soil Carbon Field Scientist role is critical to the success and rollout of Yard Stick’s offerings and will be our primary on-the-ground presence in California (though country-wide travel is expected). Yard Stick’s cofounders and product people are spread across the country. We need someone to be our hands, feet, eyes, and ears across our various projects as we come to market in California. We’re growing quickly, and this position will be the third full-time employee on our Field Team - an essential role with significant responsibility. 

Yard Stick was recently awarded a highly competitive grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). This grant will support Yard Stick’s R&D work on specialty produce in California - a type of agricultural land use which in the past has received less attention in soil carbon science circles. You will be primarily responsible for testing our hardware and software in specialty crop fields in California, as well as across the US to help us evaluate and improve our technology’s accuracy, durability, and usability. You will be leading projects geared towards calibrating our technology, as well as collecting measurements to quantify stocks on client lands. 

You’ll provide feedback on hardware and software tools alike, as Yard Stick has innovative offerings in both domains. Obviously, when stuff breaks, you’ll document why and help us brainstorm ways to improve. 

In the future, as our technology evolves, you’ll use conventional soil sampling techniques less and less as Yard Stick’s optical probe improves in accuracy. 

It is also expected that you will travel to participate in and contribute to curriculum development and training programs at learning events for producers and other stakeholders, attend farm demo days, and undertake and support direct outreach to growers and other industry stakeholders, including academics at top-tier universities in California and elsewhere. You’ll also be responsible for some key grant admin activities, including some basic budgeting, reporting on progress against milestones, and liaising with CDFA and other grant partners.

Yard Stick’s offerings combine a large number of disparate disciplines, including highly technical hardware, web apps which interpret our field-level measurement data, and ML pipelines which connect the two.  This person ultimately will work cross-disciplinarily along with our hardware, software, soil science, and business teams to maximize the pace of Yard Stick’s R&D and therefore climate impact, so the ability to communicate clearly to a wide range of people is a must.

We need someone who can manage field projects efficiently and with exceptional precision. The ideal candidate for this role is comfortable managing a team of 2-6 people through often rigorous field work – which can include rapid schedule changes, long days, and inclement weather.

Paramount to the success of this role is the ability to communicate clearly with our in-field partners (clients, farmers, land managers, researchers, etc) and understanding how our needs and theirs intersect. This could look like staying in touch with a farmer to understand their planting schedule or the layout of their land, or reaching out to a land manager when you see something unexpected on site (an inaccessible area of the farm, for instance), or proactively discussing a researcher’s perspective on how a next phase of the project is expected to shake out.   

Currently, Yard Stick is focused on proof of concept of our in situ spectral probe. Generating high-quality, publishable data requires excellent field operations. In parallel, we’re also creating our commercial offerings. This role will be crucial in carrying out both workstreams with a focus on California and produce.

Additionally, the Produce Soil Carbon Manager will play a large role in understanding the local context of California specialty crop markets, especially as regards carbon/climate claims, and similar. Lastly, this role will work to ensure that the industry will benefit from our offerings, both by managing external relationships and providing feedback supporting Yard Stick’s technical and operational activities.

Qualifications - Must Have

    • Some combination of formal education and hands-on experience in natural sciences, agriculture, conservation, soil science, natural resource management or another related field of study. You’ve got an education background in one of these sciences as well as the experience that’ll make you comfortable on farms and around producers. You’re as comfortable with your hands in the dirt as you are undertaking a literature review before meeting with a partner organization or researcher for the first time.
    • Extensive experience and comfort with physical field work. Experience working with your hands out in the field is key to this role. You don’t flinch at the idea of 8 hours in the sun moving from customer farm to farm, sometimes for two weeks straight.
    • Comfort with field tools, technologies and strategies. Our offerings use technologies like GPS, ATVs, and mobile app-based sample inventory tracking systems. You can drive an ATV, or you’re not afraid to learn. You use mechanical tools comfortably. Note: Yard Stick will provide a vehicle if you don’t have one for this role, or will generously reimburse if you do.
    • Attention to detail and commitment to craft. When you take a 30 cm soil core, it’s 30 cm. You care deeply about the details. You take written instructions well, triple-check your work by nature, and will follow an SOP to the letter. You are proud to do your work very well.
    • Strong personal independence and entrepreneurial autonomy. If you can’t get your boss on the phone, you figure it out. You assess the situation, consider solutions, make a plan, and execute, even if your closest coworker is 50 miles away.
    • Excellent ability to coordinate and plan projects. We work across multiple regions simultaneously, and being able to take a plan and execute from start to finish is essential. Cross-country logistics don’t intimidate you, and you can juggle multiple parties to make sure nothing gets dropped. 
    • Personal enthusiasm and comfort in agricultural contexts. You care about farming or ranching. The idea of helping activate agriculture to fight against climate change excites you. It matters to you that you’re working on a problem of existential significance.
    • Ability to share product feedback to improve systems. When you’re asked for feedback, you pay attention and communicate observations clearly, especially in writing. You document things carefully and are curious when using new products or technologies.
    • Strong written and asynchronous communication skills. Yard Stick is a remote-first company that works across multiple time-zones. We love great meetings and we hate meetings that should have been a Google Doc. You are as comfortable communicating between hardware, software, and commercial teams as you are talking to a producer. 
    • Based in California.
    • Existing permanent authorization to work in the United States.

Qualifications - Nice To Have

    • Personal, durable enthusiasm for the challenge of climate change.
    • Awareness of current issues in carbon markets - particularly carbon removal. You’ve heard of offsets/credits and some of the attendant criticism of low-quality projects of the past and present. You’ve got some basic knowledge about how carbon markets work, and you’ve heard about how carbon removal is a new, exciting, and controversial approach to climate challenges.
    • There will be a significant portion of the year that we’re not sampling, and we’re interested in other skills you can bring to the team! Specifically if you have any of the following, we’d love to hear about it: GIS or other mapping software; equipment + logistics management; agricultural sales or similar; agronomy; data science, etc.

Compensation and Other Details

    • Market salary and equity commensurate with expertise. Directionally, we expect a yearly salary of 80-90k.
    • We offer to extend post-termination exercise periods to 10 years when you leave the company so you don’t get screwed out of your options.
    • We offer health, dental, and vision insurance via Justworks, our benefits and payroll provider. We contribute 80% of base healthcare plan premiums (regardless of employee plan type (e.g. single vs. family) and 50% of a base dental plan, as well as offer additional contributions to HSAs for employees who select eligible high-deductible plans.
    • We provide unlimited PTO, unlimited sick leave, 6 weeks paid primary caregiver leave, and 4 weeks paid secondary caregiver leave (flexible as to format, eligibility includes surrogacy and adoptive contexts).
    • We’ll buy you a computer and provide a work-from-home reimbursement to use how you please.
    • Additional benefits include One Medical, Health Advocate, and Talkspace memberships and a company-sponsored 401k via Slavic401k.
    • Remote first, California based.
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Yard Stick’s impact goals go well beyond climate science (although our #1 core value is Climate Impact). Why? Our company operates primarily in the US agricultural sector, which is predicated on centuries of mass land theft and disenfranchisement of Native and Black people. This harm continues today. If we’re going to work in this sector, we need to actively work to make it better.

Consistent with our core value of “Pursue Justice,” we speak up about these issues, and we support emerging solutions and relevant policy efforts such as H.R.40 and S.300. We also publicly highlight the risk of further racial discrimination in emerging agricultural legislation like the Growing Climate Solutions Act.

Regarding hiring and culture, we work to create a work environment where everyone feels confident sharing their ideas, problem-solving happens openly and collaboratively, and mistake-making is welcomed. We also standardize our interview process and questions to reduce “likeability” bias, benchmark salaries against industry databases to reduce negotiation, and utilize tools like the Gender Decoder (this one is strongly feminine-coded, fwiw). Climate change is arguably the most complex challenge ever faced by humanity - we need all of humanity activated to fight back, and that motivates us to build a diverse team.