Senior Specialist Soils

Natural England

£32,438 pa

Paid • Full or Part Time • Permanent [email protected] 0777 3783643 Dr Susan Clark

Reference: 3058

Sectors: food, farming & horticulture, environmental management

Closing date: Wednesday, 2nd December 2020  

Job description

The Specialist Services and Programmes team (SSP) is part of the Chief Scientist’s Directorate in Natural England. This Directorate is responsible for Natural England’s Science, Evidence and Evaluation Strategy and supports its implementation to ensure Natural England is an evidence-led organisation. The SSP team leads on the development and application of natural, economic and social science and evidence to drive and enable the achievement of environmental outcomes both within Natural England and externally.

Our Chief Scientist Directorate is a great place to work, with some of the country’s leading environmental scientists, and we offer strong support for flexible working and personal development.

Soil natural capital and soil health are a focus in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (YEP) which presents the ambition that ‘by 2030 we want all of England’s soils to be managed sustainably, and we will use natural capital thinking to develop appropriate soil metrics and management approaches’.

This role will support the delivery of the Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment (NCEA) pilot, focusing on soil health and development of a national soil monitoring system. The initial work will focus on establishing a framework for soil characterisation, mapping, monitoring and assessment and the role will cover the following:

  • Review and define the outcomes we wish to see, with reference to the 25 YEP and other Government drivers (e.g. net zero).
  • Commission, contribute to, and manage contracts to deliver key evidence requirements and tools to underpin soils monitoring including:
    • 1. A project to develop a typology of English soils based on soil function to deliver the full range of ecosystem services, and reflecting inherent, known, soil and environmental characteristics.
    • 2. A project to develop a national map of soil series, based on geostatistical modelling approaches to predict the locations of component soil series within unmapped areas, drawing on geology, climate, topography and local mapping, to enable application of the typology developed in project a.
  • Contribute to the JNCC-led partnership project to develop national soils indicators for the 25YEP, to help ensure that they reflect the developing typology and mapping products being developed in the NCEA pilot.
  • Develop sampling strategies and protocols based on the outcomes of the projects above by:
    • 1. Reviewing past monitoring protocols to optimise back-compatibility.
    • 2. Reviewing opportunities for monitoring data to be provided from non-survey sources, such as remote sensing, water quality monitoring or big data.
    • 3. Finalise the range of parameters to be measured, reflecting the need for national indicator reporting, detecting environmental change, and reporting on key policy issues.
    • 4. Developing appropriate stratification of sampling, to enable reporting targeted to both specific soil types or issues, and to reflect national trends.
    • 5. Developing robust, safe and repeatable field protocols for soil sampling and data collection, ready to be applied by Summer 2021.

Specific responsibilities will develop and change over time, and the post holder will need to maintain a flexible and adaptable attitude and approach. You may also be required to contribute to development of other soil monitoring and soil health work within Natural England, including building capability across Natural England.

The role will include representing Natural England externally as a recognised expert and building relationships and links with key stakeholders, Defra, government bodies, academic institutions and other stakeholder groups and independent experts. 


Competence 1

Technical skills and knowledge - Expert


  • Qualified to degree level in soils science or a related environmental discipline or have an equivalent level of applied experience (a post-graduate qualification is desirable). Applicants that do not hold a relevant degree should specify experience and outputs that demonstrate that they have an equivalent level of knowledge.
  • Expert knowledge of soil mapping and classification, the broad range of soil types (e.g. Soil Associations) and the relationships between parent material, climate, relief, hydrology, habitats and soil properties.
  • Expert knowledge of soil functioning and soil health including the interaction between soil biological, chemical and physical characteristics, and their importance in determining the soils capability to deliver ecosystem services.
  • Expert knowledge of the current and emerging scientific methodologies around soils monitoring and how these might enable the development of soils indicators.
  • A good understanding of land use and land management, covering the range of agricultural and non-agricultural uses of land, and how these are likely to affect soil function, health and natural capital.
  • Good understanding of land evaluation systems (such as mapping of Agricultural Land Classification, Hydrology of Soil Types) to inform use of soils datasets.
  • A good understanding of the 25YEP and its targets and outcomes, along with other key current policy drivers relating to soils.
  • A good understanding of GIS and statistics, to enable management of expert contractors in delivering mapping and modelling products.

Competence 2
Providing Leadership - Expert


  • Display thought leadership on Natural England's behalf through external collaboration within the Defra family, with contractors and with other partners and academics.
  • See the big picture and organisational strategy so you can prioritise work within the context of the wider organisation and beyond.
  • Train, coach and mentor others to increase their capability and organisation’s technical skill and capability.

Competence 3
Collecting, monitoring and analysing data and evidence - Expert


  • Identify priority evidence needs and seek ways to meet them (e.g. through funding or partnerships).
  • Apply the relevant methodologies for collecting and collating data / evidence.
  • Develop and share clear messages about your data / evidence using language appropriate to the audience.
  • Present your data / evidence in ways that meet people’s needs so they can understand its implications and use it effectively.

Competence 4
Personal Effectiveness - Expert


  • Provide scientific scrutiny, challenge and assurance in a constructive and evidence-based way so that the guidance is practical and, where appropriate, cross-disciplinary.
  • Build and strengthen your scientific expertise by keeping up to date with current evidence and research, integrating this with your work so you provide support, assurance and challenge on science and evidence.    
  • Be decisive, combining your professional judgement with evidence to inform your decision-making.
  • Produce evidence and analysis which enables others to deliver positive outcomes for the environment.

Competence 5 

Communicating Effectively – Practitioner


  • Adapt your style, content and approach to communicate effectively with different audiences and across different media.
  • Research and produce specialist products such as articles, think pieces and papers for both general and technical readerships.
  • Synthesise existing knowledge to provide and communicate evidence summaries, reviews and digests and ensure the overall robustness, quality and impact of our evidence and analysis within your scientific discipline(s).
  • Use insight to identify target audiences and partners and to inform communication objectives, messages and solutions.

Closing date: 11:55 pm, 2nd December 2020 


If you would like to find out more about this position and to apply, please click the "More information about this vacancy" link to be directed to our website where you can see the full role profile and application details.

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