Postdoctoral position studying coffee microbiomes at Smithsonian

Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute
Center for Conservation Genomics
Washington, DC

We are seeking a postdoctoral researcher to investigate the relationship among coffee farm management, microbial diversity, and coffee quality. Coffee production and quality may be impacted by the community of bacteria in the coffee plants’ environments, such as the microbiomes of the soil surrounding a coffee plant or of the mature coffee berry. These microbial communities may also be affected by the coffee cultivation system (shaded agroforestry or full sun monoculture). The aim of the project is to integrate microbial ecology, soil science and structural equation modelling to quantify how components of soil and berry microbial diversity are related to coffee quality and agricultural management practices. At the time of appointment, soil and coffee berries will have already been collected from coffee farms in Cundinamarca, Colombia. Farms have been classified as agroforestry or monoculture and the coffee produced as obtaining or not obtaining a specialty flavor profile.

The postdoctoral researcher will be responsible for conducting molecular work (16S rRNA gene library prep), analyzing data, presenting results to principal investigators, team members and at scientific meetings, and preparation of final report and manuscript. The applicant must have the ability to conduct lab operations, analyze data using multivariate statistics, and write high-impact publications. The position offers opportunities for mentoring interns. Research will be conducted in a well-equipped, modern laboratory.

The project is funded through a Nespresso grant Identification of microbiome features related to coffee quality. The position is based in the research group of Dr. Carly Muletz Wolz (Carly R. Muletz Wolz | Smithsonian's National Zoo), and in collaboration with Dr. Ruth Bennett ( in the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

Duty Station:
The position will be based in Washington, DC at the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Genomics.

Candidates must have the following qualifications:
• Ph.D. in biological sciences, soil science, microbiology, or a related field
• Experience with molecular techniques including: DNA extractions, PCR and 16S rRNA high-throughput sequencing
• Experience analyzing metabarcoding data with multivariate statistics
• Experience compiling, managing, and analyzing large, complex datasets
• Experience with R and/or other programming languages
• The ability to bridge fields, including microbial ecology, soil ecology, statistics, and agricultural sciences.
Preferred qualifications include
• A background in or interest in soil microbial ecology
• Familiarity with structural equation modelling
• A background in or interest in learning about coffee production and agricultural practices
Duration: One year.

Target Start Date: June – July 2022

Eligibility: U.S. citizenship is not required, however the candidate must either already possess status to work in the U.S. at Smithsonian or must be eligible for Smithsonian sponsorship. Please note that processing time for anyone requiring Smithsonian sponsorship (3-6 months) may preclude selection based on the timing of our grant deliverables.

The Smithsonian Institution is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer. To best serve our current and future visitors we strive to maximize the diversity, equity, and inclusiveness of our organization. Therefore, we encourage candidates that represent and embody the diversity found within our community to apply.

Salary: IS-9 (Smithsonian Trust position equivalent to a GS-9 Federal Pay Scale). The 2022 locality pay for the area of Washington, D.C. is $61,947.

Benefits: Health and retirement benefits will be provided according to those given for Trust employees: Link: Employee Benefits | Smithsonian Institution

To apply: Submit the following to Dr. Muletz Wolz via [email protected] by Feb. 11th, 2022
• An email with the following in the subject line of the email: Application for Microbial Ecologist Postdoctoral Researcher
• An attachment of a single PDF that includes:
o a 1-page cover letter explaining research interests and experience
o a CV
o contact information for two referees
o up to three representative reprints

For any questions or for more detail about this position prior to applying, please email Dr. Muletz Wolz.