Ocean Career: Marine Water Quality Specialist at Washington Sea Grant

Washington Sea Grant (WSG) has an outstanding opportunity for a self-motivated and enthusiastic Marine Water Quality Specialist to coordinate a network of community scientists, provide technical assistance and marine water quality monitoring, and support outreach programs for coastal residents throughout Washington State.

WSG manages a longstanding community science research and monitoring program designed to provide early warning of harmful algal bloom events to minimize both human health risks and economic losses to Puget Sound fisheries. The Marine Water Quality Specialist will have primary responsibility for overall management (including recruitment, retention, training, and support) of this important partnership among shellfish and finfish growers, environmental learning centers, Native tribes, natural resource managers, researchers, and other community volunteers. It will also support program research in the field and behind the scenes. Current research efforts include the economic impact of the program to aquaculture producers, recreational harvesters and state agencies and identifying emerging ecological disrupting phytoplankton species, their mechanics and developing lethality curves and forecasting tools.

The specialist will guide watershed residents through the range of water quality and shellfish issues that are challenging shellfish growing areas in Puget Sound called out in the Puget Sound Partnership Near Term Actions. Using a multifaceted approach to restoration, protection remedies and monitoring, participants are able to select activities that fit their learning styles and interests. Among the diverse activities offered are workshops, citizen monitoring, site visits, and one-on-one technical assistance.

The Marine Water Quality Specialist is an integral member of WSG’s outreach team, working independently and collaboratively with WSG colleagues, university and government researchers, natural resource managers, coastal communities and the public. This position is an important front facing role and serves a critical role in coordinating phytoplankton and water quality monitoring network. The successful candidate would be customer-service oriented and be ready to respond promptly to queries and concerns from volunteers, community members, and partners. This position also requires regular travel to support on-site training and monitoring, as well as re/supplying volunteers with necessary monitoring materials. In addition, this position plays a critical role in supporting active grant-funded research in the economic role of the program, emerging toxins, and historic trends of algal species in the Salish Sea.

WSG is housed within the UW College of the Environment and is a unique unit with federally designated responsibilities for all of Washington to support ocean-related research, education, outreach, and communications. WSG serves the state and the region by providing technical assistance to coastal users and managers, engaging the public in activities that promote ecosystem health, educating students of all ages, and encouraging science-based solutions to marine issues. WSG endorses and is committed to pursuing activities that advance two cross-cutting principles within its core functions of research, outreach, education and communications: cultivating partnerships and practicing a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The Marine Water Quality Specialist will serve as a conduit between the university and multitude of Washington community members as well as tribal, governmental and non-governmental partners - to connect them with, and deliver to them, current UW research as well as faculty, staff, students and other university resources.

WSG maintains a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, by pursuing diverse perspectives, and enhancing cultural understanding. WSG works to create equitable access to resources and opportunities for Washington’s diverse communities and seeks to incorporate their voices and priorities. WSG’s values are informed by environmental justice and are based in a culture of inclusion, respect, long-term engagement and accountability.


The Marine Water Quality Specialist will support the integration of scientific and technical knowledge in addressing issues related to the environment. This position is intended to cover broad needs of the community in the realm of technical assistance, and topics/focus areas are expected to change over time as needs in the community change; immediate position focus will include program volunteer coordination and current grant funded projects in socio-economic analysis of monitoring network, ecosystem disrupting phytoplankton, etc. The Marine Water Quality Specialist will share knowledge with, and provide technical assistance to, stakeholders and partners. They will conduct applied research on specific topical areas or emerging issues to meet identified public or constituent needs.

Volunteer recruitment, training, and management:

  • Primary responsibility for supporting program volunteers including facilitating on-site training, assistance with data collection, phytoplankton identification, monitoring supplies, health and safety concerns, volunteer agreements, and overall communications.
  • Monitor the program hotline five days a week, responding to requests using program protocols, and forwarding inquiries as needed to others on the program team. Cover for teammates during vacation periods.
  • Coordinate and implement annual program training and meetings.
  • Assist as needed with the collection of marine water samples using specific procedures and use light microscopy to identify the plankton and upload results into the online program database.

Data management:

  • Review and ensure accuracy of data input into the program database by volunteers.
  • Provide comments and improvement suggestions to the database contractor to ensure accuracy and the development of visualization tools.
  • Conduct statistical analysis of datasets.

Reporting and communicating:

  • Prepare weekly, monthly, and yearly data summaries and interpretation for partners including statistical analyses of phytoplankton, toxin and environmental data.
  • Manage the program website with current project research, projects and partners.
  • Compile data and generate narrative reports, tables, charts and graphs of historic and current program data for publication in scientific journals. Update program materials as needed.
  • Outreach to, and education of, public and partners at community events and meetings.
  • Provide support to research PIs for various grants related to the program activities including mapping and data visualization.

Marine water quality outreach:

  • Working in collaboration with other WSG water quality specialists, provide general outreach and technical assistance to coastal stakeholders on important marine water quality issues and deliver programs as needed.
  • Serve as a member of the WSG team in projects and activities and prepare reports and advisory publications.


  • Bachelor's degree in ecology, marine sciences, environmental sciences, oceanography or related field and four years relevant experience OR Master's degree and two years experience

Equivalent education/experience will substitute for all minimum qualifications except when there are legal requirements, such as a license/certification/registration.


  • Capacity to manage demanding workflow; initiate, manage and complete tasks with minimal supervision; work effectively with diverse constituencies in-person and remotely via email and phone; and maintain attention to detail and process.
  • Experience working with large numbers of diverse partners and volunteers, demonstrating effective engagement, recruitment, training, and continuing education.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills that demonstrate the ability to interpret technical information and explain it accurately in non-technical language.
  • Strong interpersonal skills.
  • Commitment to principles of diversity, equity and inclusion shared by Washington Sea Grant and the UW College of the Environment.
  • Use of Microsoft Office and Google suite products.
  • Familiarity with statistical analysis of data and visual representation.
  • Identification of phytoplankton using light microscopy.
  • Experience with field work, data management, quality assurance and community science.
  • Understanding of the complex relationships among federal, state, and tribal resource management authorities in Washington.

The field station location is flexible, but the Marine Water Quality Specialist must be willing to travel to monitoring and meeting sites as necessary. Work activities will occur at WSG offices, meeting facilities and outdoors at field locations throughout Western Washington. Workload demand requires periodic evening and weekend hours and the ability to travel to field locations across the region required. Marine Water Quality Specialist activities will include carrying equipment or materials and may include work from small boats.

Salary: Commensurate with education and experience
Application Deadline: Open until filled

Application Process:

The application process for UW positions may include completion of a variety of online assessments to obtain additional information that will be used in the evaluation process. These assessments may include Workforce Authorization, Cover Letter and/or others. Any assessments that you need to complete will appear on your screen as soon as you select “Apply to this position”. Once you begin an assessment, it must be completed at that time; if you do not complete the assessment you will be prompted to do so the next time you access your “My Jobs” page. If you select to take it later, it will appear on your "My Jobs" page to take when you are ready. Please note that your application will not be reviewed, and you will not be considered for this position until all required assessments have been completed.

Please include in your cover letter ways you have sought to underrepresented and/or underserved communities feel included in your programs or ideas on how you would do so if you were in this position.

Learn more about this opportunity and how to apply.

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