Ocean Career: Ocean Associates Inc. Chemical Tracer Analyst

Ocean Associates Inc. (OAI) is seeking an applicant to provide Chemical Tracer Analysis support to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) in Seattle, WA. OAI is a Virginia corporation established in 2003 that provides consulting and technical services to the US government, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and the private sector. We specialize in scientific program and project management, strategic planning, professional and technical services, and stakeholder engagement, supporting government contracts


The Environmental Chemistry Program (ECP) at the NWFSC has conducted research on NOAA trust resources, focusing on developing state-of-the-art analytical methods to generate high quality data needed to understand the effects of human and environmental factors on the health and ecology of aquatic organisms. These research efforts support assessments on the impacts of toxic contaminants in aquatic ecosystems and examination of predator-prey relationships and their marine distribution. This knowledge is vital to the development of strategic management plans for NOAA’s marine and freshwater resources and includes developing advanced sampling and analytical methods for toxic contaminants and other chemical and biochemical markers; modifying existing analytical methods to measure chemical markers in a wide range of matrices and species; and establishing quality assurance protocols and criteria for analytical measurements.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) established the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP) (Title IV) in 1992. The MMHSRP operates in support of the Recovered Protected Species goal of NMFS’ Strategic Plan. The NWFSC serves as the NMFS lead for the biomonitoring components and quality assurance of chemical analyses of marine mammals and their potential prey for the Program. Information generated by these components addresses deficiencies in data quality and quantity on the levels of toxic chemicals in marine mammals, refines methods and approaches for understanding linkages between exposure and specific biological effects (e.g., disease) or biological processes, and improves the dissemination of the information to constituents and resource managers. The collection and dissemination of these data increases our understanding of the causes of disease and mortality events in marine mammals and provides high quality data to assess the status and trends in contaminant accumulation by US marine mammal populations. Furthermore, these data will provide a measure of the quality of their habitat. The work associated with this task order will enable the NWFSC to complete chemical tracer analyses of marine mammals and their prey in a timely manner and ensure that the data are of high quality for inclusion in peer-reviewed reports and publications.



The successful applicant shall provide assistance in conducting studies on environmental factors affecting fishery resources, including exposure to pollutants, as it relates to the protection of NOAA trust resources including fish and marine mammals. The successful applicant shall be responsible for assisting with marine mammal tissue collection as needed, tissue/fluid processing and preparation of marine mammals and their prey, as well as extraction and cleanup of marine organisms for carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios, chemical contaminants, including petroleum-related polycyclic aromatic compounds and their metabolites, persistent organic pollutants, and other chemical tracers (e.g., lipids). Duties shall include sample preparation, sample extraction using an accelerated solvent extractor or solid phase extraction and cleanup of sample extracts using gravity flow cleanup columns and automated cleanup using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with size exclusion chromatography. Additional responsibilities of the successful applicant shall include operation and assistance in maintenance of accelerated solvent extractors, HPLC system, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GCMS) systems, organization and maintenance of sample extract and sample freezer inventories, and assistance in writing sample preparation and analyses protocols for peer-reviewed publications and reports.

Task One

The successful applicant shall collect, prepare, extract, cleanup, and analyze samples of marine fish and seafood (e.g., Pacific herring, salmonids, mussels) and associated quality assurance samples for persistent organic pollutants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and their metabolites, and lipid content using analytical protocols established by the NWFSC. The successful applicant shall archive any remaining tissue samples and sample extracts in the appropriate storage area and maintain freezer inventories of these samples and sample extracts.

Task Two

The successful applicant shall homogenize, freeze dry, and analyze marine fish and seafood samples (e.g., Pacific herring, salmonids, mussels), as well as the associated quality assurance samples, for carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios using analytical protocols established by the NWFSC. The successful applicant shall archive any remaining tissue samples in the appropriate storage area and maintain freezer inventories of these samples.

Task Three

The successful applicant shall assist NWFSC staff in operation and maintenance of accelerated solvent extractors (ASEs), HPLC, and GCMS systems used in chemical tracer analyses of marine organisms and their prey, using protocols established by the NWFSC.


Deliverables shall relate to the above tasks and will include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following:

  • Production of data associated with measurement of persistent organic pollutant, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and their metabolites, and lipid content of marine fish and shellfish using analytical protocols established by the NWFSC. The data obtained from these chemical tracer analyses shall pass the NWFSC’s laboratory quality assurance criteria and the successful applicant shall provide the NWFSC with up-to-date chemical tracer sample and sample extract freezer inventories on a monthly basis. If the successful applicant assists with field collection of tissue samples, the successful applicant shall supply the Government with any notes associated with these field visits within 5 business days.
  • Production of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratio data for marine fish and seafood samples (e.g., Pacific herring, salmonids, mussels), as well as the associated quality assurance samples. The data obtained from these chemical tracer analyses shall pass the NWFSC’s laboratory quality assurance criteria. An updated sample inventory shall also be provided on a on a monthly basis.


Ph.D. degree in analytical chemistry or closely related field of study from an accredited college or university.

Additional required qualifications include:

  • Experience in preparation, extraction, and cleanup of tissues of marine organisms and their prey for determining trace levels (parts per billion) of chemical tracers using GC/MS, including persistent organic pollutants, petroleum-related polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, as well as gravimetric lipid determinations.
  • Experience in tissue sample preparation for analyses of stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen. This includes experience in freeze drying tissues.
  • Expertise with the bulk analysis of stable isotopes and compound specific stable isotope analysis of amino acids.
  • Experience in following performance-based laboratory quality assurance protocols, including following clean-laboratory practices for chemical tracer analyses.
  • Expertise in one or more of the following areas: isotope-ratio mass spectrometry, coding in R, application of mixing models.
  • Demonstrated experience working with large data sets.
  • A documented product such as authorship of a peer-reviewed publication and/or report.
  • Demonstrated ability to give oral presentations such as conference presentations (oral and/or poster) or other public presentations.
  • At least two (2) years of analytical chemistry experience.

Additional preferred qualifications include:

  • At least one (1) year of experience using isotope-ratio mass spectrometry for stable isotope analyses.
  • At least one (1) year of experience using R statistical software.


Facility access is from 0600-1800 Monday-Friday. Work will be performed not to exceed 40 hours per week. Overtime is not anticipated


Work will be conducted on-site at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Seattle, WA.


Travel is anticipated


This is a full-time position with benefits. Salary, commensurate with experience, between $30.00 - $50.00 per hour.

Learn more about this opportunity and how to apply.

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