Ocean Career: Research Ecologist at NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

This position is located in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Ocean Service (NOS), Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, with one vacancy in Galveston, TX.

This position is also announced under vacancy number NOS-ONMS-2022-0033, which is open to Status Candidates. You must apply to both announcements if you want to be considered for both.


As a Research Ecologist, you will perform the following duties:

  • Manage a portfolio of complex research on a diversity of marine habitats (coral reefs, mesophotic reefs and associated ecosystems), rare and protected species, and other unique ecological relationships of national significance. Coordinate and perform a full spectrum of research activities, including development of short and long-term plans, analysis of proposed research, preparation of cost and resources, oversight and control of efforts to support research projects, procurement, development and testing of research studies implementation planning, and publication in peer-reviewed scientific literature and/or briefing of research results.
  • Manage associated contracts, prepare scope of work and cost estimates for the work to be contracted, and ensure that the contractors' progress complies with contract terms and certifies work accomplished. Write internal and external Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to obtain research funds and grants and prepare, justify, and administer the budget and monitor expenditures.
  • Serve as subject matter expert on conservation biology, marine ecology, natural resources, and environmental sciences, in order to synthesize complex scientific information into a variety of scientific publications and public outreach materials (e.g., condition reports, educational materials, and input for websites). Provide advice, input, and support for regulatory analyses related to conservation science, such as impact analyses required under the National Environmental Policy Act or Endangered Species Act, management plan reviews, 304(d) consultations, or Natural Resource Damage Assessments.
  • Provide expert advice and recommendations to novel, complex, and controversial issues. Represent the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) at national and international meetings, conferences, resource management boards, research advisory panels, etc.
  • Oversee and manage complex offshore marine field operations, including overseeing and mentoring a large team of ONMS field staff engaged in diverse, and at times risky operations. Coordinate research operations on ONMS research vessels, including being responsible for procuring funds and planning missions. Manage or oversee the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Dive program. Design and implement the inclusion of novel technology and study methods, and the incorporation of new, partner or NOAA assets (e.g., Remotely operated Vehicles (ROV), Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), Unmanned Systems (UxS)). Ensure coordination for large vessel operations, including with NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) white ships.


  • Must be a U.S. Citizen or National to apply.
  • Required to pass a background investigation and fingerprint check.
  • Must be registered for Selective Service, if applicable.
  • Qualifications requirements must be met by closing date of announcement.
  • Must be suitable for Federal employment.

This position will be filled under the DOC Alternative Personnel System (CAPS). This system replaced the Federal GS pay plan and structure. Under CAPS, positions are classified by career, pay plan, and pay band.

CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT: May require fieldwork with a minimum of 2 weeks per year. May require SCUBA license certification. Incumbent will need to travel to a variety of regional locations to conduct field work, meet with collaborators, collect and evaluate data, and participate in scientific presentations.

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS: This position has physical requirements. May require fieldwork with a minimum of 2 weeks per year. May require SCUBA license certification. Fieldwork requires the incumbent to live on board and work on research vessels in the marine offshore environment for up to 21 days at a time which can include rough seas and inclement weather. While at sea, the incumbent will be required to stand for long periods of time, bend/stoop and lift up to 40 lbs. unassisted. Perform non-cruise tasks such as driving a truck loaded with research equipment to vessel; requires ability to lift gear and delivering/picking up equipment from vessels.


Qualification requirements in the vacancy announcements are based on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Qualification Standards Handbook, which contains federal qualification standards. This handbook is available on the Office of Personnel Management's website located here.

BASIC REQUIREMENTS: This position has a positive Education Requirement in addition to at least one year of Specialized Experience in order to be found minimally qualified. Transcripts must be submitted with your application package. You MUST meet the following requirements:

To qualify for the 0408 series:


Degree: biology, or a related field of science underlying ecological research that included at least 30 semester hours in basic and applied biological sciences. These hours must have included at least 9 semester hours in ecology, and 12 semester hours in physical and mathematical sciences. -AND-

SPECIALIZED EXPERIENCE: Applicants must possess one year of specialized experience equivalent in difficulty and responsibility to the next lower grade level in the Federal Service. Specialized experience is experience that has equipped the applicant with the particular competencies/knowledge, skills and abilities to successfully perform the duties of the position.

This experience need not have been in the federal government. Experience refers to paid and unpaid experience, including volunteer work done through National Service programs (e.g., Peace Corps, AmeriCorps) and other organizations e.g., professional; philanthropic, religious; spiritual; community, student, social). Volunteer work helps build critical competencies; knowledge, and skills and can provide valuable training and experience that translates directly to paid employment. You will receive credit for all qualifying experience, including volunteer experience.

To qualify at the ZP-4 or GS-13 level:

SPECIALIZED EXPERIENCE: In addition to meeting the Basic Requirements above, applicant must also possess one full year (52 weeks) of specialized experience equivalent to the ZP-3 or GS-12 in the Federal service. Specialized experience MUST include all of the following:

Performing research activities related to environmental and marine issues and/or the diversity of habitats, rare and protected species and related ecological relationships (e.g., participating in the planning and development of research projects, conducting research projects, conducting field operations, participating in the development of research reports and publications, etc.);

Collaborating with coastal and natural resource planners, regulators and/or marine industry stakeholders to identify research issues/problems to develop research initiatives; and

Performing SCUBA diving operations or participating in on-the-water research operations.


Substitution of education for specialized experience is not applicable to this vacancy.

Application Deadline: July 5, 2022
Salary: $108,797 - $167,134 per year
Pay scale & grade: ZA 4

Learn more about this opportunity and how to apply.

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