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8 Nov 2023

Full-Time Shellfish Research Scientist

Ocean Associates Inc. – Posted by oai1 Seattle, Washington, United States

Job Description

Ocean Associates Inc. (OAI) is seeking a Shellfish Researcher to provide support to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, WA. OAI is a Virginia corporation established in 2003 that provides consulting and technical services to the U.S. 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.


There has been considerable research regarding the ecosystem effects of shellfish farming in temperate waters of the Atlantic and Pacific coast in recent years. This research includes interactions with submerged aquatic vegetation, fish and invertebrates and effects on water quality. In Washington state, there are over 250 shellfish farms across over 700 sites, most of which are located in Puget Sound.

A priority in Puget Sound is the conservation of nearshore habitat, including wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, estuaries, and tidal zones that make up some of the most valuable habitat for the region’s salmon and steelhead and overlap in some places with shellfish farming. Unfortunately, much of nearshore habitat in Puget Sound is lost or degraded, with more than 90 percent of tidal wetlands lost to development. That leaves salmon without essential nursery habitat they need to feed and grow strong to boost their later survival in the open ocean. This is especially concerning for Puget Sound Chinook salmon, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

To help address this situation, NOAA Fisheries recently developed the Puget Sound Nearshore Habitat Conservation Calculator (Nearshore Calculator). The calculator can be used to determine how much restoration is needed to offset the impacts of nearshore development. The calculator determines changes in habitat value in a common currency that represents habitat impacts as debits, and habitat improvements as credits. Developers can then offset debits with an equivalent number of credits, avoiding further net loss of nearshore habitat. Credits may come from improvements undertaken as part of the same project or from improvements in other areas in the Puget Sound region.

NOAA Fisheries is in need of assistance to help consider additions to the Nearshore Calculator to account for ecosystem effects of shellfish aquaculture in Puget Sound, based on best available science.


The employee will coordinate with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and West Coast Region of Fisheries (Central Puget Sound Branch & Oregon/Washington Aquaculture Coordinator) to assist with the following key tasks:

Literature Review/Calculator learning: Compile and conduct an assessment of relevant literature to inform ecosystem effects of shellfish aquaculture. Assess relevance to shellfish aquaculture in the US portions of the Salish Sea including all five marine basins delineated as service areas for use with the Nearshore Calculator. Synthesize and communicate findings to scientific, management and industry audiences. Invest in in-depth learning of the nearshore calculator and Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, including how the calculator works, the underlying literature, data inputs, analytical approach and how it is applied to aquaculture projects. Deliverables are:Finalized list of literature and folders with PDF copies of each study.
Summary files with annotations of key results and conclusions from each source.
Tables, figures, presentation materials for presenting results to different audiences.
Contribute to NWFSC teams that are working on related projects by participating in meetings, completing assignments, and contributing to products.

Gain Regional Expertise: When possible, conduct site visits to regional shellfish farms to gain an understanding of aquaculture practices. Take photos of gear and growing practices at each site, pending permission of the grower. When possible, join research teams in the field to promote awareness of ongoing research applications. Deliverables are:Library of photos taken at each site visit that document different types of shellfish growing practices and ongoing research.

Effects of Aquaculture: Using results from Task 1 and 2, evaluate how benefits/impacts from different aquaculture techniques affect Physical and Biological Features (PBFs) for salmon based on best available science. Evaluate if these benefits/impacts are generally included in the indicator effect pathways outlined in Ehinger et al 2023. Amend the indicator effect pathways description as appropriate for aquaculture. Detail if any relevant indicator effect pathways may not be included and how they could be added in an update. Deliverables are:List of benefits/impacts of shellfish aquaculture are generally included in the indicator effect pathway outline in Ehinger et al., 2023. Amend recommended indicator effect pathway description(s), as applicable.
Recommend any relevant indicator effect pathways that may not be included, and how they could be added following the format and methodology in Ehingher et al. 2023.

Prototype Development: For aquaculture techniques for which the most relevant indicator effect pathways are considered in the Nearshore Calculator, evaluate if current tabs allow for appropriate quantification of impacts. For those applications, develop demonstration examples of how shellfish aquaculture activities that require federal permitting may be addressed by the Nearshore Calculator. Demonstration growing methods shall include shellfish on-bottom culture, flip bag culture, long-line culture, geoduck culture and co-culture with seaweed and infrastructure associated with shellfish culture, such as buoys, nearshore hardening/boat launches, etc. Deliverables are:For each demonstration example, develop a document that describes each proposed idea for integrating ecosystem effects into decision making tools. Provide supporting evidence (data, references) to justify each idea.

Draft Recommendations: Based on steps one through four, develop proposed additions/adjustments to the calculator for shellfish projects. Present draft recommendations for feedback from applicable Northwest Fisheries Science Center and West Coast Region of Fisheries staff. Deliverables are:Consult with NWFSC and WCR staff to solicit peer review of demonstration examples.
Develop key questions for reviewers to address in the review process.
Electronic copies of all peer review comments received.

Develop Guidance: Develop instructions to NOAA Fisheries Staff regarding how these adjustments to the calculator can be incorporated for use by NOAA staff, tribes, the public and other stakeholders. Deliverables are:Based on results of peer review, offer guidance on when and how to implement the recommended additions and adjustments. Guidance may be in one or more formats, including but not limited to in-person work sessions, webinars, small meetings, written documentation, etc.

Communication: Share results, conclusions, guidance with interested and relevant audiences, including relevant conferences and meetings. In collaboration with NOAA staff, provide an overview of findings for regional aquaculture and marine habitat teams, tribes, the public and other stakeholders. Develop a synthesis manuscript for publication in a peer reviewed journal that includes the literature review findings and relevant results regarding how this information might be used to inform management tools and calculators. Deliverables are:Communications products including but not limited to:Presentation files (PowerPoint, Google Slides, etc.) and presentations at relevant science and management meetings.
Manuscript drafted for submission to peer reviewed journal that integrates literature review and application to management tools.
Collaborative engagement with communications teams on webstory, newsletter and social media content, as applicable.
Monthly progress report to include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following: accomplishments, issues encountered, travel (including purpose, significant outcomes, action items), and recommendations, if applicable.

Start Date: As soon as possible

Location: Northwest Fisheries Science Center Seattle, WA or the associated Manchester Research Station, Manchester, WA

Travel: Travel is anticipated to support field research, meet with collaborators, and present results at a regional workshop or scientific conference. Travel will be in WA, OR, CA, or ID.

Salary and Benefits: This is a full-time position with benefits. Salary, commensurate with experience, between $38.00 – $42.00 per hour.


Applicants must have the following minimum requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree, or higher, from an accredited college or university with a major directly related in a field of study as related to the requirements of this specific task order with emphasis in fisheries, oceanography, social science, natural science, mathematics, or hydrology, plus five (5) years of experience in related field or combination of such totaling nine (9) years combined education and experience. Master’s Degree in related field plus one (1) year experience or Ph.D. may be substituted for experience.
  • At least four years of academic research experience focused on fish populations, shellfish, submerged aquatic vegetation and/or nearshore habitat data.
  • Experience working in estuary or nearshore habitats on the west coast.
  • Experience with shellfish aquaculture practices and submerged aquatic vegetation (eelgrass and/or kelp).
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Familiarity with R or ArcGIS, modeling and data analysis, and experience writing and publishing peer-reviewed articles.
  • Familiarity with approaches and tools used by managers to value habitats
  • Knowledge and expertise of NOAA Fisheries policies and programs
  • Experience with planning, and Federal financial management and operations
  • Working with diverse interdisciplinary teams
  • Current MS Office skills
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Ability to work effectively both individually and collaboratively in a team/group setting.
  • Ability to receive constructive feedback and implement appropriate action.

Only qualified applicants that meet minimum experience or background requirements stated above need apply. When applying for this position you will be asked to upload your resume at the end of this online application.

Applicants should submit a resume that includes the following:

  • Cover letter that briefly describes how you meet the required and preferred qualifications listed.
  • Work history for past 10 years or since last full-time education.
  • Education.
  • Previous experience or training with similar requirements.
  • Three professional references.
  • Include your name in the document file name.
  • Upload your resume in readable, not scanned, PDF or Word format (PDF is preferred).
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Job Categories: Equal Opportunities. Job Types: Full-Time. Salaries: 80,000 - 100,000.

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