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Research Project Description

Mapping Watershed Integrity Nationally
Research Participation Program
Office of Research and Development
National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Corvallis, OR


Project Description:

A postdoctoral research project training opportunity is currently available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL). The appointment will be served with the Western Ecology Division (WED) in Newport, Oregon.

As one of four NHEERL ecological effects divisions, WED's mission is to provide EPA with national scientific leadership for terrestrial and regional-scale ecology, and to develop the scientific basis for assessing the condition of aquatic resources and their response to natural and anthropogenic stresses. WED's research focus comprises two aspects: developing an understanding of the structure and function of ecological systems, and conducting analyses of ecological phenomena at the ecosystem, landscape, and regional scales.

As part of a task under the Safe and Sustainable Water Resources National Program, research is being conducted to develop methods and indicators that will produce national watershed integrity (WI) maps. The first step of developing an operational definition of WI is currently underway. This operational definition represents a hypothesis, or conceptual model, of important watershed factors that impact aquatic systems. WI will be mapped, based on this definition, and the conceptual model will be evaluated using data available from national surveys and watershed case studies. The performance of the WI metric will be evaluated by mapping it at case study watersheds and comparing results with other indicators of condition and integrity, including stream condition. Such evaluations will provide context, caveats, and weight of evidence validation for the integrity metric.

National surveys and watershed case studies will also be used to begin testing, where feasible, some of the hypothesized relationships that are incorporated into the conceptual model of integrity. Testing will be opportunistic and based on available data and resources. WI maps may also be compared with health and economic indicators to evaluate relationships between the three.

Joining this effort, the participant may be involved in the following activities:

  • Contributing to development of an operational (i.e., able to be implemented using existing, nationally available datasets) definition of WI;
  • Assembling nationally available spatial data for evaluating WI;
  • Using spatial datasets to develop national maps of WI;
  • Assembling local, regional, or national datasets for testing of WI assumptions;
  • Collaborating with researchers examining health and/or economic impacts of WI;
  • Developing quality assurance approaches for mapping and testing of WI.
  • Using GIS to develop new spatial indicators;
  • Collaborating on related national mapping activities;
  • Conducting scientific synthesis, data analysis, manuscript preparation and literature searches;
  • Developing research summaries and other communications for technical and nontechnical audiences.

The participant will learn about the use of spatial indicators and watershed data, and will learn to develop, test, and apply models that evaluate WI. S/he will also further develop an expertise in spatial analysis using large national datasets. S/he will have access to a team of experts collaborating in and across disciplines on problems of crucial importance to the EPA’s mission. The participant will be encouraged to communicate his/her research results through peer-reviewed publications, presentations at meetings of professional societies, and seminars.


Applicants must have received a doctoral degree in aquatic ecology, ecohydrology, watershed hydrology, or a closely related field within five years of the desired starting date, or completion of all requirements for the degree should be expected prior to the starting date. Experience with the use of aquatic monitoring data and GIS analyses is desired.

The program is open to all qualified individuals without regard to race, sex, religion, color, age, physical or mental disability, national origin, or status as a Vietnam era or disabled veteran. U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status is preferred (but a candidate also may hold an appropriate visa status; an H1B visa is not appropriate).

The appointment is full time for one year and may be renewed upon recommendation of EPA and contingent on the availability of funds. The participant will receive a monthly stipend. Funding may be made available to reimburse the participant's travel expenses to present the results of his/her research at scientific conferences. No funding will be made available to cover travel costs for pre-appointment visits, relocation costs, tuition and fees, or a participant's health insurance. The participant must show proof of health and medical insurance. The participant does not become an EPA employee.

Technical Questions:

The mentor for this project will be Scott G. Leibowitz (

How to Apply:

An application can be found at Please reference Project # EPA-ORD/NHEERL-WED-2014-04 when calling or writing for information.