Columbia River System Natural Resource Specialist

POSITION TITLE: RAY Conservation Fellow, Columbia River System Natural Resource Specialist

DEPARTMENT/PROGRAM: U.S. Dept of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), West Coast Region, Interior Columbia Basin Division, Columbia Hydropower Branch Office (Hydro Branch)

REPORTS TO: Ritchie Graves, Branch Chief 

STATUS: Regular, Full-Time

LOCATION: 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd, Ste 1100, Portland, Oregon, 97232




In an effort to make the conservation and clean energy fields more equitable and accessible, the Roger Arliner Young (RAY) Fellowship Program aims to increase and facilitate environmentally-related career pathways for emerging leaders of color. The RAY Fellowship Program is a paid fellowship designed to equip recent college graduates with the tools, experiences, support, and community they need to become leaders in the conservation and clean energy sectors—one that, in our visions of the future, fully represents, includes, and is led by the diverse communities, perspectives, and experiences of the United States.




NOAA Fisheries, also known as the National Marine Fisheries Service, is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Department of Commerce.  We have five regional offices, six science centers, and more than 20 laboratories around the United States and U.S. territories, and we work with partners across the nation. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for conservation of the Nation’s living marine resources. Marine resources include ocean ecosystems, and in particular the fish, whales and turtles that rely on them.


The West Coast Region (WCR) of NOAA Fisheries works in Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho and the associated ocean waters. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for conservation of the Nation’s living marine resources. Marine resources include species like Pacific salmon and steelhead which spend the greater part of their life cycle in marine waters, and the lesser part in fresh waters. NOAA Fisheries uses its authorities granted through the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), Federal Power Act (FPA), and other federal statutes to manage, protect, and conserve these species and the habitat that sustains them.


We rely on science to help us answer questions and tell stories that can inspire our partners to make sustainable choices and assist the public in meeting the requirements of environmental laws when it comes to actions like fishing, urban and industrial development and making use of natural resources like wind, oil, solar projects. We utilize many formats to help illustrate the science behind our decision making, including written documents, maps, art, photography, and online tools, e.g. habitat mapping tools.


We are committed to recruiting and empowering a workforce that reflects our diverse region and embraces multiple perspectives in the pursuit of our mission and the public we serve. A collaborative work environment that gives voice to diverse perspectives is essential for living up to the mission and solving the complexities of modern stewardship and governance.


The Columbia River is the largest river in the American West. Its drainage basin covers most of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, and large areas of Montana and British Columbia. The Columbia River and its tributaries are developed with many large dams and reservoirs which provide hydroelectric power; navigation; flood risk management; and water storage for agricultural irrigation, and for MRCI (municipal, residential, commercial, industrial), and for environmental conservation purposes.


Fourteen large, federally owned dams and reservoirs within the basin (collectively referred to as the Columbia River System or (CRS) are operated in concert to accomplish all of those purposes. The coordinated operation of these projects (CRS operations or CRSO) is governed by the federal operating agencies’ (Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Reclamation, and Army Corps of Engineers) 2020 Record of Decision (ROD), which completed a multi-year NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process; and NOAA Fisheries’ 2020 CRS Biological Opinion (Opinion), completing Section 7(a)(2) consultation under the ESA. ICBD is responsible for conserving salmon and steelhead species from the Middle Columbia, Upper Columbia, and Snake River basins that must migrate past multiple mainstem CRS projects to complete their life cycles.



With respect to the CRS, Columbia Hydropower Branch staff perform three principal duties:

  • Periodically producing the Opinion on the continued operation and maintenance of the CRS and its mitigation and research, monitoring, and enhancement programs,
  • Assisting the federal operating agencies to operate the CRS in accordance with the ROD and Opinion through participation in multiple committees made up of federal, state, and tribal representatives (collectively referred to as the Regional Forum), and
  • Continually reviewing information from research, monitoring, and evaluation programs and interpreting evolving science for application to the above two elements.


The Columbia Hydropower Branch is also engaged in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing process of several large mainstem hydroelectric projects and the implementation of existing licenses. These projects have similar operational requirements and mitigation elements as the CRS projects.


For this fellowship, ICBD’s Columbia Hydropower Branch is looking for candidates that are interested in 1) learning about Pacific salmon and steelhead migratory behavior, 2) learning about the fish passage structures and operations at mainstem federal dams, 3) working collaboratively on complex technical issues with WCR staff and representatives of a broad array of federal, state, and tribal agencies, and 4) positively contributing to the culture of NOAA Fisheries WCR. Telework flexibility is available for this position; however, the incumbent will be required to report to a NMFS office, or field site, during each pay period. 



The Columbia Hydropower Branch Fellow will work fulltime in the Portland duty station (routine and situational telework is allowed) and will interact closely with the several senior biologists in the branch office.


ICBD has a teamwork tradition and RAY Fellows may rely upon generous advice and help from colleagues. An appreciable body of guidance, templates, and precedents are available for most tasks. Higher performance levels entail original outside-of-the-box thinking. Strongest contributions are made by those who independently find relevant new information, and who integrate information of different types to resolve issues and develop innovative solutions.



  • Accompany senior biologists to interagency meetings to discuss in-season or future CRS operations and adjust them as indicated to comply with ROD and Opinion.
  • Accompany senior biologists on field trips to CRS projects (or FERC licensed projects) to observe the operation of fish passage systems.
  • Accompany senior biologists to mitigation workgroup meetings to discuss evolving science and implications for implementing mitigation and enhancement activities relating to tributary habitat, estuary habitat, predator deterrent or control, etc.
  • Assist senior biologists by collecting and analyzing data and relevant reports and contributing to staff memos, presentations, etc.
  • Perform as designated lead to investigate the biological effects of some aspect of the CRS or its operation (or FERC licensed projects or their operation) or related mitigation programs on NMFS trust species, including collecting, compiling and analyzing data, preparing a staff memo to document the analysis and conclusions or recommendations, and presenting this information to WCR senior biologists or policy staff, and, potentially, at Regional Forum meetings. 
  • Provide informal and confidential perspective and advice to WCR managers regarding your personal experience, and how we might better effectively recruit and retain a workforce that reflects the communities we serve. 



In addition to the responsibilities at the host institution outlined above, RAY Fellows will spend, on average, 2-4 hours per week (5-10% of work time) on the following:

  • Actively communicating and building community with their RAY Fellow cohort and previous RAY Fellows. 
  • Meeting regularly with mentors both inside and outside the host institution. 
  • Attending monthly professional development webinars, trainings, and other opportunities to build knowledge and skills as scheduled.
  • Developing a Personal Leadership Plan (PLP) in their 2nd year with the support of supervisor(s), mentors, RAY program staff, and their RAY Fellow cohort. The PLP will serve as a tool for self-reflection, planning, and assessing progress towards professional, personal, and leadership goals.
  • Preparing and leading an hour-long end-of-fellowship webinar highlighting their Fellowship experience.


RAY Fellows will also attend:

  • A 3-day Orientation Retreat in late Summer/Fall 2023.
  • A 3-day Mid-Fellowship Leadership Retreat in Fall 2024.



Eligible RAY Fellow applicants will:

  • Come from a racial/ethnic background underrepresented in conservation and clean energy and demonstrate a commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Be no more than 1 year out of college and have a Bachelor's Degree by July 2023 (we are not considering individuals with graduate degrees at this time).
  • Have not had a full-time job in conservation or clean energy.
  • Have the ability to work in the United States and commit to the entire fellowship.
  • For NOAA RAY Fellowship Positions: 1) Must be a U.S. citizen or national (residents of American Samoa and Swains Islands), or Persons lawfully admitted for permanent residence and seeking citizenship as outlined in 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3)(B), or Persons admitted as refugees under 8 U.S.C. 1157 or granted asylum under 8 U.S.C. 1158 and have filed a declaration of intention to become lawful permanent residents and then citizens when eligible, and 2) Submit required documents for a  security clearance prior to beginning the Fellowship, including providing finger prints at designated fingerprinting facility. 



  • A college degree by the time of employment with major or minor in a natural resources science (examples: biology, hydrology, limnology, oceanography, natural resources management).
  • An interest in the field of conservation/clean energy and natural resource management.
  • Demonstrated capacity to work well and collaborate with others.
  • Effective written and verbal communication skills.
  • An eagerness to learn.
  • Ability and willingness to interact professionally and constructively with people holding different viewpoints.
  • Ability and willingness to work both independently and collaboratively as part of a team.
  • Ability and willingness to learn about complex scientific and technical issues relating to salmon and steelhead migration and fish passage structures.
  • Ability and willingness to learn about NOAA Fisheries’ policies and authorities.
  • Ability and willingness to identify issues, communicate effectively, solve problems, and develop practical recommendations for ICBD technical and policy staff.



This is a two-year, full-time fellowship (one year with a one-year renewal) starting on or after June 15, 2023.



The Fellowship is compensated and sponsored by NOAA Fisheries, West Coast Region, who offers a starting salary of $45,000 with a competitive benefits package as well as training and professional development opportunities.



To apply for the RAY Fellowship Program, applicants must:


  1. Complete the online application survey on the RAY Fellowship Program website: 


  1. Follow the instructions on the linked application webpage to submit one essay response, one visioning response and one short answer response per interested position.


Applications must be submitted to the RAY Fellowship Program no later than March 27, 2023. Transcripts and additional writing samples are not required. 


If you have questions please see our FAQ page, and any further questions about the application process can be submitted to