RAY Ocean Conservation Fellow

POSITION TITLE: RAY Ocean Conservation Fellow

DEPARTMENT/PROGRAM: Nature, Oceans Division

REPORTS TO: Sandy Aylesworth, Director, Pacific Initiative, Oceans

STATUS: Regular, Full-Time

LOCATION: San Francisco or Santa Monica




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.


ABOUT the natural resources defense council

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) uses law, science and the support of more than 2 million members and online activists to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things. Reviving the world’s oceans is one of NRDC’s top priorities.  NRDC works to promote healthy and vital oceans by preserving special places and species, defending against destructive and harmful practices like overfishing and offshore drilling, and planning for a healthy ocean future.  Some current initiatives include advocating to protect at least 30 percent of the oceans by 2030 (or, “30x30”), protecting our coasts from harmful offshore oil and gas drilling, promoting sustainable domestic fisheries by strengthening the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, and advancing protections on the high seas. Our Pacific Ocean Initiative focuses on securing the health of California’s ocean environment (with special attention to marine protected areas, sustainable West Coast fisheries, and minimizing industrial impacts), combatting illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing, robust 30x30 implementation, and leveraging California as a leader for strong ocean conservation policies. 



The RAY fellow will assist staff members in ongoing advocacy efforts in ocean conservation.  The fellow will have an opportunity to work on a range of ocean issues which may include preparing research and policy papers related to: marine protected areas and/or the “30x30” initiative; sustainable fisheries management in California; illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing; offshore wind development; industrial impacts, such as from oil and gas development or plastic pollution; and/or demographics of ocean constituencies in California.  The fellow will also engage as part of the team, playing a key role in developing strategy and executing and communicating our priorities, writing blogs, preparing talking points, participating in meetings with partners, and advocating before decision-makers. This may include opportunities to engage with state and/or federal agencies and decision-makers, conservation organizations, partners, and local communities. Through this work, the Fellow will gain skills in research and analysis, written advocacy, oral advocacy, and participation in regulatory processes.  The Fellow will be an integral part of NRDC’s team and will gain exposure to a variety of activities, including legislative advocacy, science meetings, advocacy strategies, and coalition work. 



  • Work closely with the Pacific Ocean Initiative team to advance priority objectives on a select variety of issues relevant to our work on California, federal and/or international oceans policy.
  • Research scientific, technical and policy questions related to NRDC’s ocean priorities.
  • Prepare memos and briefing papers and summarize findings and recommendations based on the above research.
  • Collaborate with Oceans and other NRDC staff to develop communications and outreach materials, such as blogs, fact sheets, issue briefs, comment letters, or longer reports.
  • Participate in meetings of NRDC’s Oceans team, as well as other internal NRDC meetings or working groups.
  • Participate in meetings with coalition partners and support coalition work, as needed.
  • Provide programmatic support, as needed.
  • Some travel (to Sacramento, Washington, D.C., or other) may be required, depending on travel restrictions.



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:

  • Come from a racial/ethnic background underrepresented in conservation and demonstrate a commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion;
  • Are no more than 1 year out of college and will have a Bachelor's Degree by July 2023;
  • Have not had a full-time job in conservation;
  • Have the ability to work in the United States and commit to the entire fellowship;
  • Have an interest in or passion for the field of ocean conservation;
  • Have strong leadership potential;
  • Have excellent written and verbal skills;
  • Have strong research, presentation, and interpersonal skills;
  • Are eager to learn;
  • Are able to work both independently and collaboratively with a diverse group of professionals.
  • Knowledge about marine science and policy is a plus.
  • Spanish language fluency is a plus.



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 NRDC, who offers a competitive benefits package as well as training and professional development opportunities. 

The compensation range for this position is $62,500 - $67,000, which includes professional development, select travel, and relocation funds. 



To apply for the RAY Fellowship Program, applicants must:


Complete the online application survey on the RAY Fellowship Program website: https://rayfellowship.org/apply 


Follow the instructions on the linked application webpage to submit a resume or curriculum vitae, one essay response, one visioning response, one short answer response, and a letter of support. 


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 ray@elpnet.org


NRDC is committed to the principles of equal opportunity. NRDC’s organizational policies, practices, and decisions regarding employment, hiring, assignment, promotion, compensation, volunteerism, internships and other terms and conditions of employment or voluntary service shall not be based on a person’s race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, mental or physical disability, ancestry, military discharge status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, source of income, parental status, housing status, or other protected status, in accordance with applicable law. NRDC is an equal opportunity employer continually seeking to diversify its staff, particularly to broaden opportunities for individuals from demographic groups that are historically underrepresented in the sciences and in environmental advocacy.