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Program Specialist

Silver Spring, MD
  • Posted: over a month ago
  • Full-Time
Job Description


Location: Florida Keys, FL

Supervisor: Director of Conservation

Status: Full-time hybrid 1-year term position (expected October 2022-September 30, 2023)

What We Need

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is a leading voice for U.S. protected waters, is seeking an Underwater Debris Program Specialist.

The Specialist will be based in the Florida Keys with the option of some telework.

Program Overview:

Marine debris is a significant challenge facing our ocean and marine wildlife, and it is an ongoing challenge in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (NMS). Marine debris, including lost or abandoned fishing gear and trash, entangles stony corals, sea fans, sponges, sea turtles, manatees, and other marine life. It also degrades seagrass, hard bottom, coral reef, and mangrove habitats, and detracts from the natural beauty of the islands.

When Hurricane Irma struck Florida in September 2017 with Category 4 winds and a significant storm surge, it damaged docks and homes and sunk vessels, depositing significant amounts of debris into the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and beyond. Years after Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys, dive operator partners in the Keys are still seeing debris and derelict fishing gear bundles in areas of the reef tract and submerged mangroves that have been there since after the storm. Removing marine debris, including lost fishing gear, deposited in the Florida Keys NMS from Hurricane Irma will restore, protect, conserve, and enhance marine habitats and ecosystems for the species that rely on them.

Established in May 2018, the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys initiative aims to remove underwater marine debris from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and educate the public about its role in marine debris prevention. Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys partners work with sanctuary-recognized Blue Star Dive Operators to educate dive professionals and recreational divers on best practices for removal of marine debris; perform scoping dives to identify debris hotspots; remove, dispose, and recycle underwater debris; conduct post-removal data reporting and analysis; and engage the public in marine debris awareness and prevention through education and outreach.

The National Marine Sanctuary is committed to a culture of inclusion, equity, and belonging. We are dedicated to attracting and retaining a diverse staff. We honor experiences, perspectives, and unique identities, and welcome the contributions that you can bring to the dedicated team. With a diverse team of employees, we can grow and learn better together and achieve our mission to protect the health of the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes for current and future generations.

What You’ll Do

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

Blue Star Dive Operator Scoping and Removals, Small Dive Shops

  • Work with the Community Stewardship Coordinator to support removal activities and provide opportunities for the community to be involved in the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys.
  • Review Request for Proposals to receive applications for funding assistance from Blue Star Dive Operators.
  • Work closely with Blue Star Dive Operators to understand funding opportunities, contracts paperwork and requirements, including providing one-on-one engagement and support to encourage strong applications.
  • Work with the Community Stewardship Coordinator to explore and implement partnerships between smaller dive shops with Blue Star Dive Operators to engage in removal dives and build conservation stewardship.
  • Assist in orientations and training for onboarding Blue Star Dive Operators to participate in programs.
  • Oversee updating of training materials with new safety considerations for removals dives in shallow habitats.
  • Host calls and email check-ins with participating Blue Star Dive Operators to check in on the status of dives, needs, and coordination.

Partnership Building

  • Assess needs, challenges, and opportunities to work with ecotourism/snorkel outfitters and community dive organizations with missions focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Develop protocols and guidelines for new pilots such as ecotourism/snorkel outfitters and community dive organizations
  • Oversee development of best practices for ecotourism outfitters to engage in shallow mangrove submerged marine debris removals in coordination with Florida Keys NMS, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
  • Research dive partnership opportunities in Miami-Dade County to conduct removal dives
  • Develop partnership models for increasing targeted community engagement in underwater debris removal, including outlining roles and responsibilities; coordinating logistics; ensuring safety, skills, and other training and permit compliance
  • Administer grants and contracts with partner organizations to conduct removal dives
  • Regularly check in and engage with partners to coordinate removal activities, track progress, and capture lessons learned

Technical Dives

  • Identify and assess removal options for large underwater marine debris targets through communications, reports, and surveys from dive operators, Florida Keys NMS sanctuary staff, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and other partners
  • Work with Florida Keys NMS staff and Florida DEP staff to ensure professional dive companies and/or salvage businesses are in compliance with sanctuary and state permits
  • Draft contract scope of work for technical and/or salvage dive operations to remove large debris
  • Check in with contracted professional dive companies and salvage businesses to ensure completion of contract work

Data and Metrics

  • Generate, implement, and track award contracts and grants which includes ensuring all necessary permits and requirements are completed and up to date
  • Support program reviews of incoming invoices from Blue Star Dive Operators
  • Support other funded partners for debris removals separate from Goal: Clean Seas FL Keys
  • Aggregate, map, and track data returned from scoping dives, partner aerial surveys, or other reports to determine hotspot areas with regular debris accumulation, especially large debris and derelict fishing gear bundles
  • Compile, analyze and share data and metrics to demonstrate underwater debris removal program impact and success

Outreach and Communications

  • Work with Foundation Director of Communications and FKNMS Communications and Outreach Manager to develop communications and outreach materials to promote the programs and successes
  • Engage in outreach opportunities, i.e. presentations to other dive operators and partners not currently involved in the program, representation of the program at dive industry or related meetings and events

Who You Are

Required Qualifications:

  • Bachelor's degree, preferably in a marine science field and at least one year of professional experience or a combination of both education and professional experience.
  • Understanding of marine debris issues and removals in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and familiarity with conducting underwater field work.
  • Critical thinker with demonstrated problem-solving skills. Results driven.
  • Experience working with tracking expenses and contract management.
  • Attention to detail and ability to perform under tight deadlines.
  • Demonstrated effective written and oral communication skills with experience in assimilating complex information into a concise issue paper or talking points using a variety of styles including scientific and plain language for multiple internal and external audiences.
  • Demonstrated initiative, ability to work both independently and with others.
  • Proficiency in the use of the Microsoft Office software suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), databases.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Certified rescue diver.
  • Knowledge and skill in small boat operations.
  • Experience working on or supporting community stewardship programs.

Why You Will Love Us

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (“Foundation”) is a leading voice for U.S. protected waters, working with communities to conserve and expand those special places for a healthy ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes. The Foundation works in close partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to increase stewardship of our ocean and Great Lakes through on-the- water conservation projects, and education and public outreach activities, and by support for research. Together, we safeguard species and the places they call home, and support coastal communities and economies

  • Dedicated and passionate staff committed to marine and Great Lakes conservation.
  • Two weeks paid annual leave, plus paid time off the week between December 25 and January 1; and 12 paid holidays
  • Two weeks paid sick leave
  • Health Benefits: Medical with an FSA option; dental, and vision
  • Foundation paid Life and Disability Insurance
  • Preparing for the Future: 403(B) with employer contribution after one year of service
  • Commuter Benefits (as applicable)

Where Do I Apply?

Applications must include a cover letter, resume, and at least three professional references. Applications received by Monday; October 10th will be preferred.

Compensation and Benefits

Salary Range: $50-55K based on experience. The Foundation offers a competitive benefits package.


The statements contained in this position description describe the general nature and level of work the employee in this position will perform. The statements are not an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties, and skills required of a person in this position. The supervisor may assign other responsibilities, duties, and skills to the position at any time.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is an equal opportunity employer that is committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We prohibit discrimination and harassment of any kind based on race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, genetic information, pregnancy, or any other protected characteristic as outlined by federal, state, or local laws. This commitment applies to all employment practices within our organization, including hiring, recruiting, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, leave of absence, compensation, benefits, and training. The Foundation makes hiring decisions based solely on qualifications, merit, and business needs at the time.



Silver Spring, MD
20910 USA



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