Research Ecologist (Biogeochemical Ecologist)

Edgewater, Maryland
Jul 27, 2021
Aug 05, 2021
Analyst, Research
Full Time


This position is located in Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. The employee provides ecological research, in order to extend unexplored aspects and theories, and to discover new understanding primarily focused on biogeochemical ecological science.

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As a Research Ecologist (Biogeochemical Ecologist) the incumbent will perform the following duties:
  • Supervises staff in agency or organization's Biogeochemical Ecology research program.
  • Identifying information gaps and research needs, applying scientific methods, planning the approach for study, analyzing the data, interpreting results, and documenting and reporting findings.
  • Conceives and develops innovative and competitive research proposals, consistent with the agency's or organization's and incumbent's research objectives, that are awarded to support the Agency by an independent competitive review process for grants and contracts from internal and especially extramural sponsors.
  • Publishes and disseminates research findings in biogeochemical ecology that describe new or modified theories and principles, explain phenomena or ecological processes, and inform to improve the understanding of research techniques and ecological processes.
  • Provides professional services to the field of research by providing peer reviews of journal manuscripts and grant proposals; serving on external advisory and review committees; providing leadership for professional associations; and mentoring students and others.

Travel Required

Occasional travel - Occasional travel for meetings

Supervisory status

Promotion Potential


Conditions of Employment

  • Pass Pre-employment Background Investigation
  • May need to complete a Probationary Period
  • Maintain a Bank Account for Direct Deposit/Electronic Transfer
  • Males born after 12/31/59 must be registered with Selective Service.
  • Valid Drivers License

Involves a combination of both prolonged active outdoor activity and prolonged sedentary office and/or laboratory activities. Depending on the nature of the research activity, may be necessary to: drive field vehicles; Occasionally hike over rough terrain; tolerate extremes of weather including heat, cold, wet, ice and snow; tolerate biting insects and toxic plants; Stand at laboratory counters to operate analytical instruments for prolonged periods; and sit for prolonged periods for operating computers in an office setting and meetings. For work in marine or aquatic systems, the incumbent may need ability to swim if required by safety regulations. Long periods of travel may be needed.

Work is performed partly in the outdoors (Terrestrial, estuarine, marine ecosystems), and partly indoors in normal laboratory and office environment. When in the field, requires use of safety clothing to protect against weather elements and to protect against exposure to poisonous plants, biting insects and ticks (e.g., Wear appropriate clothing and use insect repellant) and other potential dangers. Precautions must be used to ensure safe procedures to operate vehicles and various instruments and apparatus, and to lift heavy loads. If scuba diving is needed, the incumbent must be able to meet certification requirement's for the Smithsonian Scientific Diving Program. Valid US Driver's license required. Regional, national, and international travel may be required to attend meetings and conferences, to give presentations, and/or to conduct research.

Qualification requirements must be met within 30 days of the job announcement closing date.

For information on qualification requirements, see Qualification Standards Handbook for General Schedule Positions viewable on the web at


Basic Requirements

Degree: biology, or a related field of science underlying ecological research that included at least 30 semester hours in basic and applied biological sciences. These hours must have included at least 9 semester hours in ecology, and 12 semester hours in physical and mathematical sciences.


Experience: You qualify for this position if you have one year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the GS-12 level in the Federal Service or comparable pay band system. For this position Specialized experience is defined as research investigating biogeochemical ecology such as environmental science, geography, biology, or other related subject; obtaining research funding from competitive internal and/or extramural funding sources; publishing data-rich papers with regional and/or national application and significance; presenting research results to scientific and other audiences; and leading or managing coordination of research projects and teams.

Experience refers to paid and unpaid experience, including volunteer work done through National Service programs (e.g., Peace Corps, AmeriCorps) and other organizations (e.g., professional; philanthropic; religious; spiritual; community, student, social). Volunteer work helps build critical competencies, knowledge, and skills and can provide valuable training and experience that translates directly to paid employment. You will receive credit for all qualifying experience, including volunteer experience.

Part-time and/or unpaid experience related to this position will be considered to determine the total number of years and months of experience. Be sure to note the number of paid or unpaid hours worked each week.


Additional information

Flexible Spending Accounts -
Health Insurance -
Leave -
Life Insurance -
Long Term Care Insurance -
Retirement Program -

How You Will Be Evaluated

You will be evaluated for this job based on how well you meet the qualifications above.

Your application will be evaluated first for the basic qualifications described above. The applications that meet the basic qualifications will be evaluated further against the following criteria:
  • Leadership and Project Management, including ability to conduct and complete broad assignments for creation, maintenance, and operational management of a research program in biogeochemical ecology with initiative, critical judgement, and independence.
  • Research in biogeochemical ecology, including comprehensive knowledge of: modern data management of large data sets; Geographic Information Systems software; statistical and graphical software and similar capabilities and protocols.
  • Entrepreneurship, including ability to conceive and create innovative research proposals that are successful in receiving funding from competitive internal and/or extramural sponsors.
  • Communication, including ability to disseminate research findings through publication in the peer-reviewed literature and to present results and findings at professional meetings and conferences.
  • Professional Peer Review, including ability to participate in professional meetings and make regular contact with collaborators outside the Smithsonian, including grant officers and representatives of funding agencies, natural resource managers, and policy makers as appropriate to provide expert scientific information.

Applicants who meet or exceed minimum qualifications will be assigned to one of three category groups based on job-related criteria:

Best Category - Meets the minimum qualification requirements and excels in most of the job related competencies above.

Better Category - Meets the minimum qualification requirements and satisfies most of the job related competencies above.

Good Category - Meets the minimum qualification requirements, but does not satisfy most of the job related competencies above to a substantive degree.

This category rating process does not add veterans' preference points or apply the "rule of three", but protects the rights of veterans by placing them ahead of non-preference eligibles within each category. A selecting official may make selections from the highest quality category (Best Category) provided no preference eligible in that category is passed over to select a non-preference eligible in that category unless the requirements of 5 U.S.C. 3317(b) or 3318(b) are satisfied. Preference eligibles who meet minimum qualification requirements and who have a compensable service-connected disability of at least 10 percent must be listed in the highest quality category, except when the position being filled is scientific or professional at the GS-9 grade level or higher. Applicants who have not submitted a resume in the USAjobs system and/or have not answered all of the vacancy questions will not be considered for this position.

Important Note:

The review of your resume will determine your final rating and should provide sufficient information regarding how your education and experience relate to this position, including the major duties and qualifications criteria listed.

To preview questions please click here .

Background checks and security clearance

Security clearance

Drug test required

Position sensitivity and risk
Noncritical-Sensitive (NCS)/Moderate Risk

Trust determination process
National security

Required Documents

Your application package should include the following documents:
  • Resume - Your resume can be uploaded and attached to your application or created using the USA Jobs on-line resume builder. If you want to receive full credit for relevant experience your resume MUST contain the job title (including the occupational series and grade if it is Federal), duties, starting and ending dates (month and year), hours worked per week, and salary.

    USAJOBS has guidance on how to ensure that you submit a complete resume: If you have not written a Federal resume before, you may watch this Resume Writing Tutorial video on the USAJOBS YouTube channel , or read through a helpful Resume Writing FAQ article on the USAJOBS Help Site to learn what details you should, and should not, include in your resume. If any of the above information is not included in your resume we may not be able to fully credit you for your experience.
  • Proof of Veteran's Preference - DD214 (Member 4 Copy), if you are a veteran. Additionally, applicants claiming 10-point preference must complete Standard Form (SF) 15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference, as well as additional documentation required by the SF-15, such as a VA letter.
  • Unofficial school transcripts, if the position has an education requirement or if you are using education to qualify. If selected for the position, you must provide an official transcript before appointment.
  • Proof of U.S. accreditation for foreign study, if applicable.

If you are relying on your education to meet qualification requirements:

Education must be accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in order for it to be credited towards qualifications. Therefore, provide only the attendance and/or degrees from schools accredited by accrediting institutions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education .

Failure to provide all of the required information as stated in this vacancy announcement may result in an ineligible rating or may affect the overall rating.

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