Research Ecologist, Fish Biologist (Assistant Unit Leader)

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Brookings, SD
Added: March 20, 2024

What General Information Do I Need to Know About This Position?

Salary : First time hires to the Federal Government are typically hired at the Step 01.

GS-12: $86,962 (Step 01) to $113,047 (Step 10)

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This job is open to

  • Career transition (CTAP, ICTAP, RPL) Federal employees who meet the definition of a "surplus" or "displaced" employee.
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Military spouses
  • National Guard & reserves Current members, those who want to join or transitioning military members.
  • Peace Corps & AmeriCorps Vista
  • Special authorities Individuals eligible under a special authority not listed above, but defined in the federal hiring regulations.
  • The public U.S. Citizens, Nationals or those who owe allegiance to the U.S.
  • Veterans

Clarification from the agency

Open to all qualified U.S. citizens as well as individuals eligible for noncompetitive hiring authorities such as those that apply to veterans, individuals with disabilities, military spouses, Peace Corp volunteers, etc.



As an Assistant Unit Leader of the South Dakota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit, some of your specific duties will include:

  • Plans, conducts, and directs research related to fishery ecological resources, with application to contemporary science, policy, and management needs.
  • Conducts research that is cooperator driven and provides scientific basis for management and policy decisions.
  • Serves as subject matter expert in fish ecology and management, providing leadership and guidance to government and private agencies and university representatives through participation in meetings, conferences, and work groups.
  • Disseminates research results via final reports, peer reviewed print scientific journals, online scientific journals, books, book chapters or other outlets. Make presentations on findings to scientific and conservation organizations.
  • Serves as graduate faculty member, contributing to both the research, graduate student mentorship, and teaching mission of the university.
  • Operates a government vehicle as an incidental driver.

Requirements Conditions of Employment

Key Requirements

  • Applicants must be U.S. Citizens.
  • Suitable for Federal employment, as determined by background investigation.
  • Selectee may be subject to serving a one-year probationary period.
  • More requirements are listed under Qualifications and Other Information.
  • Selectee must provide a valid state driver's license & safe driving record.

Are There Any Special Requirements for This Position?

  • You will be required to operate a government-owned or leased vehicle in the performance of your official duties. Applicants for this position must meet the following requirements: (1) possess a valid State license, and (2) possess a safe driving record. If selected, you will be required to provide proof of a valid State license & a copy of your driving record.
  • Because this position requires travel for official business, you will be required to apply for a charge card within 30 calendar days of appointment. Individuals who have delinquent account balances from a previous Government charge card will be required to satisfy their existing obligation before a new card can be issued.
  • You will be required to maintain a graduate faculty appointment with the Department of Natural Resources Management at South Dakota State University in Brookings; participate on university and graduate committees; advise graduate students and post-doctoral scientists; help meet diversity, equity, and inclusion goals; and perform other tasks that are shared by departmental faculty. You will also work closely with University (South Dakota State University), State (South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks), Federal (U.S. Geological Survey and Fish and Wildlife Service), and non-profit (Wildlife Management Institute) cooperators.
  • If selected for this position, you may be required to file one or more financial statements upon reporting and annually, some of which may be subject to public disclosure.
  • A background investigation will be required for this position. Continued employment will be subject to the applicant's successful completion of a background security investigation and favorable adjudication. Failure to successfully meet these requirements will be grounds for termination.



Undergraduate Education : A year of undergraduate education is 30 semester hours, 45 quarter hours or the equivalent of college study. This education must have been obtained in an accredited college or university for which high school graduation or the equivalent was a prerequisite.

Graduate Education : In the absence of specific graduate program information, a year of graduate education is 18 semester hours or 27 quarter hours of graduate level college course work, or the number of credit hours the school attended has determined to represent 1 year of full-time study. This education must have been obtained in an accredited college or university.

Experience : One year of work experience is twelve months working full-time (at least 35-40 hours per week). Part-time experience can be pro-rated (i.e., a year at 20 hours per week is credited as 6 months of experience). If your position consisted of mixed duties, experience credit is given for the percentage of time that you spent on qualifying duties (i.e., if you held a position for 2 years, full-time, consisting of 25% personnel work and 75% budget work, and then applied for a budget position you could calculate your experience as follows: 2 years = 24 months. 24 months x 75% [percentage of time spent on budget duties] = 18 months of qualifying experience.)

Basic Education Requirements

This position is interdisciplinary and may be filled with either of the occupational job series listed. You must meet the educational requirements of at least one of these occupational series, in addition to the PhD Requirement listed below, in order to be considered for this position.

Basic Education For Research Ecologist, GS-0408

Applicants must meet the following to satisfy the basic education requirement for Ecologist, all grade levels. Successful completion of a full 4-year course of study in an accredited college or university leading to a bachelor's or higher degree in biology or a related field of science underlying ecological research that included at least 30 semester hours or the equivalent in basic and applied biological sciences. These hours must have included at least 9 semester hours or the equivalent in ecology, and 12 semester hours or the equivalent in physical and mathematical sciences.

Basic Education For Research Fish Biologist, GS-0482

Applicants must meet the following to satisfy the basic education requirement for Research Fish Biologist, all grade levels. Research Positions: Applicants must show that they have a degree with major study in biology, zoology, or biological oceanography that included at least 30 semester hours in biological and aquatic science and 15 semester hours in the physical and mathematical sciences. This course work must have included:

  • At least 15 semester hours of preparatory training in zoology beyond introductory biology or zoology in such courses as invertebrate zoology, comparative anatomy, histology, physiology, embryology, advanced vertebrate zoology, genetics, entomology, and parasitology; and
  • At least 6 semester hours of training applicable to fishery biology in such subjects as fishery biology, ichthyology, limnology, oceanography, algology, planktonology, marine or fresh water ecology, invertebrate ecology, principles of fishery population dynamics, or related course work in the field of fishery biology; and
  • At least 15 semester hours of training in any combination of two or more of the following: chemistry, physics, mathematics, or statistics.


In addition to meeting at least one of the Basic Education Requirements described above, in order to receive consideration for this position, applicants must also possess a Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degree in Fish Biology, Ecology, Fisheries Managment, or a closely related field of study appropriate for this position.

To verify the Ph.D. requirement, transcripts or verification from the university registrar must be submitted that clearly state: Ph.D. awarded , major , and date of conferral . Failure to provide this information will result in your application receiving no further consideration.

Quality Ranking Factor

This vacancy announcement has a Quality Ranking Factor. Possession of the following factor is not required in order to meet the minimum qualifications. Applicants who possess this factor may be ranked above those who do not:

Possession of a (1) A Ph.D. that is directly related to fish biology/ physiology, fish culture/nutrition and fisheries management applications as related to freshwater stocking programs; (2) demonstrated ability to build an applied research program focused on the use of hatchery products, and fish culture techniques, in relation to the management and conservation of fisheries and inland aquatic systems; (3) demonstrated ability to effectively employ statistics, modeling, experimental design, and robust quantitative techniques in applied research; (4) demonstrated ability to teach a university-level course focused on applied freshwater fisheries management that incorporates fish culture, stocking evaluations and human dimensions; (5) capacity to conduct and facilitate collaborative research at both local and regional scales in partnerships with state, federal, and university research scientists to address fisheries-focused management and conservation questions and improve understanding of stocked fishes including population dynamics, and interactions with their habitats and human populations; capacity to develop and implement novel quantitative tools to generate actionable insights to improve the management and production of stocked fishes and their habitats; and, (6) experience in successfully designing, planning, and conducting laboratory and field research resulting in effective, peer-reviewed synthesis.

You must meet all qualification and eligibility requirements for the position by the closing date of the announcement.


  • 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.
  • Foreign Education: Education completed in colleges or universities outside the United States may be used to meet the above requirements. You must provide acceptable documentation that the foreign education is comparable to that received in an accredited educational institution in the United States. For more information on how foreign education is evaluated, visit: .

Additional Information

Other Information:

  • Applicants who include vulgar, offensive, or inappropriate language or information in their application package will be ineligible for further consideration for this position.
  • Number of Vacancies - There is currently only one vacancy to be filled; however, this announcement may be used to fill additional vacancies if they become available.
  • The full performance level for a Research position is GS-15; however, promotion eligibility is dependent upon the scientific contributions of the incumbent as evaluated by a peer panel.
  • Under Executive Order 11935, only United States citizens and nationals (residents of American Samoa and Swains Island) may compete for civil service jobs. Agencies are permitted to hire non-citizens only in very limited circumstances where there are no qualified citizens available for the position.
  • USGS employees are subject to Title 43, USC Section 31(a) and may not: (a) have any personal, private, direct or indirect interest in lands or mineral wealth of lands under survey; (b) have any substantial personal, private, direct or indirect interests in any private mining or mineral enterprise doing business with the United States; or (c) execute surveys or examinations for private parties or corporations.
  • The application contains information subject to the Privacy Act (P.L. 93-579, 5 USC 552a). The information is used to determine qualifications for employment, and is authorized under Title 5, USC, Section 3302 and 3361.
  • DOI uses E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of all newly hired employees. To learn more about E-Verify, including your rights and responsibilities, please visit .
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) places a high value on diversity of experience and cultural perspectives and encourages applications from all interested eligible candidates. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) are fundamental principles that guide the Department and allow us to successfully achieve our mission.

Agency Benefits:

  • USGS has determined that the duties of this position are suitable for telework and the selectee may be allowed to telework in accordance with the DOI Telework policy and with supervisor approval. The official worksite for the selectee is the duty station identified in this vacancy announcement. The selectee will typically report to this duty location on a regular and recurring weekly basis.
  • For additional information on our internal telework policy, please reference the Department of the Interior Telework Handbook at: .
  • Working for the U.S. Geological Survey offers a comprehensive benefits package that includes paid vacation, sick leave , and holidays ; health, life, dental, vision, and long-term care insurance, flexible spending accounts ; and participation in the Federal Employees Retirement System .

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