Spatial Modeler Job

Saltwater Inc. is seeking a Spatial Modeler to work with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). The Spatial Modeler will work directly with staff in the NEFSC Population Dynamics Branch (PDB) on analyses of regional fishery independent survey data to produce estimates of abundance for a range of fish stocks.

Fishery-independent indices play an important role in stock assessment, and inform the assessment model of relative trends in the fish population. There are a variety of fishery independent surveys conducted in the Northeast region of the US from North Carolina up to the Bay of Funday, Canada. For any given stock assessment, multiple fishery-independent indices may be incorporated, despite differences in spatial coverage and survey timing.  Depending on the season and the stock, small state surveys may provide information on recruitment and/or juvenile trends, while the larger scale NEFSC surveys typically inform on trends of mature biomass. The index trends have traditionally been design-based estimators from the stratified random sampling survey design (depth and latitude define the strata). Recent work has led to development of spatial modeling tools to estimate abundance (or biomass), with the ability to account for spatial and/or temporal autocorrelation, and to distinguish between habitat and catchability covariates (program VAST). This modeling tool has seen increased application in recent years at several science centers.  The Spatial Modeler will take the lead with exploration of applications to survey data for fish stocks assessed by the NEFSC, including simulation studies to develop best practice guidelines for this region. The Spatial Modeler will work with a team of Population Dynamics researchers with experience and interest in this topic.


The task includes but is not limited to these duties:

  • Use the simulation capability of VAST to explore the impact of combining indices with different catchability, selectivity, timing, and degree of spatial (or temporal) overlap.
  • Use the simulation capability of VAST to explore interpretation of diagnostics and criteria for acceptability of model results and model selection.
  • Explore whether the inclusion of additional covariates collected on the surveys (e.g., bottom temperature, habitat information where available, abundance of other species, salinity) improves index standardization and interpretation of big-picture trends that may not be observable when focusing on one species at a time in a stock assessment meeting.
  • Assist with developing best practice guidance for VAST applications to data sources in the Northeast region.
  • Develop and document code templates that can be easily modified by other scientists in using Northeast regional data.
  • Organizing seminars/workshops to demonstrate findings. Lead the publication of significant results in peer review journals.

Position Details

The position is expected to be full-time for two years. The position will be located in Woods Hole MA. The position may begin with a period of remote work, to accommodate pandemic restrictions. The rate of pay will be commensurate with experience and qualifications.

Saltwater Inc. is proud to be an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or protected veteran status.

Qualifications and Skills

The Spatial Modeler must:

  • Possess demonstrated experience in R programming language.  Experience with R packages VAST and TMB is a plus.
  • Familiarity with stock assessment or management of fish resources is desirable.
  • PhD with course work in Mathematics or Statistics, Spatial Statistics, and GIS are essential; course work in Marine Biology or Marine Ecology are desirable.
  • Possess the ability to handle multiple tasks and deadlines with flexibility between tasks.
  • Demonstrate excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Be capable of making presentations to various peer-review and management audiences.
  • Be capable of working as part of a team.
  • Be capable of working independently on analyses, and providing regular summaries and recommended next steps to the team based on results.

How to Apply:

Only qualified applicants that meet minimum experience or background requirements stated above need apply.

Please email your cover letter & resume – in a readable, high resolution PDF file – that includes:

  • Description of how you meet the required and preferred qualifications listed.
  • Work history for past 10 years or since last full-time education.
  • Education.
  • Previous experience or training with similar requirements.
  • Three professional references.
  • Your name in the document FILE NAME.

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