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Research Project Description

Water Quality Criteria Development
Internship Program Opportunity
Office of Water
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, DC

EPA Water 2014-309

Project Description:

A postgraduate or postdoctoral internship is available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water, in Washington, D.C. This internship will be served with the Health and Ecological Criteria Division.

The Health and Ecological Criteria Division’s Ecological Risk Assessment Branch (ERAB) develops Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality Criteria designed to protect aquatic ecosystems from the adverse effects of exposure to toxic pollutants in our nation’s waters. ERAB is currently updating existing aquatic life criteria, developing new criteria, and modernizing the methodology used to develop these criteria. Aquatic Life Criteria may be adopted by States, Tribes, and Territories to set their water quality standards. The criteria values are used in setting discharge permit limits for pollutants or in determining whether water bodies are considered to be clean or impaired. Thus, the Aquatic Life Criteria provide the scientific underpinning for meeting the Clean Water Act goal of providing healthy habitat for aquatic organisms, such as fish, aquatic invertebrates and plants.

The intern will be trained on effects assessments for chemical pollutants and will be exposed to other expert scientists, other governmental agencies, and risk managers that develop aquatic life criteria and provide technical support to regional, state, and tribal programs and other criteria users. S/he will be involved in range of activities focused on the development of Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality Criteria for toxic pollutants including: investigating recent developments on ecological effects of pollutants and evolving ecological risk assessment approaches; participating in detailed study of the effects of specific pollutants on aquatic organisms; understanding strategies for communicating scientific results within the EPA headquarters and regional offices, to other federal agencies, criteria users and the public; and learning about the process for developing EPA’s national water quality criteria recommendations. The participant could be provided the opportunity to participate in ongoing activities or develop his/her own area of interest within the realm of evaluating the ecological effects of pollutants on aquatic life.

Through this project, the participant will learn about the role of water quality criteria in achieving the goals of the Clean Water Act, and the relationship between criteria, standards and related core Clean Water Act programs (such as the NPDES permit program and the Section 303(d) listing) and TMDL programs. The participant will gain familiarity with relevant EPA regulations and guidance documents. The project will provide excellent exposure to:  (1) a broad range of water pollution control technical and policy issues; (2) the process of applying technical data and information to policy development; (3) interpretation of statutory and regulatory language and its application to state-specific water quality standards proposals and submissions; and (4) synthesizing technical and policy information for presentation to EPA senior managers and appropriate stakeholder groups.


Applicants should have received a master’s or doctoral degree in biology, aquatic toxicology, environmental science, risk assessment, ecology, environmental management, or environmental engineering within five years of the desired starting date, or completion of all requirements for the degree should be expected prior to the starting date. Experience with risk assessment and aquatic toxicology is desired.

The program is open to all qualified individuals without regard to race, sex, religion, color, age, physical or mental disability, national origin, or status as a Vietnam era or disabled veteran. U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status is preferred (but the applicant can also hold an appropriate visa status, however, a H1B visa is not appropriate).

The appointment will initially be for one year and may be extended up to three additional years depending upon EPA recommendation and subject to availability of funding. The annual stipend will range from $52,146 to $77,183 depending on educational level. The participant must show proof of health and medical insurance. The participant does not become an EPA employee.

Technical Questions:

The EPA contact for this project is Kathryn Gallagher (

How to Apply:

An application can be found at Pleasereference Project # EPA Water 2014-309 when requesting information.