Marine Debris Postdoctoral Associate

POSITION TYPE: Full Time (1-3 years, renewable each year)
LOCATION: University of Southern California Sea Grant Program/USC Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Los Angeles, CA
JOB OPEN DATE: August 15, 2023
JOB CLOSE DATE: Open until filled 

Position Summary

The Postdoctoral Fellow will be co-hosted by the USC Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability and the USC Sea Grant Program. The successful candidate will join a team of a recently funded collaboration with the City of Santa Barbara titled “Clean Streets, Clean Seas” to innovate public works (street sweeping, catch basins) to intercept microplastics in coastal urban runoff. The Fellow will help lead research and policy development on marine microplastics, participate in program management, and develop extension work that connects program outcomes to public stakeholders.

In addition to being part of the USC Sea Grant Team, the Fellow will also be a part of one or more of the USC Wrigley Institute’s three Research Centers, based on expertise and research interests: the Center for Earth and Environmental Systems, the Center for Social Transformation, and the Center for Applied Environmental Solutions.

Project Duties:

  • Evaluate, track, and report program measures and metrics related to goals and objectives specified in the “Clean Streets, Clean Seas” project award, and use results to improve and revise program products, services, and activities and assess overall program outcomes.
  • Co-develop and lead efforts in interdisciplinary research or policy development related to the prevention, removal, and management of plastic debris from marine environments with USC Sea Grant and within the Wrigley Institute’s research centers.
  • Develop and lead extension programs designed to deliver program products and services that inform California-based stormwater managers, public works groups, non-governmental organizations, and public audiences’ knowledge base related to marine debris.
  • Plan and lead a collaborative workshop for developing future funding proposals aimed at addressing the prevention, removal, and management of plastic debris from marine environments; lead or co-develop new grant proposals based on outcomes.
  • Lead and/or participate in the development of articles for scientific journals and other public-facing outlets; share and/or present results at regional or national professional meetings and other venues. 

General Duties:

  • Attend USC Sea Grant and Wrigley Institute staff meetings and other required meetings and events.
  • Participate in other professional development opportunities, as appropriate.
  • Travel overnight occasionally as required.
  • Maintain shared, flex, and all office spaces in a professional manner; update computer security and virus protection software and ensure computer files and records are backed-up on a timely basis.
  • Maintain a current calendar of events, travel, and program activity viewable to staff through shared calendar programs (e.g., Outlook or Gmail)


Required qualifications:

  • Ph.D. degree in the natural or social sciences from an accredited institution or equivalent in a relevant field (e.g., environmental science; environmental and/or natural resource management, planning, or policy; environmental systems analysis, environmental risk analysis, environmental decision research, etc.).
  • Demonstrated experience in communicating science to non-specialists with a record of excellent written, interpersonal, and group presentation communication skills.
  • Demonstrated record of working effectively and respectfully in a team setting with staff, constituents, and partners with diverse backgrounds, interests, and abilities in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
  • Self-motivated with demonstrated ability to work independently.

Preferred qualifications:

  • Demonstrated analytical, organizational, and planning skills.
  • Experience writing successful proposals and administering grants.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of program evaluation techniques.
  • Demonstrated experience working with community leaders and partners.
  • Demonstrated experience in marine debris, environmental plastics, or water-quality problems and their remediation.


The annual salary range for this position is $65,000-75,000 plus benefits. This is a fixed-term position that combines both in-person and telecommuting-based work. When extending an offer of employment, the University of Southern California considers factors such as (but not limited to) the scope and responsibilities of the position, the candidate’s work experience, education/training, key skills, internal peer equity, federal, state and local laws, contractual stipulations, grant funding, as well as external market and organizational considerations.

To Apply:

Applications will be accepted until a suitable candidate has been identified. To apply, please send the following materials to USC Sea Grant Director Dr. Karla Heidelberg (

  • Cover letter outlining research interests and motivation to apply (up to 2 pages),
  • Curriculum vitae that includes examples of research, including refereed journal articles and/or public outreach activities and products
  • Formal or informal graduate transcripts
  • Names and contact information for three professional references

About the USC Sea Grant Program:

The University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant Program is part of a National Sea Grant network of 34 university-based programs located throughout the nation, and administered and supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). USC Sea Grant’s mission is to contribute to solving the problems of the Urban Ocean; foster the public’s understanding of coastal, ocean, and social science; recognize opportunities for the blue economy, coastal commerce, and recreation; solicit and fund relevant, innovative science to inform better decision-making, and improve the quality of life in coastal regions across Southern California.

About the USC Wrigley Institute:

USC Sea Grant is part of the Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Southern California, one of the nation’s premier research universities. Based in Los Angeles at the USC campus, the institute also has its own dedicated campus on California’s beautiful Santa Catalina Island. The Wrigley Institute’s mission is to inspire global environmental solutions through frontier research and education, and it plays a key role in USC’s high-profile sustainability initiatives.

Through education, research, and engagement, the Wrigley Institute trains the next generation of environmental leaders, develops original solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental problems, and encourages nonpartisan action for sustainability and environmental justice. The Wrigley Institute is home to:

  1. The Environmental Studies academic program, which grants both undergraduate and graduate degrees;
  2. The Wrigley Marine Science Center, our Catalina Island campus and field research base;
  3. USC Sea Grant, which leads research, education, and outreach activities with a specific focus on policy and management of the ‘urban ocean’;
  4. Research centers on Earth & Environmental Systems, Applied Environmental Solutions, and Social Transformation;
  5. The USC Hyperbaric Chamber, which serves the Southern California dive community; and
  6. Signature public events that bring together business leaders, policy makers, activists, and scholars for conversations of consequence on the environment and sustainability 


USC recognizes and values the importance of diversity and inclusion in enriching the employment experience of its employees and in supporting the academic mission and is committed to attracting and retaining employees with varying identities and backgrounds.

USC provides equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  

  • USC Sea Grant
  • 3454 Trousdale Pkwy, CAS 200
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0373
  • (213) 740 - 1961