Director of Freshwater Research

Shedd Aquarium

Chicago, IL, US

Reporting to the Vice President of Conservation and Research, the Director of Freshwater Research contributes to the strategic direction of, and provides management for, the Aquarium’s Freshwater Research Program focusing on the Great Lakes region. Primary responsibilities include implementing and evaluating scientific research initiatives and programs that support the Aquarium’s programmatic and conservation priorities. Responsibilities also include conducting applied and publishable research that adheres to the priorities of the Aquarium, while also supervising a PhD-level scientific team (3-4 staff) to ensure rigor, accuracy and timeliness of all freshwater research projects. This position also serves as an institutional resource for content and communications to advance appropriate science and conservation messages through the Aquarium’s many outreach channels. The position requires the ability to facilitate and develop multi-institutional collaborations that conduct, support and/or promote freshwater conservation research. In addition, this position works with the Aquarium development team to generate resources necessary to fund conservation research programs.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Demonstrate commitment to Shedd’s vision, mission and values.
  • Oversee administration and management of the Freshwater Research Program, including setting goals, preparing annual budgets and reporting results.
  • Oversee the Freshwater Research team and performance of individual team members. Work with individual researchers to ensure rigor, accuracy, timeliness, and goal completion.
  • Conduct high-quality, applied research in areas of institutional priority.
  • Serve as the Aquarium’s principal point of contact for issues related to freshwater conservation science and research, and be responsible for ensuring scientific accuracy of Aquarium products and messages.
  • Successfully create and maintain formal and informal collaborations with other research groups and institutions to advance mutual conservation research goals.
  • Participate on Aquarium teams, committees (e.g. Research Committee, Strategic Planning Committees), and other workgroups.
  • In consultation with the VP of Conservation and Research, interview, select and train new hires.
  • In consultation with the VP of Conservation and Research and other Aquarium leaders, help promote and raise profile of Aquarium research programs and outcomes through peer reviewed and general audience publications, presentations/seminars, reports, and other media.
  • Actively work with Aquarium marketing and communications to maximize visibility of the Aquarium’s conservation science work through news media, social media and other public outreach channels.
  • Work with the Aquarium’s Development team to draft grant proposals and secure research funds.
  • Other duties/projects as assigned.



  • Minimum: Ph.D.
  • Preferred: Postdoctoral experience       


  • Minimum: Applicants must hold a Ph.D. in biology, ecology, zoology, or other environmental science fields.  Minimum 4 years of experience establishing, managing, and administering research projects, partnerships, multiparty collaborations, or networks, including implementing requirements for transparency and availability of research results. Experience working with policy and advocacy players in order to apply science to conservation policy solutions. Minimum 4 years of experience in program administration, including personnel and budget management, short- and long-term goals setting, program development and evaluation.
  • Preferred: Minimum 4 years’ experience for responsibilities stated above in the Great Lakes region

Excellent leadership skills with experience in successfully leading and monitoring a work group to achieve desired results. Demonstrated ability to create and lead motivated and effective teams as well as work with colleagues in a team-oriented environment. Outstanding oral and written communication skills with ability to convey science to the public in a compelling fashion. Excellent interpersonal skills with demonstrated ability to work effectively with a very diverse audience, including but not limited to Aquarium staff and volunteers, visitors, members of the public, academic colleagues, donors and board members. Experience and comfort speaking to the news media. Experience writing grant proposals and successfully competing for public and/or private research funding.
To apply:                                                                                                                                                                  
Please submit a cover letter (maximum length 1000 words) summarizing your background, management experience, and research interests; a curriculum vitae; a brief synopsis of research ideas addressing applied research questions for freshwater systems in the Great Lakes region (maximum length 500 words); and pdfs of two papers/manuscripts. Please also provide names and contact information for three references. The letter, CV, and reference information should be sent to Megan Rachal ([email protected]). To discuss the specifics of this position contact Dr. Chuck Knapp ([email protected]).