Program Director (Saline Lakes)

Audubon Society

Salt Lake City, UT, US


Now in its second century, Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Audubon’s mission is engaging people in bird conservation on a hemispheric scale through science, policy, education and on-the-ground conservation action.  By mobilizing and aligning its network of Chapters, Centers, State and Important Bird Area programs in the four major migratory flyways in the Americas, the organization will bring the full power of Audubon to bear on protecting common and threatened bird species and the critical habitat they need to survive.  And as part of BirdLife International, Audubon will join people in over 100 in-country organizations all working to protect a network of Important Bird Areas around the world, leveraging the impact of actions they take at a local level.  What defines Audubon’s unique value is a powerful grassroots network of nearly 500 local chapters, 22 state offices, 41 Audubon Centers, Important Bird Area Programs in 50 states, and 700 staff across the country.  Audubon is a federal contractor and an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE).

Position Summary:

The Director of the Saline Lakes Program will be a member of a growing National Audubon Society Western Water Initiative team focused on advancing balanced solutions to water use in the West to ensure birds, ecosystems, people and economies thrive. Reporting to the Director of the Western Water Initiative, and working closely with Vice President of the Central Flyway, and the Vice President of Bird Conservation for the Pacific Flyway, the Saline Lakes Director is responsible for leading a new Audubon program focused on the Saline Lakes of the Intermountain West, with an initial focus on Great Salt Lake. This network of lakes provides critically important breeding and stopover habitat for millions of migratory birds and supports local and regional economies.

The Saline Lakes Program Director will lead a multi-disciplinary team of policy, science, legal and other experts working to address key water-related challenges at Great Salt Lake and other saline lakes. S/he will play a critical role as an ambassador for Audubon, representing the organization with funders, conservation leaders, community members, policy makers and other important constituencies; informing stakeholder opinions and decisions; and harnessing the power of grassroots movements. The Director will further develop strategic partnerships that bolster efforts already on the ground and engage Audubon’s chapters, like the Great Salt Lake Audubon Society in Salt Lake City, to both tap into and increase network capacity. Additionally, the Director will collaborate with and advise other Audubon staff working within and beyond this region, including key Development and Marketing/Communications team members and our national Policy Office in D.C., to gain additional support.

Audubon’s Western Water vision is to take actions to achieve a reliable water supply for birds and people throughout the West. With its partners, Audubon aims to stabilize and increase populations of priority birds in the West by advancing balanced water management policy solutions, implementing on-the-ground restoration projects, and involving our network of members, volunteers, and chapters in meaningful activities.  

Saline lakes across the Intermountain West, including Great Salt Lake, are unique and important ecosystems, and they are linked by the movements of migratory birds throughout the region and hemisphere.  Saline lakes, likes the rivers of the West, are threatened by the increasing demands of the water from urban and agricultural users, as well as from prolonged drought and a changing climate.   

Audubon has been engaged in issues around Great Salt Lake as the owner and manager of the Gillmor Sanctuary, established in 1995, and through efforts to restore habitat there and adjacent lands for shorebirds and waterbirds. Additionally, Audubon has worked for the last several decades to protect and restore bird habitat at the Salton Sea, Owens Lake, and Mono Lake in California as important habitats for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Audubon chapters throughout the region are important sources of expertise, grassroots support and active engagement on public outreach, policy issues, and citizen science.  


This position will be remotely based, ideally in or around Salt Lake City, Utah. Additional locations will also be considered. Candidates should also submit a cover letter when applying to this position.


Essential Functions:

The initial focus of the Director position (~ 24 months) will be on the most time-sensitive opportunities, which include:

  1. Secure the best policy outcomes for birds and people around the Great Salt Lake by developing and implementing a strategy, in cooperation with existing staff and regional partners, to improve water quality or quantity, or both. By 2018, Audubon will launch a two-year campaign to build substantive support to sustain the water necessary for an ecologically functional Great Salt Lake ecosystem.
  2. Advance a regional analysis of threats to saline lakes. With this understanding, raise awareness around the range of threats impacting saline lakes and inform decision-makers and partners about the urgency for a significant and sustained investment in solutions for a functional network of saline lakes.
  3. Help to shape and lead critical water policy and engagement campaigns in such places as Lake Abert, Oregon; the Lahontan Valley, Nevada; and additional priority saline lakes sites that are critical to a comprehensive solution for people, agriculture and birds. 
  4. Work collaboratively with Audubon staff at Gillmor Sanctuary to promote Sanctuary conservation efforts that align with the Saline Lakes Program in a seamless, integrated approach so as to present a clear, consistent public face for Audubon in the area and region.
  5. Build out Audubon’s Saline Lakes Program by collaborating with Audubon staff and hiring additional expertise in bird science, water policy, communications, and network coordination, and expand partnerships and develop powerful coalitions to advance this critical organizational program.  

Other Essential Functions:

  • Aligned with Audubon’s overall conservation goals and strategies, oversee the strategic implementation of the Saline Lakes Program that results in the organization’s increased capacity to achieve the conservation of priority birds and their habitats.
  • With the guidance of the Director of the Western Water Initiative and with the Vice President of the Central Flyway and other leaders in the Central and Pacific Flyways, develop effective and innovative solutions and implementation plans to address critical bird conservation issues. 
  • Engage a variety of stakeholders by shaping outreach and communication strategies.  
  • Serve as spokesperson on western water/saline lakes issues and work with Audubon colleagues, subject matter experts and others to develop and implement marketing and communications plans.
  • Represent Audubon as an ambassador and raise its profile and visibility with donors, partners, policymakers, and the public. 
  • Along with senior state and national development teams, help raise funds by meeting with current and prospective major donors, foundations and other potential sources to support and extend the program.
  • Work closely with the Vice President of the Central Flyway to analyze and monitor budgets in order to best leverage and deploy financial resources, when and where needed.
  • Collaborate with and advise key staff across Audubon’s decentralized network in order to reach the goals of the project and as a part of Audubon’s National Strategic Plan.
  • In consultation with Audubon’s national Science Office, lead effort with science staff and consultants to provide sound science to prioritize conservation needs and define the impact of shrinking saline lakes on migratory birds.
  • Remain abreast of important issues, policies and regulations affecting birds and other wildlife in the region; exhibit a proactive approach to creating change and leverage Audubon’s grassroots resources to implement strategies.

Qualifications and Experience:

  • Advanced degree (at least a M.S.) in natural resource management, public policy, environmental science or related field required.
  • 7-10 years’ progressive professional experience managing externally-facing conservation projects, to include possessing a deep knowledge of water resource management. This position must maintain sophisticated current knowledge and expertise on the legal, diplomatic, policy, institutional, economic, cultural and technical issues relevant to water management in the West. 
  • Demonstrated success and comfort with fundraising, in particular with major donors, foundations, corporations, and government funders.
  • Experience with public policy development and advocacy, campaigns, lobbying, and/or involvement in state legislatures and in working with members of Congress.
  • Outstanding interpersonal skills, judgment, and a demonstrated ability to collaborate and build coalitions with a wide range of individuals and organizations.
  • Demonstrated experience overseeing complex or multiple projects through to success, including meeting financial goals, project deadlines, and coordinating the work of key staff and partners.
  • Ability to exercise a high level of diplomacy, balance and flexibility when dealing with various personalities and sensitive situations to develop cohesive solutions and negotiate successful outcomes.
  • Excellent and persuasive communication skills, both written and verbal, including substantial public speaking experience, and the ability to effectively represent Audubon to members, state and federal elected officials, donors, and chapter leaders, as well as in traditional and social media. 
  • Willingness and ability to travel up to 50% time for key meetings with staff, funders and other important stakeholders to help advance the project.
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office applications and web-based applications required.
  • Experience developing diversified approach to engage and influence the broader public to champion an issue or cause.
  • Passion for Audubon’s vision and solidly grounded in conservation issues in order to effectively handle challenges, identify important issues, and covey conservation priorities to a wide audience.