Director (Aquatic Conservation)

Washington, DC, United States 🇺🇸


Aquatic conservation is a centerpiece of the Foundation’s strategic plan and a team within NFWF’s Science and Evaluation department. Through a portfolio of impactful freshwater and marine conservation grant programs NFWF contributes to solving some of the most important Aquatic conservation issues in North America.  The Director is expected to be a thought-leader in his/her field and strengthen the Foundation’s position as a leader in the Aquatic conservation community. The Director works with program staff and other science and evaluation team members to create and implement a core portfolio of programs that will achieve long-term impact with measurable outcomes programs that have the potential to influence conservation well beyond the Foundation’s own resources. The Director supports the Aquatic conservation subcommittee of NFWF’s Board of Directors; and is also expected to play a leadership role in securing federal and private funding to support NFWF’s science based agenda and conservation programs.

For the Aquatic Director, the Foundation seeks an individual with an entrepreneurial spirit and a broad knowledge of the challenges facing freshwater and marine ecosystems, large-scale and trans-boundary conservation issues. The ideal candidate will have a demonstrable record as an innovator in his/her field and serve as a catalyst within the Foundation to create new combinations of people, processes, methodologies, and ideas that will expand successes in outcome-based conservation.  The Director should have a strong scientific background and thorough understanding of the cutting-edge issues in species and habitat conservation. The Foundation is particularly interested in individuals with expertise in one or more of the following issues: innovative watershed, stream, and river conservation (acquisition and restoration) techniques, flow restoration, restoration monitoring approaches, conservation outcome accounting, ecosystem services, and marine and coastal conservation. 


Science, Conservation, and Strategy Development

  • Work with Science team to develop overall science-based conservation goals and outcomes in freshwater and marine conservation that will guide the Foundation’s work. 
  • Work with conservation program leads to ensure conservation programs are designed and implemented effectively to contribute to the Foundation’s goals and outcomes. Ensures that priority Aquatic conservation programs have board approved business plans.
  • Work with science and evaluation team to rigorously evaluate progress of conservation programs and their contributions to NFWF goals and outcomes. 
  • Work with science and evaluation team to identify aquatic conservation outcomes that cut across the organizational conservation programs and that can be measured to achieve national goals for aquatic species and habitats.
  • Work with science and program teams to utilize existing monitoring systems and/or develop new methodologies to assess program performance.
  • Work with science team to develop appropriate data analysis relevant to area of expertise as part of new strategy development.
  • Work with conservation planning team to define national and regional aquatic conservation priorities (e.g., priority landscapes and species of conservation concern).
  • Maintain up-to-date knowledge of aquatic ecology field, conservation innovations, and conservation planning tools to help inform program development.
  • Supervise, manage and develop the Aquatic Conservation staff, which currently consists of one Staff Scientist – Marine Conservation.
  • Partnership Engagement and Outreach
  • Ensure productive management and smooth running of Aquatic conservation subcommittee of the NFWF Board of Directors.  This includes interactions with board members and chair in the preparation of all material and reports as well as during board meetings, and any other engagements as needed.
  • Act as spokesperson for NFWF on matters related to Aquatic conservation and represent the Foundation at key relevant meetings and conferences.
  • Coordinate and facilitate groups of partners to work collaboratively on advancing cutting edge conservation science approaches relevant to NFWF’s conservation outcomes and programs.
  • Work with NFWF departments to support their needs and ensure strong scientific foundation of existing and new programs.
  • Actively pursue innovative new private and public partnerships and funding to advance NFWF science agenda.
  • Ensure adequate and timely reports, interactions, and outreach with all relevant partners, specifically US government agencies, foundations and board members.
  • Develop and maintain network of external aquatic science experts to help guide the development of new programs and to provide expert review of proposals. 

 Grants Management and Administration

  • Manage applicable funding source(s) as appropriate, including preparation of grant applications and amendments, preparation and submission of financial and programmatic reports, and coordination with project managers to ensure compliance with all funding source requirements.
  • Work with program staff to enhance the effectiveness of grant management process on the delivery of impactful conservation.
  • Process all required in-house administrative expense and travel reports in a timely manner.
  • Conduct site visits in accordance with Foundation policy.


  • Recommending and leading efforts to improve internal administrative processes.
  • Performing other duties as assigned by the Vice President, Science and Evaluation.
  • Willingness to travel with moderate frequency and sometimes on short notice.


  • PhD or masters degree with equivalent experience in natural resource management.
  • Demonstrated thought leadership within area of expertise.
  • Five to eight years experience in conservation program management.
  • Supervisory experience.
  • Demonstrated ability to work effectively with a broad range of staff to create a highly integrated program.
  • Demonstrated ability to lead others and get desired results.
  • Demonstrated ability to facilitate productive exchange among government and non-government agencies and organizations.
  • Extensive experience and confidence to discuss conservation priorities and projects with board members, ‘grasstop’ donors, Congressional staff and senior members of federal agency directorates.
  • Proven success in fundraising or program development.
  • Experience working with federal resource agencies and in managing cooperative agreements preferred.
  • Experience in grant management and administration preferred.
  • Ability to respond quickly and accurately to requests for information.
  • Ability to organize and prioritize work and meet short deadlines.
  • Strong interpersonal skills, particularly ability in working with the public and institutions.
  • Strong attention to detail and follow-through skills.
  • Ability to think strategically and plan for the future.
  • Experience with conservation planning preferred.
  • Flexibility in a rapidly changing environment.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Strong analytical and problem solving skills.
  • Computer proficiency with databases, spreadsheets, and word processing.
  • Commitment to Foundation values.