• Job Title: Watershed Scientist
  • Work Unit: EMSD, Science Branch
  • Ministry: Alberta Environment and Parks
  • Competition Number: 1052410


Delivering on operational and strategic commitments in the Division Science Plan and Operating Plan, the Watershed Scientist is primarily responsible for the Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Monitoring (OSM) initiative projects that are related to watershed science and are focused on the transport, transformations and fate of key chemical constituents in Alberta’s Oil Sands area. Specifically, in collaboration with the PI and other EMSD staff, the position will deliver watershed and regional scale water quality evaluation and reporting projects in support of OSM. This will include the publication of peer reviewed publications focused on the condition of aquatic systems in the oil sands region and how this relates to anthropogenic influences and cumulative impacts. This supports the legislated science mandate, “to develop and implement an environmental science program to monitor, evaluate, and report on the condition of Alberta’s ambient environment” (Section. 15.1(1) Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, 2016).

This position requires knowledge of water quality-related policies and regulations and best practices related to the protection of freshwater biota to ensure the Government of Alberta receives scientifically credible and relevant information needed to responsibly manage Alberta’s surface waters in the face of increasing pressure from industrial development, a growing population, climate change, and other pressures.

Responsibilities and Activities

The Watershed Scientist is responsible for all five phases of watershed monitoring and research delivered by the Science Branch of the Environmental Monitoring and Science Division: Design, Plan, Deliver, Evaluate, and Report. These responsibilities include:

Design (35%) - the development and continuous improvement of Oil Sands watershed monitoring and research projects that address major issues of concern to the Government of Alberta. The end result is a provincially recognized watershed resources monitoring and science program that supports the government’s business mandate. This includes:

  • Working with AEP leadership and the larger scientific community to prioritize watershed monitoring and research programs aligned with the Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Monitoring initiative, Government business needs, and emerging watershed science priorities identified by the international scientific community;
  • Contributing to the integration between watershed science programs and other environmental monitoring and research programs in AEP (e.g., watersheds, fisheries, ecosystem health);
  • Address recommendations of the Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel and Science Advisory Panel. May present scientific plans and findings to Panels;
  • Working with Science Directors, other Scientists and EMSD’s Science Branch staff, EMSD’s Monitoring Branch staff, and other EMSD Branches to ensure innovative, scientifically credible research and monitoring protocols are adhered to in monitoring programs;
  • Provides scientific leadership and mentorship of scientific work of junior scientists and supports a culture of scientific excellent in research and monitoring design;
  • Working with Indigenous Knowledge, Community Monitoring & Citizen Science Branch staff to support braiding between western science and indigenous wisdom in the design and implementation of watershed research and monitoring programs;
  • Developing and publishing conceptual models based on the latest science that summarize the known and hypothesized responses of watersheds to environmental variation and anthropogenic stressors including climate change, land use, contaminants, invasive species, and human use.

Planning (15%) - completes multi-year research and monitoring plans to assess the condition of Alberta’s watersheds to environmental change. The end results are approved operational plans for watershed science with clear deliverables, timelines and budgets. This includes:

  • Completing annual project plans and budgets for EMSD OSM watershed science projects, that articulate outcomes, activities, schedules and resource requirements;
  • Leveraging scientific and technical capacity within the Department and provincial scientific community to build high-functioning teams that ensure projects are credible and relevant;
  • Ensuring short-term focused studies and research projects contribute to large-scale understanding of surface water resources within Alberta and the response of water resources to climate change;
  • Identifying innovative methods to observe and measure surface water quantity and quality by staying up to date with the latest science; frequent interaction with provincial and national scientists;

Delivering (15%) - ensures long-term watershed monitoring and research projects are delivered in a safe and effective manner. The end result is safe and timely completion of promised deliverables within the available budget. Responsibilities include:

  • Collaborating with scientific and technical staff in the Environmental Monitoring and Observations Branch by providing scientific leadership through supervising the planning, execution of data collection by visiting field sites and analytical labs, and meeting with staff to anticipate and troubleshoot scientific and technical challenges encountered during program delivery;
  • Coordinating the involvement of indigenous community members and volunteers;
  • Supervising grants and contracts with delivery partners and vendors;
  • Considering and incorporating Occupational Health and Safety in all aspects of program delivery.

Evaluation and Reporting (35%) - completes scientifically credible environmental data evaluation and reporting that meet project plan commitments and legislated reporting requirements. The end results are State of the Environment reports and peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals. Activities include:

  • Collaborating with internal and external scientific experts in evaluation of watershed data to ensure scientific linkages with programs and interpretations employed elsewhere in Alberta and Canada;
  • Developing and applying empirical models to assess the relationship between environmental stressors and ecological responses;
  • Leading and/or participating in collaborative writing of standard and non-standard reporting products communicating major observations and conclusions of long-term monitoring and focused research activities on the condition, status and trends on the quantity and quality of water in Alberta’s watersheds, including but not limited to peer-reviewed scientific papers, technical and state of the environment reports, major scientific synthesis reports, and plain-language summary documents;
  • Reviewing credibility of scientific content prepared for meetings, workshops, conferences, web pages, and briefing packages;
  • Participate in scientific boards, panels and committees at the regional/provincial level where position is providing scientific expertise and consultation on watershed science;
  • Participating in provincial scientific committees and task forces requiring Alberta’s watershed science expertise;
  • Effectively communicating complex scientific issues/results to a wide range of expert and non-expert audiences, thereby ensuring government, industry, and public stakeholders can best employ or apply the information resulting from EMSD’s monitoring, evaluation and reporting programs.


This position is a full working level professional which provides scientific leadership and expertise in watershed science at the provincial level. Decisions made in this position shape surface water monitoring and research programming throughout the province.

The position has significant impacts on government-wide water resource management by providing scientific input to the development and implementation of water-related policies and regulations under the Water Act, Public Lands Act, and Fisheries (Alberta) Act.

The position also provides scientific input to provincial hydrometric and climatic change science programs with applications to understanding and mitigating the environmental impacts of contaminants, water withdrawal, and climate change on water resources.

The position has significant external environmental, economic, and social impacts by providing information that meets the needs of internal and external stakeholders. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Information required to draft approval processes and regulations under the Alberta Energy Regulator, including the assessment of the effectiveness of regulations;
  • Information needed by industrial applicants and operations of the energy, forestry, agricultural, and municipal sectors that may affect or be affected by surface water resources and/or climate change;
  • Information required informing government relations with indigenous communities, environmental groups, and other stakeholders with interests in surface water and climate change.

This position:

  • Must develop research initiatives, new methods/techniques, and research proposals requiring analytical and/or interpretative thinking, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills. Position has the authority to determine how research projects are done independently once the research priorities and needs are determined and approved by business objectives;
  • Requires scientific expertise and knowledge and understanding in order to interpret and provide consultation and advice on scientific research to various internal and external provincial stakeholders;
  • Addresses challenging problems related to the health of Alberta’s watersheds and resulting from scientific uncertainty over the environmental mechanisms by which human activities and natural drivers such as climate affect watersheds;
  • Participates in a diverse watershed science program generating new knowledge that enables creative solutions to current and anticipated watershed problems including aquatic contamination, changes in the structure and function of aquatic ecosystems, changing water levels and flows, impacts of industrial and agricultural activities, etc.;
  • Identifies and designs research projects delivered by teams involving academia, industry, indigenous community members, and government.
  • Participates in research in an environment where guidelines or scientific standards are inadequate and significant scientific or technological innovations are required;
  • Interacts with media from news organizations to communicate scientific findings and their implications;
  • Responsible for watershed science projects with annual budgets less than $1M, involving numerous internal and external staff and collaborators, and focused on diverse research questions ranging from assessing the status and trends in the condition of Alberta’s environment to the impacts and mitigation of industrial development.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

The position requires a PhD in a relevant scientific discipline related to watershed sciences in more than one of the following areas: organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, hydrology, aquatic ecology, statistics, sediment transport and fate, biogeochemistry, and limnology. The position requires a minimum of two years post-doctoral or equivalent work experience in the design and implementation of watershed science programs. In addition, the Watershed Scientist must have a demonstrated record of publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals commensurate with established peers with a similar level of experience (for example, Assistant Professors at Canadian academic institutions).

The position requires extensive knowledge and experience in the following areas:

  • Watershed and ecosystem science
  • Advanced numerical analyses of large environmental data sets, including data from EMSD monitoring and/or research programs and relevant programs or studies performed by others in Alberta and elsewhere
  • Application of appropriate models or other means to predict local, regional and cumulative impacts of a broad range of development and activities at play in Alberta
  • New and emerging methods related to assessing the status and trends in Alberta’s watersheds
  • Current and emerging provincial and national watershed issues
  • Relevant partnerships with academic and industrial research communities, relevant government and non-government agencies, etc.
  • EMSD’s business plan, goals, strategic priorities, and accountability processes
  • Alberta’s acts, regulations and policies and frameworks related to watersheds.

The position requires the following skills and abilities:

  • Demonstrated leadership skills, innovative and creative thinking, problem solving, and strategic thinking skills
  • Strong data analysis, modeling and interpretation skills
  • Strong scientific writing skills and project management planning skills
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills to develop and deliver understandable scientific information to key stakeholders, the scientific community, public audiences, and senior executives in government
  • Ability to build and maintain effective and productive working relationships with various internal/external stakeholders
  • Ability to successfully manage multiple projects, meet timelines and work under pressure
  • Ability to identify, anticipate, and analyze complex issues
  • Ability to synthesize findings to identify risks, possible actions and where possible, solutions


EMSD Leadership Team (Directors, Executive Directors, Chief Scientist)

  • Weekly interactions to assist senior leaders in setting organizational priorities including developing strategic research plans; provide scientific input on watershed science-related issues of importance to the Department and Government as a whole.

EMSD Watershed Scientists and other Science Branch Staff

  • Science Branch (overseeing and providing leadership/mentorship to junior scientists and scientists including groundwater, surface water, air, and biodiversity/ecosystem health program scientific staff)
  • Environmental Monitoring and Observations Branch (providing scientific oversight on data collection and groundwater-related field work conducted by Technologists)
  • Integrated Environmental Analytics and Prediction Branch (oversee and provide scientific input to model development and application)
  • Indigenous Knowledge, Community Monitoring and Citizen Science Branch (ensures braiding of indigenous wisdom and classical science and knowledge)

Scientists and other staff in AEP and other Government of Alberta Departments including permanent staff, wage staff, co-op students, and interns

  • Oversee the provision of relevant scientific information to key AEP Division contacts including:
    • Operations Division (approvals, resource management, and compliance)
    • Parks Division (environmental information needs and programs for parks planning and management)
    • Policy and Planning Division (regional environmental information for water and land use policy)
    • Strategy Division (environmental science issues relevant to indigenous community members, stakeholders, and the public)
  • Key Department contacts outside AEP are:
    • Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (groundwater issues in forested and agricultural lands)
    • Alberta Health (providing information of use in assessing human health impacts of surface water use)
    • Alberta Energy (watershed issues in relation to energy development)
  • Weekly or monthly interactions to provide scientific leadership, consultation, and advice on surface water and watershed science programs and to facilitate the access to, and application of, scientific findings in the Government of Alberta.

Indigenous community members and their representatives

  • Regular interactions to co-design of watershed science programs that are relevant to the information needs of indigenous community members, consistent with the recommendations of the Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel; programs may also directly involve community members in program delivery.

Provincial, national and international committees, task forces and boards

  • Quarterly, annual, or occasional participation in multi-organizational and multi-jurisdictional teams to provide expert input, and to represent the Government of Alberta on watershed science matters

Graduate students and post-doctoral researchers

  • Monthly or more frequent interaction as co-supervisor, or as part of supervisory committee for PhD and MSc students; external examiner at defenses and candidacy exams.

External scientists, including academia, industry, partner monitoring organizations, Government of Canada Government of Canada (e.g., Environment and Climate Change Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans), other provincial or territorial governments, and US Agencies including Environmental Protection Agency and Geological Survey)

  • Daily to weekly interactions to lead and collaborate on watershed monitoring programs. Purpose: review of scientific literature, and reviewing draft manuscripts for journal articles and other reports; co-author publications with other organizations.

Supervision Exercised

No direct reports.


  • Oversees the scientific work of EMSD technical staff responsible for delivering field components of projects
  • May oversee external research teams which include professors at post-secondary institutions, graduate students, federal scientists, and scientists from other external science organizations through their collaborations.

The Government of Alberta is committed to a diverse and inclusive public service that reflects the population we serve to best meet the needs of Albertans. Consider joining a team where diversity, inclusion and innovation are valued and supported. For more information on diversity and inclusion, please visit the Diversity and Inclusion Policy.