The Research Scientist 2 (RS2) is a permanent full-time position that will serve as the Fish Disease Expert/Pathologist for the Office of Fish & Wildlife Health & Forensics (OFWHF) in the NJDEP Fish and Wildlife. The OFWHF provides diagnostic and research support to understand fish and wildlife diseases throughout the state of New Jersey. Under normal operation, the office additionally has a full-time wildlife disease expert/veterinarian, a full-time technician, and up to two part-time technicians which assist with field sampling and sample processing. The Fish Health Scientist will join this staff in the office to lead the aquatic animal health projects. The OFWHF reports directly to the Assistant Director’s office.
Much of the funding to support the fish and wildlife health projects is maintained from federal aid grants including the Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act) and the Sportfish Restoration Act (Dingell-Johnson Act). The Fish Health Scientist will maintain fish disease records and provide annual reports to fulfill federal aid reporting requirements. For some projects or research collaborations there may be opportunities for external funding sources for additional support; pursuing these is encouraged.
For diagnostic and research capabilities the OFWHF utilizes internal laboratories, partner labs, including the Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory (AHDL) N.J. Department of Agriculture, and when necessary outside laboratories and universities. The internal laboratory facilities within the OFWHF include the Pequest Fish Health Laboratory and the Clinton Wildlife Health Laboratory. The current position will be based in the Pequest Fish Health Laboratory, which is located at the Pequest Trout Hatchery. The current lab has bench space to conduct fish necropsies/sampling, equipment for bacteriology (autoclave, incubator, and other equipment), and histology processing equipment. Also within the building is an office space. A new 600 square foot fish health laboratory is expected to be constructed by 2025, which will be held within the Northern Region Office in Hampton, NJ. This will be the future laboratory for this position. The RS2 will be responsible for overseeing the Fish Health Laboratory, including maintaining, equipping, and stocking the laboratory with supplies as necessary. If necessary, the use of a transmission electron microscope is done at a facility in the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University.
The office maintains an excellent working relationship with the Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory (AHDL) in the N.J. Department of Agriculture located in Ewing, Mercer County. Staff from the OFWHF may utilize this laboratory and equipment to conduct fish and wildlife disease cases and research. This laboratory is equipped with a molecular biology suite with automated DNA/RNA extraction machines, capabilities for PCR and quantitative RT-PCR, and samples can be prepared for genotyping or DNA sequencing. The AHDL lab has a bacteriology unit that has equipment for bacteriological culture and identification, including a MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry system for bacterial ID. The lab also has a cell culture facility and a large necropsy floor. Two pathologists are on staff at the Department of Agriculture, which are available to assist with aquatic animal cases, when necessary. Tissue samples may be submitted to their lab for processing and/or the equipment at the lab may be utilized for research applications related to aquatic animal health projects.
The main duties of this position include coordinating and performing fish disease investigations throughout the state, overseeing the health of fish raised in the two state fish hatcheries, leading and conducting fish health surveillance in wild populations to understand diseases of concern, working with fish biologists to recommend practices, regulations, or policies to avoid/limit the spread of aquatic pathogens in the state, and to collaborate with outside laboratories to conduct/facilitate research to understand the etiology and epizootiology of aquatic animal diseases. Close interaction and collaboration
is expected between the RS2 and the Bureaus’ of Freshwater Fisheries, Marine Fisheries, Shellfisheries, and Law Enforcement to understand diseases in a variety of aquatic animals. It is expected that results of the aquatic animal health projects will be disseminated through publication in peer-reviewed journals and presentation at relevant scientific meetings. Additionally, communication about aquatic animal diseases will be necessary to a broad audience which may include the general public, or staff within NJDEP Fish and Wildlife
Graduation from an accredited college or university with a Master's degree in a discipline appropriate to the position. A Doctorate in a discipline appropriate to the position may be substituted for two (2) years of the experience indicated above. Three (3) years of full-time experience in a field appropriate to the position. Experience with vibrio in shellfish. Experience with maintaining a fish health laboratory, proper handling, and use of related scientific equipment.