Discipline Specialist Competencies

Natural resource discipline specialists include: biologists, ecologists, botanists, fishery biologist, wildlife biologist, physical scientists, geologists, range management specialists, hydrologists, and natural resource specialists. Employees in these occupations may have varied responsibilities and assignments including fire and fuels management; environmental management; natural resources planning; and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) management. Discipline specialist competencies apply to all these positions and more.

There are three levels within discipline specialist competencies. For background information on the natural resource stewardship competencies structure please visit the Competencies Matrix page. Provided is an interactive breakdown of discipline specialist competencies. Select your level from the tabs entry/ developmental, journey or advanced to see the seven essential competencies and their sub-competencies that are needed for that level. View or print the complete discipline specialist competency guide.

  • Entry/Developmental Level
  • Journey Level
  • Advanced Level
SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE (Discipline Specialist -Entry/Developmental)
   
SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge of basic ecological and scientific principles, with advanced knowledge in a natural resource discipline (biological or physical science) and the ability to apply this information to NPS natural resource issues under supervision or guidance.
   
• DS-1a Working knowledge of a natural resource discipline and currency in the field
   
• DS-1b Knowledge of basic scientific principles
   
• DS-1c Basic knowledge of ecological principles
   
• DS-1d Ability to apply standard or existing sampling and research design and quality assurance/control techniques
   
• DS-1e Ability to review and understand results of research done elsewhere for possible relevancy to park natural resource issues
SCIENTIFIC METHOD (Discipline Specialist -Entry/Developmental)
   
SCIENTIFIC METHOD: Knowledge of scientific approaches and methods relevant to the management of natural resources and the ability to apply them to answer questions about NPS natural resource issues.
   
• DS-2a Ability to propose relevant scientific approaches to natural resource management activities and problem-solving
   
• DS-2b Ability to follow basic scientific methods in conducting inventory, monitoring, and applied research projects
   
• DS-2c Ability to design studies, gather data, and present results of studies in the field of expertise
   
• DS-2d With assistance, ability to design sampling protocols outside field of expertise
   
• DS-2e Basic knowledge and proficiency in field skills and measurements
   
• DS-2f Ability to assist in analyzing data from on-going studies or studies designed by someone else
   
• DS-2h Ability to reliably collect, computer input, and summarize natural resource data
RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP (Discipline Specialist -Entry/Developmental)
   
NPS RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP: Ability to effectively apply basic interpretations of laws, policies, regulations, and guidelines, in concert with scientific knowledge to protect park resources and natural systems.
   
• DS-3a Basic knowledge of NPS history, mission, goals, guidelines, and policies
   
• DS-3b Basic knowledge of the resource missions of the Department of Interior, other DOI bureaus, and other Federal and State resource agencies
   
• DS-3c Basic knowledge of general environmental laws
   
• DS-3e Basic knowledge of resource restoration and mitigation in area of expertise
   
• DS-3g Ability to incorporate scientific information in management actions, policy development, interaction with other resource managers
   
• DS-3h Ability to apply standard approaches to problem-solving in areas where established policy or guidance exists
   
• DS-3j Ability to integrate scientific knowledge and knowledge of environmental law to identify threats to natural resources and be proactive to protect natural systems using standardized approaches
PLANNING AND COMPLIANCE (Discipline Specialist -Entry/Developmental)
   
PLANNING AND COMPLIANCE:  Ability to apply scientific knowledge in defining resource issues, in proposing alternative management strategies, and in evaluating them in terms of their effects on natural resources and compliance with environmental laws and regulations.
   
• DS-4a Basic knowledge of how to use scientific information to recognize, appraise, and describe natural resource issues and management conflicts
   
• DS-4b Awareness of risk assessment methodologies and basic ability to evaluate, in scientific terms, potential resource impacts from identified management needs/proposed management actions
   
• DS-4e Basic awareness of environmental laws, compliance requirements, regulations, executive orders, and policies related to respective resource discipline
   
• DS-4f Basic ability to help formulate possible alternative management strategies
   
• DS-4g Ability to assist in the development of various management strategies and formal plans to address resource issues
PROFESSIONAL CREDIBILITY (Discipline Specialist -Entry/Developmental)
   
PROFESSIONAL CREDIBILITY:  Not only scientific knowledge and abilities, but also contributions to science and scientific endeavors which are recognized by peers in government agencies and the academic community as providing a solid foundation and leadership in the level and type of natural resources work performed.
   
• DS-5a Ability to develop an active network of professional interaction with peers in the scientific community
   
• DS-5b Ability to publish articles in peer-reviewed publications and/or make presentations at scientific meetings
   
• DS-5d Ability to maintain a level of scientific knowledge and skill in application that is recognized by peers in government agencies and the academic community as credible and providing a basic foundation for work performed
   
• DS-5e Ability to carry out peer review of scientific reports, and to participate in developmental assignments as a member of teams reviewing natural resource programs
   
• DS-5f Demonstrated ability to maintain currency of technical/scientific knowledge
COMMUNICATION (Discipline Specialist -Entry/Developmental)
   
COMMUNICATION:  Ability to effectively communicate natural resource information to diverse audiences through a variety of media.
   
• DS-6a Ability to write natural resource action plans, sections of agency documents and technical reports, in accordance with existing guidelines and subject to review by others
   
• DS-6c Ability to organize and orally present technical and scientific information
   
• DS-6d Ability to write and orally present management summaries of research information
   
• DS-6e Ability to present briefings to agency personnel and the visiting public
   
• DS-6f Ability to give off-site, public presentations on non-controversial issues
   
• DS-6g Ability to use computers to communicate electronically
   
• DS-6h Ability to organize, store, and analyze data with computers
PROGRAM/PROJECT MANAGEMENT (Discipline Specialist -Entry/Developmental)
   
PROGRAM/PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Ability to apply scientific knowledge to plan, implement, and/or administer projects of limited scope in the area of expertise.
   
• DS-7b Ability to conceive and define project objectives in area of expertise and to develop basic work plans
   
• DS-7c Ability to draft proposals, funding requests, and requests for proposals
   
• DS-7d Basic knowledge of types of agreements and ability to draft simple agreements or contract outlines
   
• DS-7f Ability to draft and monitor project budgets, including the status of staff and fiscal resources
   
• DS-7g Ability to coordinate and facilitate groups or teams to accomplish resource management and research project objectives
   
• DS-7h Ability to monitor basic project implementation

 

SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE (Discipline Specialist -Journey)
   
SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE:  Knowledge of ecological and scientific principles, with advanced knowledge and experience in a natural resource discipline (biological or physical science) and the ability to apply this information to NPS natural resource issues.
   
• DS-1a Ability to serve as a technical expert based on advanced, current knowledge of a natural resource discipline
   
• DS-1c Working knowledge of ecological principles
   
• DS-1e Ability to evaluate the results of research, including published and unpublished results of research done elsewhere, for applicability to diverse park resource issues
   
• DS-1f Ability to synthesize information from a wide variety of sources, within area of expertise
SCIENTIFIC METHOD (Discipline Specialist -Journey)
   
SCIENTIFIC METHOD:  Knowledge and ability to apply sound scientific approaches and appropriate methods to resolve natural resource management issues, including the design and conduct of inventory, monitoring, and research projects.
   
• DS-2a Ability to apply appropriate scientific approaches to natural resource management activities and problem-solving
   
• DS-2b Ability to develop, to coordinate, and to conduct research, inventory, monitoring, and resource management projects based on scientific knowledge and using accepted protocols and current methods
   
• DS-2c Knowledge of and working experience in the application of established scientific methods and the ability to modify and adapt methodologies
   
• DS-2d Ability to evaluate adaptations of basic research designs and sampling methods and to implement quality assurance/control protocols
   
• DS-2e Working knowledge of and proficiency in field skills and measurements, including quality assurance/ control protocols
   
• DS-2f Working knowledge of data management, analytical methods, and statistics
   
• DS-2g Knowledge of standard computer systems, uses, and applications, including database and statistical software packages
   
• DS-2h Ability and experience in collecting, storing (in electronic format), summarizing, and analyzing resource management data
RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP (Discipline Specialist -Journey)
   
NPS RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP: Ability to effectively apply a working knowledge of laws, policies, regulations, and guidelines, as well as knowledge of NPS programs, in concert with scientific knowledge to protect park resources and natural systems.
   
• DS-3a Working knowledge of NPS history, mission, goals, guidelines, and policies
   
• DS-3b Basic knowledge of the missions, mandates, and programs of other Federal agencies such as OMB and GAO, as well as other laws which impact resource management such as the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Freedom of Information Act
   
• DS-3c Thorough knowledge of general environmental laws and ability to apply them to the normal range of natural resource issues, including preparation of environmental planning documents
   
• DS-3d Thorough knowledge of law and policies, etc., related to subject matter expertise
   
• DS-3e Thorough knowledge of restoration and mitigation in area of expertise
   
• DS-3f Ability to incorporate scientific information into management actions, policies, etc., including application in the area of expertise where little or no clear precedent exists
   
• DS-3g Ability to develop innovative approaches to problem solving in areas where limited established policy or guidance exists
   
• DS-3h Ability to use scientific knowledge to anticipate threats to natural resources and take proactive action to protect natural systems employing standardized approaches and approaches tailored to the situation
   
• DS-3j Ability to assess the effects of proposed natural resource management projects on other park programs and to incorporate all division disciplines into resource management planning documents and programs
PLANNING AND COMPLIANCE (Discipline Specialist -Journey)
   
PLANNING AND COMPLIANCE:  Ability to apply scientific knowledge to the identification and definition of natural resource issues; to develop and evaluate alternative resource management strategies in terms both of the effect on natural resources and their consistency with resource-related laws, regulations, policies, and guidelines; and to ensure that compliance requirements are met.
   
• DS-4a Demonstrated knowledge and ability to use scientific knowledge to define and assess complex NPS resource preservation/use issues in scientific terms
   
• DS-4b Working knowledge of risk assessment and demonstrated ability to recognize and evaluate conflicts between resource preservation and management needs in scientific terms
   
• DS-4c Demonstrated ability to define information needs, including research, inventories, baseline studies, and follow-up monitoring
   
• DS-4d Comprehension of broad range of environmental laws, regulations, policies and other requirements related to natural resource planning and compliance
   
• DS-4e Good working knowledge of laws and compliance regulations, executive orders, policies and guidelines related to discipline of technical expertise
   
• DS-4f Ability to formulate and evaluate alternative management strategies related to area of expertise
   
• DS-4g Working ability to develop management plans to address natural resource issues
   
• DS-4h Ability to work as a member of a multi-disciplinary team and to provide input related to area of expertise in the development of management plans and compliance documents
PROFESSIONAL CREDIBILITY (Discipline Specialist -Journey)
   
PROFESSIONAL CREDIBILITY:  Not only scientific knowledge and abilities but also routine contributions to science and scientific endeavors which are recognized by peers in government agencies and the academic community as providing a strong foundation and vigorous leadership in the level and type of natural resources work performed.
   
• DS-5a Demonstrated ability and skill in developing and maintaining a network of peers in the scientific community for routine professional interaction
   
• DS-5b Demonstrated ability to routinely publish articles in peer-reviewed publications and to present scientific information at scientific meetings
   
• DS-5d Demonstrated ability to maintain levels of scientific knowledge and skills in application that are recognized by peers in government agencies and the academic community as credible and providing a strong foundation for work performed
   
• DS-5e Recognized ability to carry out peer review of scientific reports, publications, projects, and natural resource programs
   
• DS-5f Demonstrated ability to maintain currency of technical/ scientific knowledge
COMMUNICATION (Discipline Specialist -Journey)
   
COMMUNICATION:  Ability to effectively communicate complex or technical natural resource information to diverse audiences, including NPS decision-makers, through a wide variety of media.
   
• DS-6a Ability to write complex scientific and technical reports suitable for publication in peer-reviewed journals, as well as internal resource management documents
   
• DS-6b Ability to give complex scientific and technical presentations at professional conferences and meetings
   
• DS-6c Ability to organize and synthesize complex information from a variety of sources
   
• DS-6e Ability to effectively communicate complex scientific information to NPS managers and other non-specialists, using a variety of media
   
• DS-6f Ability to interpret complex issues for lay audiences, using a variety of media
   
• DS-6g Proficiency in using electronic communications
   
• DS-6h Proficiency in using computers to organize, store, and analyze data
   
• DS-6i Ability to use computer graphics programs to facilitate the written and oral presentation of scientific material
PROGRAM/PROJECT MANAGEMENT (Discipline Specialist -Journey)
   
PROGRAM/PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Ability to apply knowledge of scientific concepts and NPS programs to plan, implement, and/or administer projects in the area of expertise.
   
• DS-7a Ability to identify needs and set priorities within area of expertise, including facilitation of group efforts to define and prioritize broader resource management and research needs
   
• DS-7b Ability to set short- and long-term goals, and to develop work plans
   
• DS-7c Ability to prepare proposals, funding requests, and requests for proposals
   
• DS-7d Working knowledge of cooperative agreements, MOUs, contracting, and other agreement instruments
   
• DS-7e Ability to seek and obtain partners and funding from a variety of sources
   
• DS-7f Ability to develop and manage project budgets, including fiscal as well as staff resources
   
• DS-7g Knowledge of project administration
   
• DS-7h Ability to monitor project implementation
   
• DS-7i Knowledge and skill in interpersonal relationships
SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE (Discipline Specialist -Advanced)
   
SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE:  In-depth knowledge of ecological and scientific principles, with mastery and experience in a natural resource discipline (biological or physical science) and a demonstrated ability to skillfully apply this information to highly complex and potentially controversial NPS natural resource issues.
   
• DS-1a Mastery level knowledge of a natural resource discipline such as that evidenced by an earned Ph.D., an MS/MA degree and 6 years of professional work, or the experience gained from 11 years of professional work in the field of expertise
   
• DS-1b Working knowledge of and experience in the application of general scientific principles and the ability to develop innovative new methods and applications
   
• DS-1c In-depth knowledge of ecological principles and how they apply to park resources issues and management
   
• DS-1e Ability to evaluate the results of research, both published and unpublished, conducted in different ecosystems and to use and adapt those results to resolve diverse and complex park resource issues
SCIENTIFIC METHOD (Discipline Specialist -Advanced)
   
SCIENTIFIC METHOD:  Knowledge and ability to apply sound scientific approaches and appropriate methods to resolve natural resource management issues, including the design and conduct of complex inventory, monitoring, and research projects.
   
• DS-2a Ability to apply state-of-the-knowledge scientific approaches to natural resource management activities and problem-solving
   
• DS-2b Ability to develop, to coordinate, and to conduct complex research, inventory, monitoring, and resource management projects based on advanced scientific knowledge and using innovative protocols and new methodologies
   
• DS-2d Ability to develop and evaluate innovative research designs and sampling strategies and to apply quality assurance/control protocols
   
• DS-2e Advanced knowledge and proficiency in field skills and measurements, including the ability and experience to design quality assurance protocols
   
• DS-2f In-depth knowledge of data management, analytical methods, and statistics
   
• DS-2g Knowledge of computer systems, uses, and applications, including database and statistical software packages
   
• DS-2h Ability and experience in collecting, computer inputting, summarizing, and analyzing resource management data
RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP (Discipline Specialist -Advanced)
   
NPS RESOURCE STEWARDSHIP: Ability to effectively apply laws, policies, regulations, and guidelines, as well as a knowledge of NPS and other agency/institution's programs, including instances where limited precedent or specific guidance exists, in concert with scientific knowledge to protect park resources and natural systems.
   
• DS-3a Thorough knowledge of NPS history, mission, goals, guidelines, and policies
   
• DS-3b Thorough knowledge of other Federal agencies such as OMB and GAO and related other laws which impact resource management
   
• DS-3c Advanced knowledge of environmental law and demonstrated ability to apply environmental laws to a broad range of natural resource issues
   
• DS-3d Advanced knowledge of law, regulations, and policies, etc., related to the integration of subject matter expertise into multidisciplinary approaches to natural resource issues
   
• DS-3e Advanced knowledge of restoration and mitigation in area of expertise
   
• DS-3f Ability to synthesize and incorporate diverse scientific information into management actions, policies, etc., including application in the area of expertise where little or no clear precedent or guidance exists
   
• DS-3g Proficiency in developing innovative approaches to problem-solving in areas where little or no established policy or guidance exists
   
• DS-3h Demonstrated ability to use scientific knowledge to anticipate threats to natural resources and take proactive action to protect natural systems up to the ecosystem level employing standardized approaches and approaches tailored to the situation
   
• DS-3i Ability to use advanced scientific knowledge to anticipate threats to natural resources and take proactive action to protect natural systems employing innovative approaches and approaches tailored to the situation
   
• DS-3j Demonstrated ability to understand the likely effects of proposed natural resource management projects and programs on other park programs and to incorporate all divisions and disciplines into resource management planning documents and programs
   
• DS-3k Ability to lead crews working on resources management projects and to work effectively with adjacent land managers or owners, when appropriate, and other resource scientists
PLANNING AND COMPLIANCE (Discipline Specialist -Advanced)
   
PLANNING AND COMPLIANCE:  Ability to apply scientific knowledge to the identification and definition of complex natural resource issues; to develop and evaluate comprehensive alternative management strategies both in terms of the effect on natural resources and their consistency with resource-related laws, regulations, policies, and guidelines; and to ensure that compliance requirements are met.
   
• DS-4a Advanced knowledge and demonstrated ability to use scientific knowledge to define and assess highly complex NPS resource preservation/use issues in scientific terms
   
• DS-4b Advanced knowledge and demonstrated skills in risk assessment, including the ability to recognize, evaluate, and characterize subtle (including cumulative) resource issues and conflicts with management needs and to define conflicts and risks in scientific terms
   
• DS-4c Recognized ability to define in-depth, complex information needs, including research, inventories, baseline studies, and long-term monitoring
   
• DS-4d Sound working knowledge of the broad range of environmental laws, regulations, executive orders, policies, and guidelines related to natural resources planning and compliance
   
• DS-4e Advanced knowledge of the laws, regulations, executive orders, policies, and guidelines related to discipline of technical expertise
   
• DS-4f Ability to formulate, apply, and continuously evaluate and refine alternative management strategies
   
• DS-4g Demonstrated ability to develop and implement management plans to address complex resource issues
   
• DS-4h Ability to assemble and lead a team working on a complex resource issue and to provide expert input related to discipline of expertise in the development of management plans and related compliance documents
PROFESSIONAL CREDIBILITY (Discipline Specialist -Advanced Level)
   
PROFESSIONAL CREDIBILITY: Not only scientific knowledge and abilities but also routine, on-going contributions to science and scientific endeavors which are recognized by peers in government agencies and the academic community as providing a strong foundation and vigorous leadership in the advanced level of natural resources work performed.
   
• DS-5a Demonstrated ability and skill in developing and maintaining a wide and diverse network of peers in the scientific community for routine professional interaction
   
• DS-5b Demonstrated ability to publish articles in peer-reviewed publications and to serve as an editor for publications and reports
   
• DS-5c Demonstrated ability to present scientific information at scientific meetings and to organize and chair workshops and seminars at meetings
   
• DS-5d Demonstrated ability to maintain levels of scientific knowledge and skills in application that are recognized by peers in government agencies and the academic community as credible and providing a strong foundation for work performed
   
• DS-5e Recognized ability to carry out peer review of scientific reports, publications, projects, and natural resource programs
   
• DS-5f Demonstrated ability to maintain currency of advanced technical/ scientific knowledge
COMMUNICATION (Discipline Specialist -Advanced)
   
COMMUNICATION:  Well-developed ability to effectively communicate highly complex, technical, or controversial natural resource information to diverse and sometimes hostile audiences through all available media. Consequential management decisions are made based on this communication.
   
• DS-6a Ability to write complex scientific and technical documents dealing with advanced and highly technical natural resource information and issues
   
•DS-6c Ability to evaluate and synthesize information from conflicting sources
   
• DS-6d Ability to organize complex technical and scientific information and prepare briefings from which decisions are made by high-level agency personnel and Congress
   
• DS-6e Ability to effectively convey complex information concerning politicized or controversial issues to potentially hostile audiences
   
• DS-6f Ability to effectively negotiate, persuade, and resolve conflict
PROGRAM/PROJECT MANAGEMENT (Discipline Specialist -Advanced)
   
PROGRAM/PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Ability to apply knowledge of scientific concepts and NPS programs to plan, implement, and/or administer complex natural resource projects.
   
• DS-7a Ability to lead and coordinate groups to define resource management and research needs to address issues that are complex or with little precedent
   
• DS-7b Ability to develop innovative work plans for complex projects that involve multiple components and a need for careful coordination and sequencing
   
• DS-7c Ability to prepare complex proposals, innovative funding requests, and requests for proposals
   
• DS-7d Ability to prepare complex or innovative cooperative agreements, MOUs, and other agreement instruments
   
• DS-7e Demonstrated ability to successfully seek and arrange partnerships
   
• DS-7f Ability to develop and manage complex project budgets, including fiscal as well as staff resources
   
• DS-7h Ability to oversee and monitor implementation of complex projects
   
• DS-7i Demonstrated skill in interpersonal relationships