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Cross-Section of African Elephant Tail Hair. Credit: USFWS

About the Laboratory



Senior Forensic Specialist (Pathology) - TWO (2) POSITIONS
Salary Range: $81,823 - $106,369 USD per year
Series & Grade:
National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, Ashland Oregon
Announcement Close Date:
Monday, June 7th, 2010
Who May Be Considered:
All qualified United States Citizens

For more details and/or to apply for this job, please go to: www.usajobs.com and search the following announcement number R9-10-348116-LF. Alternatively, you may click here to go directly to the job announcement page.

Job Summary:
Both positions are at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is the only full service wildlife forensic laboratory in the world. Its unique role is to provide forensic analysis for Federal criminal investigations and prosecutions. Typically, the prosecutions are against individuals who commit criminal acts against threatened and endangered species.

The task of the Veterinary Forensic Pathologist in this setting is to determine the cause of death of protected taxa (such as wolves, bears and eagles) submitted to the laboratory by criminal investigators. Causes of death may include gunshot, poisoning, electrocution, vehicular trauma, etc. The Veterinary Forensic Pathologist uses every tool available to determine cause of death (i.e., histology, microscopy, analytical chemistry, digital x-ray, etc.). To do this work, the Veterinary Forensic Pathologist is supported by a competent team of professionals that include chemists, geneticists, firearm examiners, an ornithologist, a herpetologist, mammalogists, etc. Lastly, it is expected that the Veterinary Forensic Pathologists will testify in Federal court as expert witnesses regarding their conclusions.

The National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory is located in Ashland, in the foothills of the Siskiyou mountains in Southern Oregon. Ashland is the home of Southern Oregon University, with which the laboratory maintains close collaborative ties, as well as of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This privileged location offers all the advantages associated with sophisticated urban settings (theaters, film festivals, concerts, restaurants, etc.), and all the amenities associated with resort communities (skiing, rafting, fishing, bike trails, hunting, etc.).

In summary, these positions at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory allow the professional to work at a unique, cutting-edge facility, pursue a meaningful, conservation-oriented career, and live in a community that offers exceptional quality of life.

Information on Ashland, Oregon

Job announcements are posted on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Web site at USAJOBS.

Important notes: 

  1. Applicants cannot, under any circumstances, send their applications directly to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory.
  2. There are separate application processes for a) applicants outside the federal government, and b) applicants currently employed by the federal government.
  3. Applicants cannot apply for jobs until they are officially opened.
  4. Applicants are encouraged to send their CV or résumé to the Lab in advance of their application.

For current salary tables and other Federal Service employment information, visit the United States Office of Personnel Management.


Do I have to be a U. S. citizen to apply for a position with your facility?

Yes. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations prohibit us from hiring non-US citizens.

How can I give myself the best chance to get a job with the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory?

Do a neat, thorough and careful job of filling out your application. Remember that the initial impression we have of you will be from our review of this form.

Do I have to fill out a separate application if I want to apply for more than one job in the Laboratory, or for all three levels of a specific job (ie: Forensic Scientist position which can be hired at the GS-7, GS-9 or GS-11 level)?

Yes, a separate application must be submitted for each job (and for each grade level that you want to be considered as an applicant within a job, if a job is advertised at more than one grade level).  That is, you might want to apply at the GS-11 and GS-9 levels for a GS-7/9/11 job, but not the GS-7 level). You can xerox most of the relevant information but note that each form must have an original date and signature.

What is the difference between a Forensic Scientist and a Laboratory Technician?

First of all, the Forensic Scientists get paid more. They are usually scientists or highly skilled technical experts. They also have specific responsibilities regarding evidence handling, research, casework, travel and trial testimony as to their analytical results (whereby they earn their extra pay). The laboratory technicians usually assist in the research and casework performed by the Forensic Scientists and conduct more routine tasks, rarely travel, and do not testify in court.

Can I work as a Forensic Scientist without testifying (in other words, just do research and/or casework and let someone else with more experience do the testimony)?

No. The job of Forensic Scientist specifically involves casework and the corresponding possibility of testimony.

When and how do I apply for a position with Laboratory?

When positions are available, they are posted at the top of this page. We recommend you check this page at least monthly to see what is open.

Can you explain the hiring process?

The following is an extremely simplified version of the hiring process:

  1. The Laboratory Director, Deputy Laboratory Director or Branch Chief writes a position description (known in the Government as a PD) which details all of the duties and responsibilities of the job. Each PD is typically 6-8 pages long, and has 5-6 specific elements — known as knowledge, skills and abilities, or KSA's — upon which the applicant is judged.
  2. The Laboratory Director, Deputy Laboratory Director or Branch Chief writes a crediting plan which gives points for varying levels of expertise, experience, etc., regarding the 5-6 KSA's. The crediting plan is sent to the Regional Personnel Office. It is not provided to the applicant.
  3. A specific job is announced as being open for applications. Announcements are sent to all Government Personnel Offices and advertised through OMB's web page at USAJOBS.
  4. The job is open for a specified number of weeks, and closes on a specific date. Any applications which are postmarked on or before the closing date will be accepted.
  5. The Regional Office of Personnel Management ranks all of the applications according to the crediting plan.
  6. The Laboratory Director, Deputy Laboratory Director or Branch Chief receives certificates that list all of the qualified candidates in a ranked order. A selection must be made from the top candidates.

Office of Personnel Management?

Yes. Applications sent to the Laboratory do not count. After a job is announced, you must send your application directly to the Regional Office of Personnel Management. We cannot forward any applications to OPM (they cannot be received in Government mailing envelopes). All applications sent to the Laboratory will be discarded.

What happens if a job that I want to apply for closes before I get a chance to get my application in?

Once the job closes, no further applications are accepted that are postmarked after the closing date.  While we try to provide all interested applicants with relevant and timely information on all the positions, it is ultimately the applicant's responsibility to search out information on federal jobs and meet the application deadline.

What is the Laboratory's smoking policy?

In view of current regulations regarding smoking in Federal Government facilities and fire safety in general, the entire laboratory facility is designated a No Smoking Area.
While smoking advocates claim that they can (and should be able to) smoke in their own office without bothering anyone, the reality of the situation is that 1) not every employee will have a private office (in fact, most will not); 2) smoke will travel through an HVAC system; 3) people who are allergic to or disturbed by smoking find it difficult to contact or work with people in office areas where smoke is allowed; and 4) smoking is downright dangerous in a laboratory environment like ours where ethers and other flammable solvents are in use. Smoking in the Laboratory will result in immediate disciplinary measures, and may result in dismissal.

Is there a publication available to help me understand the Federal Government?

The Federal Employees' ALMANAC is highly recommended for anyone who is unfamiliar with Federal Government rules and regulations regarding employees (which includes, we suspect, most Federal employees). This publication (not published by the Federal Government) will actually answer almost all of your questions about working for the Federal Government. To order, call 1-800-989-3363.

You can also check out the OMB's USAJOBS site for the latest information on the hiring process.

If I am selected for a position, will the government pay my moving costs?

We may be able to reimburse the authorized moving costs of successful applicants who are currently Federal Government employees; however, we will not be able to pay the moving costs for successful applicants who are not currently Federal Government employees (combination of Federal regulations and Fish & Wildlife Service policy).

What type of housing is available in the area?

Ashland is a beautiful community of approximately 20,000 residents, and the towns of Talent, Phoenix, Medford and Jacksonville are about 2, 5, 12, and 15 miles north of Ashland on Interstate 5.

If you are seriously interested in applying for one of our positions, you might consider getting subscriptions to the local newspapers (Ashland Daily Tidings, Medford Mail Tribune) to find out about the availability and cost of housing.

What are the applicant requirements?

In general, we hire personnel with extensive forensic experience (in evidence identification and comparison, expert witness testimony, etc.) for most — but not necessarily all — of the higher grade (GS-13, 12 & 11) Forensic Specialist positions. Less stringent education and experience requirements will apply to the lower grade Forensic Specialist and Technician positions.  Applicants come from a wide range of sources, including Federal, State and local police and wildlife-related laboratories, museums, zoos and universities.

What type of education and/or background would you recommend for this type of work?

  • Genetics: Biochemistry
  • Criminalistics: Chemistry, Criminalistics (forensic science)
  • Morphology: Zoology, Anatomy, Biological Sciences
  • Evidence Unit: Community college programs or state college programs in police science, evidence technology, and on the job experience in crime scene investigation, evidence photography, recognition and collection of physical evidence, work experience in firearms and ballistics, and police property and evidence management systems (preferably one with a computerized inventory).
  • Technical Support: Education and/or work experience in electronics, computers, photo/video, wildlife illustration or computer programming.
  • Veterinary Medical Examination (Cause of Death): Veterinary Medicine.
  • Administration: Education and/or work experience in clerical, office management, or bookkeeping (budget/procurement).

What other federal job information is available?

Check out the OMB's USAJOBS site for the latest information. They have a powerful search engine that can help you find the right job.

Are volunteer activities available?

Yes. A volunteer application is available online or may be requested by mail or phone. The decision to bring on volunteers is made by the Branch Chief and the Section Chiefs based on available work stations, number of volunteers currently on board, and time spent in supervision.

Are college and/or senior high school student projects available?

Yes. Contact Edgard O. Espinoza, Deputy Laboratory Director via phone (541) 482-4191 or via email at Ed_Espinoza@fws.gov.


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