Associate Data Specialist (Water Quality)


Associate Data Specialist (Water Quality)

About the Organization

Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to making the coastal waters and watersheds of Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy and clean. We use science, education, community action, and advocacy to fulfill our mission. We educate people about the undersea wonders of our local Santa Monica Bay, the causes and impacts of local water pollution, the need for an improved resilient water supply, and what everyone can do to make a difference. We reach over 150,000 people every year through our Heal the Bay Aquarium, beach cleanups and community outreach programs.

Clean beaches and rivers are critical for public health and our economy in southern California. For over 25 years, Heal the Bay has been a powerful advocate for cleaning up polluted rivers and beaches and maintaining high standards that protect public health for recreational users of our local waters. Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card (BRC) and NowCast systems are well-known and scientifically robust tools for communicating water quality problems to decision-makers and the public, and our new River Report Card (RRC) will serve a similar purpose for the LA River and other freshwater recreation sites.

California’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths. Heal the Bay is committed to creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment that respects all individuals regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, or age. We are focused on recruiting and retaining a diverse team of employees, fostering a positive environment where inclusive behaviors are the norm, prioritizing our work through an equity and inclusivity lens, and embedding accountability for diversity throughout the organization. We are committed to creating an environment where all employees are included, are treated with dignity and respect, and are in a position to contribute to our success.

About the Role

The main goal of this position is to equip the public with the information they need to protect themselves from harmful pollution. The Associate Data Specialist is responsible for day-to-day management of Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card, NowCast, and River Report Card programs. The Beach Report Card (BRC) provides beachgoers with a weekly A-F letter grade at nearly 700 West Coast beaches. The River Report Card (RRC) provides visitors to approximately 30 freshwater swimming holes throughout L.A. County with a weekly color-coded grade. The NowCast system uses a set of statistical models calibrated on years of environmental and bacteria data to provide daily water quality predictions for over 20 California ocean beaches.

The Associate Data Specialist obtains and analyzes bacteria data, updates the Beach Report Card and River Report Card grades weekly, and helps produce the annual reports for each program. They manage all technical aspects of the NowCast system, including developing machine learning models for California beaches; running NowCast models; evaluating NowCast model accuracy and strategizing with Heal the Bay management about how to maintain or improve accuracy as needed; and debugging any errors that occur in the system. Additionally, this position will support any maintenance and expansion of the website and mobile app that broadcasts BRC grades and NowCast predictions as necessary. This position will help develop and implement a new grading methodology for the RRC as well as provide support for field and laboratory work for River Report Card sampling. This position also provides information to help produce annual reports, summaries for beach managers, copy for media, FAQ updates, and blog posts. In addition, the Associate Data Specialist will participate in advocacy campaigns, and education & outreach work. The Associate Data Specialist position will report to Heal the Bay’s Recreational Water Quality Scientist & Policy Analyst.


Manage the day-to-day aspects of the Beach Report Card (BRC), NowCast, and River Report Card programs:

  • Collect data and manage databases necessary to calculate weekly BRC & RRC grades and calibrate and run NowCast models.
  • Calculate weekly BRC & RRC grades.
  • Build and calibrate NowCast models (summer and winter swim seasons).
  • Ensure the automated system for daily NowCast models is functioning.
  • Fix errors that occur in any automated processes and update the automated system as necessary.
  • Identify problem beaches and investigate site specific water quality issues based on BRC and NowCast results.
  • Prepare data reports and analyses for seasonal reports, grant applications, and in other written materials.
  • Provide technical assistance needed for programmatic decisions, such as NowCast expansion, increased program automation, improving methodologies, etc.
  • Conduct field and laboratory work to assess bacteria levels in freshwater areas during summer months.
  • Train and mentor student water quality monitors.

Manage Beach Report Card web and mobile app platform

  • · Publish regular BRC grades on the BRC platform and RRC grades on Heal the Bay’s River Report Card website.
  • Monitor beach closures, sewage spills, rain advisories, and other alerts at beaches around California, and update alerts on the website.
  • Monitor website and mobile app for correct display of data and bugs.
  • Aid in transitioning the BRC and NowCast programs to a new web-based data platform.
  • Assist with developing a new methodology for RRC grades.

Preferred Experience & Skills

  • Passion for Heal the Bay’s mission and environmental health in southern California.
  • Ability to plan and execute projects.
  • Bachelor’s degree or above in Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, Information Science, Math, or a related discipline is favorable; a similar degree in Biology or Environmental Science may be accepted if accompanied by strong computer programming skills.
  • Experience using standard data science techniques with Python, R, or similar languages, with machine learning/statistical modeling background in Python, R, Matlab or SPSS.
  • Script building, debugging & updating code.
  • Database management skills desirable.
  • Knowledge of water quality issues favorable but not required.
  • Strong research and analytical skills, with an interest to apply science to policy.
  • Excellent communication and presentation skills.
  • Ability to work independently and cooperatively with colleagues.


This is a full-time, non-exempt position starting at $22/ hour depending on experience, with appropriate state and federal taxes withheld.


Dental, medical, health insurance, and vacation benefits are included as part of employment. Heal the Bay will cover 90% of benefits. In accordance with California Labor Law, employee will be eligible to receive up to 72 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year, after completing 90 days of employment. All Heal the Bay recognized Holidays will be compensated in accordance to time worked.


Participation in some weekend and evening events, as well as regional and statewide travel, may be necessary. Due to COVID-19, we are currently working from home but will transition back to working from our Santa Monica office once it is safe to do so. Heal the Bay offers a dynamic work environment with highly motivated colleagues including other staff and volunteers.

Physical Demands

The employee is occasionally required to work in outdoor conditions, reach with hands and arms, and talk or hear.

How to Apply

Please email your cover letter and resume with subject line “Water Quality Modeler Application” to Luke Ginger, Water Quality Scientist.

Review of applications will begin on August 26, 2021

Heal the Bay is committed to creating a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status and we strongly encourage applications from individuals that reflect the diversity of Los Angeles County.

Heal the Bay complies with AB 1008, the Fair Chance Act, during the hiring process. Once a conditional job offer has been made the candidate will be asked to complete a Live Scan criminal background check. A thorough assessment of conviction history will be considered including: the nature and gravity of the criminal history, the time that has passed since the conviction, and the nature of the job the candidate is seeking.

Additional Information

Published papers on NowCast:

1. Thoe, W.; Gold, M.; Griesbach, A.; Grimmer, M.; Taggart, M. L.; Boehm, A. B. Sunny with a Chance of Gastroenteritis: Predicting Swimmer Risk at California Beaches. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2015, 49 (1), 423–431.

2. Thoe, W.; Gold, M.; Griesbach, A.; Grimmer, M.; Taggart, M. L.; Boehm, A. B. Predicting Water Quality at Santa Monica Beach: Evaluation of Five Different Models for Public Notification of Unsafe Swimming Conditions. Water Res 2014, 67, 105–117.

3. Searcy, R.; Taggart, M. L.; Gold, M. A.; Boehm, A. B. Implementation of an Automated Beach Water Quality Nowcast System at Ten California Oceanic Beaches. J. Environ. Manage. 2018, 223, 633–643.