Ecologist - Advisor (Aquatic Ecologist)

Job Summary

Applications are invited from qualified persons for the above vacant position.

  • Minimum Qualification: Bachelor
  • Experience Level: Mid level
  • Experience Length: 7 years

Job Description/Requirements

Background Information - Job-specific

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is an operational arm of the United Nations, supporting the successful implementation of its partners' peacebuilding, humanitarian and development projects around the world.  Mandated as a central resource of the United Nations, UNOPS provides sustainable project management, procurement and infrastructure services to a wide range of governments, donors and United Nations organizations.  

Position background
UNOPS undertakes various projects that require Environmental and Social Impact Assessments and one of the components in this process is the Biodiversity and Ecological Assessment. To comply with various other policies on Natural Habitats, impacts determination on flora and fauna species found in the project area, resulting from rehabilitation/construction works and operation.

The ecological dynamics of the project area is potentially the cumulative changes brought about by the activities on the project area which may negatively affect the upstream and downstream aquatic and wetland environment and may also impact on upstream on the river system Depending on the type of a project, such as a Dam project, trap efficiency of the dams may also starve the downstream areas of sediment, increasing the erosive potential of flows and the risk of channeling and drying out the wetlands. It is imperative therefore to conduct an assessment and identify ecological impacts that these changes may bring to the ecological system in the respective project areas already identified through the initial screening as vulnerable sites.

The biodiversity and ecological assessment study shall therefore include any necessary management actions to protect aquatic fauna and flora, together with a full monitoring plan, including monitoring parameter, monitoring methodology, monitoring frequency, personnel and reporting requirements. The ecological management and monitoring requirements shall be included as a part of the ESMP in a Biodiversity and Ecological Management Plan and in the Operational and Maintenance Manual of the project thereafter. 

Under the overall supervision of the KEMC Technical Services Manager, the Ecologist Advisor (Aquatic Ecologist) will give his/her technical expertise as required to support the activities of the unit.

Functional Responsibilities

Study Objectives

The objectives of the study are to:

  • Collect, collate and compile comprehensive baseline information on the aquatic and riverine ecosystems.

  • Determine the significance of aquatic ecological impacts caused by the proposed project, taking direct, indirect and cumulative impacts into consideration, and to recommend any mitigation and monitoring that should be included in the remedial works and operation of the dams to mitigate negative impacts and enhance potential benefits; and 

  • In the case of dams projects, identify and describe the potential structural and non-structural measures to at least maintain or better still increase ecological flow downstream of the dams.

  • Develop a Biodiversity and Ecological Management Plan for the affected project sites.

To arrive at tangible and measurable ecological impact of project area/sites (if more than one) and the subsequent management and monitoring requirements, for inclusion in the project ESMP, a two step assignment will have to be conducted:

1. Biodiversity Screening

The project sites (if more than one) need to be screened for potential aquatic biodiversity risks and impacts In this respect, the Specialist Ecologist is tasked to:

Conduct baseline aquatic ecological screening for each of the sites and record the type of aquatic species of fauna and flora in the respective project areas and type of habitat. Additionally, bring out the IUCN conservation status of the identified species; exotic species; species that could be both exotic and invasive, clearly bringing out the type of habitat where these species exist.
Support the UNOPS Environmental Specialist to complete a screening checklist.

2. Biodiversity Assessment

For those sites for which the screening reveals the presence of vulnerable, endangered and/or critical species in relation to the aquatic habitat, a detailed aquatic Biodiversity and Ecological Assessment will have to be conducted.

In this respect, the Specialist Ecologist is tasked to:
  • Describe the detailed baseline conditions of the proposed project, including habitat integrity, ecological importance and sensitivity; short, medium and long term impacts that could result from the preparation, construction and operation of the proposed project.The report shall include a description of the project’s impact on the water resources (water quantity, quality, and sediments) in the project area, and the upstream and downstream areas
  • In bringing out the IUCN status of aquatic species of flora and fauna for each of the project areas, clearly identify aquatic species that are listed in such sensitive categories as vulnerable, threatened, endangered or endemic. For each species identified as such, propose appropriate remedial measures to avoid further decline of such species population in their respective habitats. The Specialist will further define in each case, species that may be at a critical stage of extinction (critically endangered species) and appropriately outline remedial measures to protect such species from extinction.
  • Following the respective studies above, for project area, indicate where aquatic impacts are likely to be more significant, what kind of species are threatened and where structured interventions may be of use. The mitigation measures proposed against the impacts for each of the sites ought to be responsive to the significance of the impacts identified.
  •  Identify both positive and negative indirect effects of irrigation on aquatic biodiversity; and the impact on the ecosystem of a possible increase in populations that may arise as a result of improved agricultural productivity.
  • Describe management actions and monitoring required to ensure biodiversity is preserved in areas where high risks of impacts are observed and finally develop a Biodiversity and Ecological Management Plan to be implemented for monitoring purposes.
  • Habitats identified in the respective  project area of influence should be clearly stated whether they are natural or modified habitats.
  • In the case where Critical Habitats are identified, make reference to the requirements of the applicable habitat safeguards  and indicate actions to protect, restore or improve conditions to reduce impact on biodiversity, consistent with this safeguard policy.
  • Sampling of water quality or biota is anticipated to verify reports of endangered species.
  • To the extent that it is reasonably practical in a screening study, the consultant shall follow a recognised approach to the determination of aquatic habitat integrity and ecological importance and sensitivity, such as that of Kleynhans (Environmental Flow Assessments for Rivers: Manual for the Building Block Methodology )
  • Impact identification should include both positive and negative impacts taking into consideration the nature of impacts.
  • In addition to proposing appropriate mitigation measures against identified impacts, submissions should be made on how positive impacts may be enhanced.
  • Project site(s): Description of the identified aquatic ecosystem (including the river system) in the project area to form the baseline conditions of each project site and Biodiversity and Ecological Management Plan (one report and plan project site (if more than one)
  • For each project site for which a Biodiversity Assessment has been undertaken : Updated baseline description; and a comprehensive Biodiversity and Ecological Management Plan.The management plan should include the potential impacts and respective mitigation measures of the identified aquatic ecosystem in the project area.
Impact of Results

The results of the work of the aquatic ecologist will provide key input into the completion of the ESMPs and designs of the infrastructure involved in the project, The results will ultimately impact on the construction/rehabilitation works of the proposed project and ultimately on their effectiveness and safety.

  • Master’s degree (or equivalent) in Biology, Zoology, Geology, Forestry, Environmental studies or any other relevant discipline discipline is required.
  • University Degree (bachelor’s degree / first level) with a combination of 2 additional years of relevant professional experience in Biology, Zoology, Geology, Forestry, Environmental studies or any other relevant discipline may be accepted in lieu of the advance university degree.
  • At least seven (7) years of experience in ecosystems is required;
  • Minimum of two (2) years experience in Africa region will be required;
  • Knowledge of flow-related impacts caused by dams will be an asset;
  • Recognized expertise on river systems, preferably in southern Africa will be an asset;
  • Knowledge of the use of river health rating systems will be an asset;
  • Knowledge of Geographical Information System Mapping (GIS) will be an added advantage;
  • Experience with International organisations will be an added advantage.
  • Full knowledge of the English working language is required

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