Graduate Student Position at COASST

The Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) is partnering with Professor Jaime Snyder (iSchool) on an NSF funded project focused on creating new identification materials and associated training program for COASST’s latest data collection module for marine mammals. The overarching goal of this work is to increase capacity to involve the public in gathering data about changes in biodiversity. Specifically, our project involves qualitative field work, co-design with citizen science participants (i.e., COASSTers), consultation with marine mammal subject matter experts, and evaluation of new materials by COASSTers in the field. 

In this first phase of our work, we are focusing on better understanding the ways that individuals participating in environmental citizen science observe and make sense of different types of change in the natural world. We are currently in the process of conducting “walk-about” interviews with COASSTers in order to see the natural world through their eyes. Through semi-structured interviews and photo elicitations gathered as we walk through a familiar natural environment, interviewees are helping us to learn more about what they notice, what it means to them to see change unfold, and what they do with these insights over the long term. These interviews are generating rich, visually annotated transcripts that will be analyzed using multimodal qualitative data analysis techniques and software. Findings will feed directly in to the design of co-design sessions focused on generating novel formats and content related to marine mammal identification.   

During Summer 2024, we would like to hire a graduate student as a Graduate Research Assistant to work with project PIs to craft, test, and apply an analytic codebook for these visually annotated transcripts that draws out themes related to: 

  • Epistemic Affect – Broadly termed emotional learning, epistemic affect has been used to understand the positive emotions attached to the practice of science.  We wish to extend this work by including environmental observations and attachment in ways other than science, as well as by including aspects of emotion that are not necessarily positive (e.g., fear, worry, boredom). 
  • Environmental Change – We are using a simple (termed “3C”) system to begin to categorize awareness of difference or change in environmental systems experienced by citizen science participants: cyclic change such as seasonal differences; catastrophic change such as mass mortality events, landslides or major storms; chronic change such as gradual warming or erosion, or the loss/gain of a species. 
  • Skilled or Professional Vision – When we become part of a community of practice, we start to see the world through a lens of collective understanding—being part of the group means sharing a vision about what is important, salient, and meaningful. This has been referred to as skilled or professional vision. COASSTers not only belong to a community of citizen science participants, but they are also members of coastal communities. Learning about parameters or lenses that a community or group applies, that is the focal points of their collective vision, can help us better understand values, motivations, and perspectives.  

By the end of Spring quarter, we expect to have approximately 20-25 completed interviews, including both COASST participants and COASST staff.  Analysis will involve initial coding to identify important themes related to these three concepts, focused coding to refine and apply those codes to the entire data set, and rigorous qualitative methods for vetting and verifying emergent conceptual models of epistemic affect, environmental change, and skilled vision. 

The ideal student would: 

  • be able to fully commit to a 20-hour work week on a standard daily schedule (tbd by the successful candidate and the PIs) 
  • be excited by citizen science as a bona fide approach to the praxis of science, which extends the bounds of the “science team” 
  • have a scholarly interest in the work, including the possibility of using a portion of the work as a thesis subject (extension into Autumn quarter 2024 is a possibility) 
  • have prior experience in qualitative techniques, specifically including both inductive and deductive coding 
  • be available to work in-person in the COASST office, as well as remotely 
  • have strong time management and work ethic skills, and be able to prioritize task order and depth to maintain the workplan and timeline of the project 
  • understand the need to balance taking direction and thinking/acting independently, both in service of advancing the project in a creative and rigorous way 
  • have strong communication and team player skills; enjoy working with and learning from others; be excited by the intersection of social and natural science 
  • have an interest in attending COASST events, including trainings; and in meeting COASST participants 

If this project, and this job, appeals to you, please send an email outlining why you are interested and how your skills acquired to date make you a desirable candidate; along with a brief CV that focuses on skills demonstration, and a list of at least two references, to  For best consideration, we will begin looking at applications on April 15th, and will keep the job open until a candidate is hired. 

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