Protected Species Observer Training & Certification
Protected Species Observers (PSOs) help minimize potential impacts of human activities on federally protected animals (e.g., marine mammals and sea turtles). PSOs monitor these animals during coastal and offshore activities, including construction, geophysical surveys, explosive blasting, and other projects that may overlap with the presence of protected species.
To work as a PSO, education and training requirements as recommended by NOAA Fisheries must be completed. This PSO training certification program at Stockton University meets NOAA’s requirements for PSO training, and will include a combination of classroom and field time in coastal waters. During the classroom portion, students will learn about life as a PSO, daily responsibilities of PSOs, the methods and equipment used to monitor for protected species, background information on when and why PSOs are needed, and more. During the field portion, students will participate in nearshore vessel surveys aboard the R/V Petrel and gain practical hands-on experience with typical PSO equipment and computer software, practice monitoring techniques and mitigation scenarios, build communication skills, and learn how to identify marine mammal species that occur in the mid-Atlantic.
Students who complete this course and pass the PSO exam will receive an industry-wide accepted PSO certification. This course will be taught by experienced PSOs and marine mammal scientists with field experience in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern US, and will focus on protected species monitoring in coastal NJ waters and the nearby region.
In addition, students will complete a US Coast Guard approved Personal Survival Techniques (PST) training course delivered by Aton Maritime Institute. This course involves online training by certified instructors, and one day of in-water training and exercises. This PST course will conclude with an in-class Exam for final certification. Completion of the course will result in a US Coast Guard approved Personal Survival Techniques certification.
The PSO training course will run in September and October 2022 as follows:
5:00 - 8:00 p.m.
9/16, 9/23, 9/30, 10/7 (classroom)
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
9/17, 9/24, 10/1, 10/8 (classroom and vessel/field)
Classroom time will be held at: Stockton Marine Field Station, 30 Wilson Ave, Port Republic, NJ.
The field portion of the training will include nearshore surveys aboard the R/V Petrel out of Stockton University Marine Field Station.
Important Course Dates
- Course Application Deadline: July 15, 2022 (Now Closed)
- Final Applicant Decisions: August 15, 2022
- Deadline for Course commitment: August 26, 2022
Course Application Criteria
- College degree in the sciences (biology, marine biology, environmental science, sustainability, coastal zone management, etc). Consideration will also be given to persons with 150+ documented work hours on offshore vessels with species identification experience
- Unofficial transcript
- Letter of Interest (why are you interested in becoming a PSO, what skills/experience prepares you for this course and subsequent field work, what are your strengths and problem-solving capabilities)
- Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Letters of Recommendation
- In addition to the above: 2 Letters of Recommendation
- Letters should highlight the applicant’s ability to: work in various environmental conditions, work well in a team-setting, make informed decisions quickly, be both detail-oriented and flexible, work in a physically demanding setting (ex. stand for hours at a time on a vessel, lift 50 pounds), overall character
- Recommenders send PDF to: PSO@stockton.edu by July 15, 2022 - Subject line: PSO Recommendation - Student Name
- Preference will be given to applicants living in the mid-Atlantic region
- Vessel experience / experience identifying East Coast marine mammals is a plus
- Ability to swim is mandatory
- Six students will be accepted for the course
- There are no student fees for this PSO course or the US Coast Guard Personal Survival Techniques course. Classroom components are covered by an Orsted Ocean Wind grant through Stockton University, and field / vessel components are covered by Stockton University.
The Application Deadline for this course has closed.
Please email PSO@Stockton.edu for additional questions or concerns.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ's)
There are no student fees for this PSO course, or the accompanying US Coast Guard Personal Survival Techniques course. Classroom components are covered by an Orsted Ocean Wind grant through Stockton University, and field / vessel components are covered by Stockton University.
This PSO course is 4 weeks long (4 Fridays, and 4 Saturdays)
- Fridays: Lecture
- Saturdays: 1) Lecture and 2) Vessel trips in coastal waters off New Jersey (weather permitting)
- The course will conclude with a final Exam
This PSO certificate course also requires completing an online US Coast Guard approved
Personal Survival Techniques course during the 4-week period.
- 12 hours of online training by Instructors at Aton Maritime Institution
- 2 hours of in-water exercises, and a final Exam
The job of a PSO, life at sea as a PSO, marine mammals and sea turtles of the mid-Atlantic Bight, visual marine mammal cues, visual survey protocol, distance calculations, field communication, PSO field equipment, data recording, underwater sounds and surveys, exclusion zone protocols, and taxa-specific monitoring/mitigation, NOAA/MMPA guidelines, and more.
No, students are responsible for their own accommodations, as well as their own transportation to and from Stockton University Marine Field Station.
Classroom (Friday evenings 5-8pm): Notebook, writing utensil, mid-Atlantic species guide (provided) Snacks, water
Vessel (Saturday coastal field trips between 9am-5pm, weather permitting): Polarized sunglasses, hat, sunblock, layered clothing, closed toe shoes, notebook, writing utensil, species guide (provided), lunch/snacks, water, reticle binoculars (provided), sea sickness medication (if necessary)
A PowerPoint slide deck will be provided for each lecture, a mid-Atlantic species guide will be provided (hardcopy), and all field equipment necessary for course completion (life vests, emergency equipment, reticle binoculars, SLR digital cameras, range-finders, etc).
Marine mammal scientists and PSOs with marine mammal / sea turtle experience in the mid-Atlantic and northeast US.
A college degree in marine or environmental sciences (experience viewing marine mammals in the wild is a plus). Consideration will also be given to persons with 150+ documented work hours on offshore vessels with species identification experience.
After completion of the 4-week PSO course, students will complete a written exam on lecture and field material taught throughout the course. Species-specific identification and PSO field scenarios/mitigation will be emphasized. You must score an 80 or above on the exam to receive your PSO certification. One additional exam attempt will be granted if students do not pass the exam on the first attempt.
As a part of Stockton University’s PSO course, students will also be enrolled in a US Coast Guard approved 12-hour online Personal Safety Training marine course (provided by Aton Maritime Institute). Both the PSO course and the Personal Safety Training marine course must be completed with passing scores to receive a PSO certification.
We will cover this information upon completion of the course – there are many PSO opportunities on the US East Coast!
This is a 12-hour online training course compiled by Aton Maritime Institution. Students will complete this 12-hour online course outside of PSO training at their own discretion (outside of the Friday and Saturday classes). During the final 2 days of the PSO course (October 7-8), students will take a written exam and complete in-water training exercises for Personal Survival Techniques certification.
For in-water exercises, students should be able to:
o Swim with a lifejacket / immersion suit
o Float without a lifejacket / immersion suit
o Don a life jacket and immersion suit
o Jump into water from about 3 feet height while wearing a lifejacket / immersion suit
o Right an inverted life raft
o Board a life raft while wearing a lifejacket / immersion suit.
Survive at sea in the event of ship abandonment:
o Types of emergency situations which may occur, such as collision, fire, foundering
o Types of life-saving appliances normally carried on ships
o Equipment in survival craft.
o Location of personal life-saving appliances
o Principles concerning survival, including:
- value of training and drill
- personal protective clothing and equipment
- need to be ready for any emergency
- actions to be taken when called to survival craft stations
- actions to be taken when required to abandon ship
- actions to be taken when in the water
o Comply with emergency procedures
o Take precautions to prevent pollution of the marine environment
o Observe safe working practices
o Understand orders and be understood in relation to shipboard duties
o Contribute to effective human relationships on board ship
o Understand and take necessary actions to control fatigue.
Students are expected to attend all Friday and Saturday classes.
This training will be held at the Stockton Marine Field Station, 30 Wilson Ave, Port Republic, NJ. Easily accesed from the Garden State Parkway Exit 48 (SB) or Exit 44 (NB) this facility will offer complimentary parking to all guests. For additional questions regarding parking inforamtion please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See our June 2022 Press Release here.
For additional questions, please email PSO@stockton.edu or call the Office of Continuing Studies at 609-652-4361.