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Biological Assessment Author Qualifications

On June 1, 2006, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) initiated a qualification process for consultants who write biological assessments (BAs) for WSDOT. WSDOT implemented this process to improve the quality of the documents they were receiving. To qualify, consultants must demonstrate their ability to write BAs through education and experience requirements. They also must attend a training seminar and achieve a passing score on the exam.

Consultants who meet the education and training requirements and have two full years of experience writing BAs are qualified as senior authors. Consultants who meet the education and training requirement, but do not have the required experience can qualify as junior authors. All BAs written for WSDOT must be authored by a senior author who may be assisted by a junior author. Senior authors must ensure that BAs adhere to strict quality control standards in order to maintain their status as qualified WSDOT BA authors. Qualification is maintained by attending mandatory seminars that introduce new analytical methods or policies. In addition, BA authors will need to be re-qualified every six years. Specific requirements for education, training, testing, and experience are outlined below in Qualification Requirements.

Upcoming Seminar Dates

If you are currently qualified as a senior or junior BA author, you will need to maintain your qualification status by attending seminars on new analyses or polices that will be offered as necessary, and attending the Advanced Biological Assessment Preparation course every six years and passing the exam. If you are unable to take the seminar and pass the exam, your qualification will expire. Send any questions to dreierj@wsdot.wa.gov

The next complete Biological Assessment Preparation Seminar will tentatively be offered in Spring 2015. Attendance at this seminar is one of the requirements needed to qualify as a junior or senior BA author for WSDOT. The study guide provides information on how to prepare for the seminar and exam. These seminars fill quickly, so register soon after the dates are posted. Based on the changes to the WSDOT author qualification program, authors initially qualified or requalified in 2013 are not required to take the course and exam until 2019. 


Requalification Testing Schedule

     Qualification Year          Next Exam Year    
2013 2019
2014-2015 2021
2017 2023
2019 2025
2021 2027
2023 2029


Qualification Requirements

On call consultants must meet the following four criteria to qualify as a senior author or the education, training, and testing criteria to qualify as a junior author.

  1. Education:  Consultants must have a Bachelors or graduate degree in fisheries, wildlife, biology, zoology, botany, environmental science, or closely related field (a degree in a closely related field may still qualify – see Proof of Education below). A minimum of five years of relevant biological experience may be substituted for the degree requirement. For senior authors substituting experience for education, the minimum of five years experience is in addition to the 2-year experience requirement for senior authors (see Experience below). Individuals proposing to substitute appropriate experience for the degree requirement can contact Marion Carey. If you are claiming appropriate experience in-lieu of the appropriate degree, see Proof of Experience below for information on how to document your experience.

    Proof of Education: Provide a photocopy of your degree (Bachelors or graduate degree in fisheries, wildlife, biology, zoology, botany, environmental science) or a signed and dated statement listing the degree, year obtained, and name of the college or university that issued the degree. If you have an unusual degree or a degree in a closely related field, provide rationale for why the degree is comparable to the degrees listed above (you can use a list of courses completed to acquire the degree for the rationale).

    Training Requirements:
    To qualify, all consultants are required to attend a WSDOT Advanced Biological Assessment Preparation course. To remain qualified, consultants must attend mandatory seminars that introduce new analytical methods or policies, and attend the course and pass the exam every six years. The seminars will be provided as needed and not on any set schedule, and will be announced well in advance.  An example of a recent seminar is the USFWS marbled murrelet masking seminar hosted by WSDOT in November 2013. 

    Seminar information, course materials, and up to date changes in regulations and policies are available via the Endangered Species Act and WSDOT website, which also serves as a study and work resource.

  2. Testing Requirements: After attending the Advanced Biological Assessment Preparation course, authors are required to pass an exam with a score of 80% or better. The exam will be held the last day of the seminar. One additional exam date may be available after each class. A consultant may attempt to pass the exam twice before being required to attend the class again. A class fee applies each time the course is attended.
  3. Experience: WSDOT expects that all individuals they qualify as BA authors are actually employed in positions which require them to prepare BAs. Senior authors must have at least 2 full years of experience in preparing BA's (preferably on Northwest species and habitats).

Proof of Experience:

    • Provide a detailed resume summarizing your experience. Include the name, address and phone number of employer, title of positions held, dates of employment, average hours worked per week, and detailed list of duties performed for each position. Note: The standard consultant company resume that is used for marketing efforts which lists out the projects the individual has worked on does not provide sufficient information for a detailed evaluation of your experience.
    • Provide a detailed list of all BAs that have been authored to date (including the time spent per BA). State if you were a junior or senior (supporting or primary) author.
    • Note: If you have not met the minimum requirement of at least two years of experience writing BAs, you will still qualify as a junior author, if you meet the other 3 criteria.
    • Note: WSDOT will evaluate your experience based on the amount of time you have actually spent preparing BAs. Writing one BA in a two year period will not qualify you as a senior author.
    • Note: Junior authors should not expect that they will automatically qualify as senior authors after having spent 2 years as a junior author. Qualification as a senior author is based on having 2 solid years of experience writing BAs.

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Where to Provide Proof of Education and Experience:

Proof of education can be provided to WSDOT during the training course or sent to:

Materials must be sent in prior to or within one week of your training date. Material received more than one week after the training date may result in a delay posting your name (provided you qualify) on the list of consultants.

Washington State Department of Transportation
Attn: Jeff Dreier
Environmental and Engineering Programs 
310 Maple Park Avenue SE
Olympia, WA 98504-7331



Qualified Authors

WSDOT posts a list of authors that have met the qualification requirements and who are working for companies with a WSDOT on-call agreement. WSDOT also posts a list of consultants who have met the BA author qualification requirements, but are working for consulting companies that do not currently have an on-call agreement with WSDOT.

Quality Control Standards

All documents submitted by qualified authors must meet WSDOT standards. WSDOT requires that all BAs prepared by their on-call consultants will be prepared by a senior author(s). Junior authors may assist the senior author with the preparation of a BA. The senior author(s) will be held responsible for document quality and will be removed from the roster if the quality control criteria are not met. If more than one senior author prepares the BA, they will both be held responsible.

BAs submitted to WSDOT for review through the Highways and Local Programs Office (HLP) that are prepared by qualified authors will be held to the same quality control standards. Since HLP does not require that BAs be prepared by senior authors, the lead author or authors (regardless of if they are junior or senior authors) will be held responsible for BA quality.

WSDOT will implement quality control standards as follows:

Completed BAs submitted to WSDOT will be reviewed by regional or headquarters staff for completion and compliance with WSDOT policies and guidance. If necessary, the BA will be sent back for correction. Biological assessments can be returned for several reasons:

  1. for changes in project description, setting, timing, etc; 
  2. for changes to improve the BA content; and 
  3. for deficiencies in meeting WSDOT quality standards and policies, such as incorrectly identifying the action area, incorrectly calculating the zone of noise influence, or for an overall inconsistent BA.

Almost all BAs reviewed by WSDOT will have comments and suggestions from the reviewer. However, if the initial WSDOT reviewer identifies policy or quality deficiencies, such as those outlined in number three above, the BA will be referred to the WSDOT Headquarters’ BA Qualification Program for review. If there is agreement that the BA does not meet WSDOT policies and quality standards, the responsible author(s) will be notified of deficiencies and asked to correct the BA. After submitting two deficient BAs, the responsible author(s) will be removed from the list of qualified BA authors. WSDOT is reviewing steps that the consultant would need to take to become re-qualified. At a minimum, it will include retaking the course and passing the exam.

WSDOT will maintain a website that can be accessed via the Endangered Species Act and WSDOT website that will provide the latest information on BA policy and guidance. BA authors should check it regularly.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I passed the test?

Two weeks after the date of the last exam held for that training seminar, we will send out a letter which will provide you with an exam score and will let you know if you will be placed on the qualified BA authors list. In addition you can check our on-line qualified BA authors list that will be updated approximately 2 weeks after the seminar.

What if I took and passed the test, but did not qualify as a qualified BA author?

Did you forget to bring or send in your proof of education and/or experience? If so, send or e-mail (see Qualification Requirements above) the documentation along with the dates you attended the training. You have up to one week after the training to send in the documentation.

I took the training seminar, passed the exam, and qualified as a junior author. I feel that I now have enough experience writing BAs to qualify as a senior author. Can I update my junior author status to senior author now?

Yes.  At any time you feel you have met the requirements to change your status to Senior Author, submitted documentation will be reviewed and your author status will be upgraded if the requirements are met.

I am a biologist who does not work for a consulting company. However, I still write BAs for county projects that are submitted to the Highways and Local Programs Office at WSDOT. Should I take the class?

You are not required to take the class to submit a BA to the Highways and Local Programs Office. However, we recommend that you take the class to insure that your BA meets the current submittal requirements.

I am looking for employment with a consulting company and would like to be qualified as a WSDOT BA author. Can I be qualified if I do not work for a consulting company?

If you have met the education requirement and have taken a 2013 or later WSDOT Advanced Biological Assessment Preparation course and passed the exam, then after you are hired, you will be added to the list of consultants based on the date you passed the exam.

I am a manager in a consulting firm with ten years of ESA experience. I manage large projects with multi-person authored BAs, but I do not actually write BAs and I do not meet the experience criteria. If I take the class and pass the test, will I be qualified as a senior author? If not, is it worthwhile for me to attend the class?

The senior author qualification is only for consultants who actually write BAs, so you would not qualify. If you chose to take the class, the class will help you to understand WSDOT’s BA standards and our latest guidance from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If you are in the managing aspect of BA writing, and will not be an on-call consultant actually writing BAs, you may chose not to have your name on the list of consultants as a junior writer. Just let us know.

What is a deficient BA?

A deficient BA is one that does not meet the guidelines in the most recent version of the Advanced Biological Assessment Preparation for Transportation Projects Advanced Training Manual and any up-to-date guidance posted on the WSDOT ESA and WSDOT web page. For example, incorrectly identifying the action area, incorrectly calculating the zone of noise influence, lack of quality control review (e.g. cut and paste errors, spelling and grammatical errors), or overall inconsistency in the BA would qualify as a deficiency.

Who is the author who is responsible for the deficiency?

WSDOT requires that all BAs prepared by their on-call consultants be prepared by a senior author(s). Junior authors may assist the senior author with the preparation of a BA. The senior author(s) will be held responsible for document quality and will be removed from the roster if the quality control criteria are not met. If more than one senior author prepares the BA, they will both be held responsible. Since HLP does not require that BAs be prepared by senior authors, the lead author or authors (regardless of junior or senior author status) will be held responsible for the BA’s quality.

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