Fire Ecology Intern

Fuel Modification Zone Bird Surveying Intern ~February 1 to July 31


The Fire Management Program and the Division of Planning, Science, and Resource Management lead the park’s compliance with the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act as well as California and local laws that protect covered birds from harm or harassment. We are seeking a dedicated and skilled biologist or naturalist for a full-time, six month internship to help our park survey for nesting birds inside, and possibly outside of, defensible space and fuel modification zones (i.e., mowed grasslands) prior to treatment, and therefore comply with applicable regulations. Interest and experience in ornithology, as well as a solid work ethic, and an ability to work early in the morning, and follow maps and instructions are required. The intern will be increasing our scientific understanding and protection of our regional birds, while at the same time hopefully enjoying living and working in one of the most scenic areas of southern California!

Major Duties

  • Nesting bird surveys primarily in disturbed grasslands, but also in adjacent woodland and shrubland communities. Most surveys will be composed of walking zigzagging transects to visually survey 100% of the target area. Walking up to about 6 miles within a relatively small to large area is required on a given morning.
  • Record bird observations on standard field observation datasheets.
  • Use a GPS/smartphone/tablet to reliably record the surveyed tracks each day, and follow maps with target area boundaries.
  • Establish non-disturbance buffer zones around any active nests found.
  • Coordinate field schedule and other logistics with supervisor(s) and the Fuels Technician.
  • Office duties will be limited, but performed at SMMNRA headquarters in Thousand Oaks, CA, and include the following:
    • Scanning and filing datasheets & marked-up maps;
    • Entering into eBird the day’s observations;
    • Filing GPS tracks and photos; and
    • Performing any research necessary to summarize the estimated breeding milestone dates for any active nests found.
  • Additional field duties may or may not include:
    • Establishing and surveying control (i.e., unmowed, relatively undisturbed grassland) plots for comparing bird activity/breeding to the fuel mod zones;
    • Working with the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology’s volunteer crew conducting project-specific bird counts; and
    • Conducting stream surveys for breeding amphibians and invasive aquatic species.
  • Duties may be shared with current park staff.

Benefits & Compensation

The intern will make significant contributions, including:
  • Ensuring the park’s compliance with laws safeguarding our diverse natural resources;
  • Increasing our knowledge of the life histories of our park’s native and non-native birds, and how they are faring in fuel modification zones; and
  • Enabling fire management and other park staff to better manage our lands for fire prevention and biodiversity preservation.

The intern will gain invaluable experience with scientific bird surveys and navigation, and become familiar with a gorgeous and diverse national park. Additionally,
  • A stipend of $20 per workday is usually available.
  • Intern will be paid monthly or as worked out by the intern supervisor(s).
  • Full-time interns from outside the area may be eligible for shared housing.
  • The intern may be offered park tours and/or the opportunity for special wildlife encounters or botanical forays to broaden their knowledge and enhance their internship.

Physical Demands and Work Environment

The field sites are located in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, on NPS, State or other partners’ lands; for example, Rancho Sierra Vista / Satwiwa, Zuma and Trancas Canyons, Cheeseboro Canyon, King Gillette Ranch and Paramount Ranch. A government vehicle, based out of NPS HQ in Thousand Oaks, will be used for each survey morning; a government vehicle may be taken to the intern housing on the prior evening when that makes logistical sense. Driving up to 1 hour to/from the field sites furthest from the office/housing will be required. Bird survey work will include hiking on uneven surfaces through acres and acres of annoyingly seedy grasslands, in chilly to downright warm weather. Most surveys will be suspended in rainy or red-flag (i.e., hot/windy) weather. Typical natural hazards such as, but not limited to, rattlesnakes, yellow-jackets, ticks, and poison-oak are possible.

Knowledge and Skills Required

The abilities to identify by sight and sound the vast majority of birds occurring in Southern California, and to follow instructions and maps are most important. Additionally, experience conducting nesting bird surveys is preferred, and a comfort with portable technology (GPS units, smartphones/tablets) will be key. The intern should be personable and willing to work with others on flexible scheduling, including occasional last-minute changes. For office work, a familiarity with common computer programs such as Microsoft Excel, Adobe Acrobat, Google Earth, and email will be helpful.

Training Required

Again, the intern is expected to come into the position already able to identify by sight and sound the majority of the region’s birds. However, additional training, e.g., on protocols, will be provided by an NPS employee/partner. The intern will be made aware of our park’s natural hazards, driving and other safety policies.

Time Requirements

The intern will work up to five days per week, up to eight hours per day, with breaks. It is likely that some days will not be full 8-hour days, and even possible that some days require no work at all, due to weather or other unforeseen conditions. However, the supervisor(s) will attempt to fill nearly 40 hours of work for most weeks. All holiday and sick leave will be granted, and personal leave requests considered.

Supervision & Evaluation

The intern will typically work independently, but be supervised by one or more NPS employees/partners from the Fire Management Program and/or Planning, Science and Resource Management division. The assigned supervisor(s) will observe, train and provide guidance to the intern.

Uniform Requirement & Equipment

The intern will receive direction on appropriate clothing for assigned duties, and will be offered an NPS t-shirt and head wear. For the purpose of official identification, this uniform clothing must be worn when working in the field. Clothing not provided by NPS should be appropriate to the working conditions. Additional equipment and resources will be provided by NPS, with the exception of food, standard field attire (including hiking boots and hydration pack), and a personal smartphone. The intern may use NPS binoculars, or optionally bring one’s own set.

How to Apply

To apply, please submit the following documents via email to
  • Letter of intent (include how the position will benefit your career, the dates you are available, whether you need housing, your understanding that this internship is unpaid, except for the stipend, and that you have your own vehicle for transportation to and from work)
  • Resume
  • Transcripts (unofficial are acceptable)
  • Three references

For additional questions contact

Last updated: February 2, 2018

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26876 Mulholland Highway
Calabasas, CA 91302


(805) 370-2301

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