Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Position Description – Vegetation Inventory and Monitoring Intern
Southern California is one of five places in the world that have Mediterranean-type ecosystems. The Santa Monica Mountains contain over 900 native plant species that occur in over 200 vegetation associations. This unique assemblage of plants is threatened by direct and indirect effects of urban encroachment, particularly impacts from establishment of introduced invasive species and unnaturally high fire frequencies. The intern/volunteer will use standardized monitoring protocols to collect data, feeding into long-term NPS Inventory & Monitoring programs that track the status of native vegetation communities and invasive plants in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. The emphasis will be on chaparral and coastal sage scrub habitats and recently burned areas, however work will also occur in grasslands, woodlands and riparian areas. College students or graduates at least 18 years old and in good physical condition -- with a background in biology, botany or ecology, a valid driver’s license and transportation to and from Thousand Oaks, CA -- are eligible.
Work as part of a team to identify native and non-native plants on vegetation plots or transects.
Collect plot-based vegetation and habitat data on an iPad and datasheets.
Navigate to remote field locations, employing a global positioning (GPS) device, maps and directions.
Use the Scientific Process, incorporating objectivity, thought and care to come to justifiable, repeatable conclusions.
Assist in the entry and management of tabular data in an Access database as well as plot photos in a file management system.
Participate in plant propagation and restoration of native habitat, if opportunities arise.
Survey and assess populations of rare, threatened and endangered plants, if opportunities arise.
The intern/volunteer will increase the scientific understanding of changes that might be occurring in our plant communities, under postfire and shifting climate conditions, enabling resource and fire management staff to better manage public lands for biodiversity preservation. The intern/volunteer will gain valuable experience with vegetation surveys and identification, field navigation, data entry and become familiar with a gorgeous and diverse national park. Additionally, the intern/volunteer will be offered an NPS volunteer park pass if they work more than 250 hours, and other material benefits as well; furthermore, they may be offered courses and training, special wildlife encounters, park tours and off site field trips to broaden their knowledge and enhance their experience. We hope that the intern/volunteer will enjoy living and working in one of the most scenic areas of southern California. Finally, we can offer a letter of recommendation commensurate with the intern/volunteer’s performance.
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. A government vehicle, based out of NPS HQ in Thousand Oaks, will be used for each survey. Driving up to 1 hour to/from the furthest field sites will be required. Survey work will include substantial amounts of hiking in rough terrain such as dense chaparral (i.e., bushwhacking), steep, uneven slopes through burned landscapes with sharp shrub skeletons, weedy areas, or streams, in cool to hot weather. Good physical fitness is essential. Most surveys will be suspended in rainy or red-flag (i.e., hot/windy) weather. Natural hazards that can be encountered include, but are not limited to, rattlesnakes, yellow-jackets, ticks, and poison-oak. Position occasionally involves computer work in an office setting.
Knowledge and Skills Required
The interest in and ability to identify native and naturalized plants in Southern California, and to follow instructions and maps are most important. A comfort with portable technology (GPS units, smartphones/tablets) will be key. The intern/volunteer should be detail-oriented, organized and resourceful, as well as personable; most work will occur in a team environment, while some will be independent. They should have the ability to hike up to ~8 miles, carrying a backpack with field gear, food and water totaling up to ~30 pounds, in cool to very warm conditions. They must also gather field data with accuracy, have good penmanship, oral and written communication skills, and be flexible in terms of scheduling, including occasional last-minute changes. For office work, a familiarity with Google Earth and Drive and Sheets, Microsoft Access and Excel, Adobe Acrobat, and email will be helpful.
The intern/volunteer is expected to come into the position able to identify common native plant species with an interest in learning more. NPS will provide training on using a dichotomous key, sight recognition of many species, and vegetation survey protocols. The intern/volunteer will be made aware of our park’s natural hazards, radio and other safety policies. Driver’s safety training will be administered before allowing the intern/volunteer to drive a government vehicle. NPS will also train as needed to booster the intern/volunteer’s ability to navigate using a map, compass and geographic positioning equipment.
The intern will commit to a three- to six-month internship, and work up to five days (typically weekdays) per week up to eight hours per day, or four days per week up to ten hours per day, with breaks. We are more flexible with volunteers, although consistency and more work days per week generally help both parties. All holiday and sick leave will be granted. While we do not have a formal policy in place for personal time off for interns/volunteers, e.g., 1 day per month worked, all personal leave requests will be considered.
Supervision & Evaluation
The intern/volunteer will typically work on a team with one or more others and be supervised by NPS employees/partners from the Planning, Science and Resource Management division. The assigned supervisor(s) will observe, train and provide guidance to the intern/volunteer. Supervisor(s) will conduct at least mid-internship reviews and will be available to the intern/volunteer for more casual, frequent check-ins.
Uniform Requirements & Equipment
The intern/volunteer will receive direction on appropriate clothing for assigned duties, and will be offered NPS t-shirts, jacket 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.
A stipend of $20 per workday is available. Intern will be paid monthly or as worked out by the intern supervisor. Full time interns from outside the area may be eligible for shared housing.
To apply send letter of application (this should include how position will benefit your career, your available dates, your understanding that this internship is unpaid except for the expense stipend, and that you have your own vehicle for transportation to and from work), resume, three reference contacts, available dates and an unofficial transcript via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.