Internship Opportunities

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was established in 1970 to preserve its many outstanding natural features. The National Park Service protects the forests, beaches, dunes, and ancient glacial phenomena along 72 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, to protect it from developments and uses that would destroy its aesthetic, scientific and recreational value. The Lakeshore's historic maritime and agricultural landscapes are of a size and quality that are unique on the Great Lakes and rare elsewhere on the U.S. coastline. Located only 25 miles from Traverse City, the Lakeshore is accessible year-round for all to enjoy.

Natural Resource Management

Wildlife: Interns will primarily assist with monitoring activities associated with protection of the critically endangered piping plover, monitoring beaches for avian botulism, and assisting with public education efforts. Interns will assist with field surveys, data collection, mapping, drafting technical reports, and performing integrated pest management activities.

Plants: Interns work on controlling invasive plant species, site restoration, re-vegetation, data collection from established monitoring transects/plots, and assist with vegetation surveys.

Geography/GIS: Interns work on geospatial data collection, analysis, and database management. The intern will also assist with GPS data collection and management across park programs to map natural, geological, and cultural features.

Water Quality: Interns work alongside park biologists to collect, process, and analyze recreational water quality at park beaches using qPCR technology in the park’s water quality laboratory. The intern will also assist in monitoring water quality in the park’s inland lakes, aquatic invasive species monitoring and outreach, and other resource management projects.

Environmental Management Systems: Intern will primarily assist with operational compliance associated with elements of the parks’ hazardous and universal waste management, spill prevention, and hazard communication programs. The position will also gather data and generate an updated park-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory.This internship is ideal for an organized, motivated and self-directed individual. Strong communication and time management skills are desired. Ability to focus for long periods of time in an office environment will be required. Housing will not be provided for this position.

Park Ranger
Interpretation: Interns research and present programs to park visitors on the natural/cultural resources of the park and have informal interactions with visitors through roving interpretation. They will also create and post content on the park’s social media platforms and assist presenting special events.­

Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR): Intern will assist visitor and resource protection division with staffing high risk/response areas like the dune climb and Lake MI overlook to help prevent responses by educating visitors. Intern will also coordinate schedule for all PSAR volunteers

Facility Management
Facility Management interns will assist with field condition assessments of park trails, roads, grounds, buildings and utilities and assist in updating and maintaining the NPS facility management and cost estimating computer software systems

Cultural Resource Management
Historic/Landscape Architect: Interns will assist with documenting existing conditions of park historic architecture and cultural landscapes and with drafting and developing design plans for the rehabilitation and preservation of historic buildings and cultural landscapes.

Horticulturalist: Interns will assist in identification of heritage plant species for cultural landscape inventory reports and facility management programs and in developing planting plans for historic sites and participate in the restoration of cultural landscape features within those historic sites.

Marketing/Social Media
Intern will assist with management of all platforms of social media for Sleeping Bear Dunes and park partners and will gather, edit, and create content to multiple sites with the goal of increasing outreach to global, younger, and more diverse audiences. Also, the intern will gain an understanding of NPS resources by researching and presenting programs to visitors and will assist in special events (see interpretation description).

Internships usually last for eight to twelve weeks, with the intern working five 8-hour days per week. Other arrangements may be negotiated with the internship supervisor. We are flexible and can work with your schedule to achieve mutually agreeable starting and ending dates.

Some intern positions may be arranged at other times of the year, including Cultural Resource Management internships which are accepted during the school year. Contact the volunteer coordinator if you are interested in an off-season (winter) internship.

All internships require a working knowledge of cultural and/or natural resources management techniques. The work will require some physical exertion such as long periods of standing/walking outdoors over rough terrain and exposure to weather.

You should have relevant course work and/or related field experience in your application for the following:

Natural Resource Management: wildlife, vegetation, GIS, water quality management.

Park Ranger (Interpretation): environmental and/or cultural history education principles/ techniques, and the ability to prepare and present interpretive programs to large groups.

Fee collection / Interpretation / PSAR: knowledge /experience in backcountry & wilderness operations, Leave-No-Trace, and the ability to convey information and rules to visitors.

Facility Management: engineering, architecture, construction trades, and facility maintenance operations.

Cultural Resource Management: museum library or artifact inventory/handling, CAD, architecture, horticulture.

Marketing/Social Media: professional management of multiple social media platforms, photography, writing, communication with visitors and interacting with partner organizations.

Additional Requirements
Interns will be required to successfully complete a background investigation, including an FBI fingerprint check, prior to beginning their internship.

Interns must possess a valid state driver’s license, pass an online defensive driving course and may be required to drive a government vehicle.

If in a uniformed intern opportunity, uniform items will be issued and be required to be worn in accordance with established standards.

Interns will receive a $20.00 per day meal stipend, housing is provided.

You will receive valuable hands-on experience to add to career resumes.

Academic credit may be arranged with the intern’s school. Research topics or independent study projects will be agreed upon by the intern, the college advisor, and the NPS supervisor.

All interns participate in orientation training classes. Topics which will be covered depending your position include: NPS policy, history and organization; interpretive philosophy, theory, and methods; basic history, geology and ecology of the area; safety; first aid and CPR; visitor service; and resource management goals.

Housing may be available for mainland staff in Empire which has banks, restaurants, churches, gas station, medical care, and daycare. More extensive shopping, medical, and recreational opportunities are available within 30 miles. Mainland interns are responsible for their own transportation to work each day. Mainland interns may be assigned to work on the Manitou Islands for periods of time up to 10 days. During this time, they may be assigned to camp or be in park housing. Camping equipment, except for backpacks and sleeping bags, will be provided.

Housing for island staff is located on the Manitou Islands which are approximately 7 miles off shore in Lake Michigan. No other facilities are on the islands. Island staff usually work 10 days on the islands and have four days off. Temporary housing is available on the mainland for island staff on their days off. This housing is remotely located so interns should have their own transportation for shopping and other amenities. The park boat and the concession ferry provide access to and from the islands during the summer months. Island employees may ride the park boat or concession ferry at least once per month at no charge or more frequently on a space available basis.

Public transportation to and from Traverse City is available via BATA on a regular basis. Please see their website for more specific information;; click on Village Connector, Empire route.

To apply for an internship: mail (hard-copy) the following:

  1. Cover letter--include which internship and why.
  2. Résumé--include relevant jobs and/or life experience.
  3. References--contact information for at least two.
  4. Transcripts--unofficial are fine.
  5. Letter of recommendation--at least one

Want to apply to multiple opportunities? You need only submit a single application package. In your cover letter, list the positions to which you wish to apply and specifically address how your knowledge skills and abilities relate to each.

Applications received by March 1 will receive earliest consideration.

Mail applications to

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
ATTN: Intern Program
9922 Front Street Empire, MI 49630

For more information, visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore website at:

Or contact the volunteer coordinator Matt Mohrman at

Last updated: November 7, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630


(231) 326-4700

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