Indigenous Guidebook Apprentice (local to Vancouver/Portland community) (PO-00735587)

A healthy natural world is essential to human existence. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) is committed to the conservation of nature and public lands for the benefit of all people and wildlife who need these places to thrive. We’ve partnered with The Student Conservation Association (SCA) to offer a one-of-a-kind, next-generation internship experience at one of the country’s flagship Urban National Wildlife Refuge Complexes, The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWR or Refuge). The Ridgefield NWR acknowledges and honors that people from varied cultures and ethnicities often have different and equally valid relationships with nature and the environment. By working collaboratively with these communities, we are further able to appreciate and value their contributions to addressing the Service’s conservation challenges and the community’s social and environmental injustices.

The Ridgefield NWR preserves a diversity of habitats to sustain thriving populations of wintering dusky Canada geese, migrating waterfowl, and other wildlife. It is also home to the Cathlapotle village, the most intact archaeological site on the Lower Columbia River. Building on an archaeological research project at the site, a representative Plankhouse was constructed by a community of volunteers and opened in 2005 as a place to understand Tribal heritage, human connections to natural resources, and the importance of the lands and waters to Indigenous communities.
The Refuge coordinates with all interested parties within the Indigenous community. According to representatives of the Chinook Indian Nation, Cowlitz Indian Tribe, and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, the Refuge is ecologically, culturally, and spiritually significant for Northwest Native Peoples. The Refuge works with all three Tribes to share their connection and respect for the land with visitors.
To further this work, Refuge staff are seeking an employee to assist in the development, coordination, and formalization of a Messaging Guidebook guided by resources and information provided by Tribal partners.

The Indigenous Guidebook Apprentice will work with the Refuge Manager and other key staff on a variety of projects related to set priorities of :1) Knowing and relating to the Indigenous community by integrating the messages they would like shared; 2) Building Tribal partnerships; 3) Being a community asset; 4) Ensuring visitors and partners feel safe and welcome; and 5) Modeling sustainability through Indigenous traditional ecological and cultural knowledge.

The employee will conduct research, collection, design, development, and evaluation of Ridgefield NWR’s Tribal Partnership Messaging Guide and support the use of the Plankhouse in support of Tribal partnership. The Refuge will work transparently with Tribes, Nations, and Indigenous partners to ensure that their aspirations and concerns are considered at every stage of planning and development.  

Core tasks:

  • Research past interpretive materials, electronic resources, books, and Tribal recommendations to collect relevant materials in alignment with known Tribal messaging. Compile a reference library of literature the Tribes feel accurately reflects their relationship with the current-day Refuge.
  • Draft materials into a comprehensive Messaging Guide for Tribal review. Finalize guide for use in a variety of refuge programs and signage, including in the Plankhouse.
  • Assist the Refuge Manager and Visitor Services Manager in the creation of a volunteer training plan based on the approved Messaging Guide.
  • Assist the Visitor Services Manager and Education Apprentice in developing educational programming that follows the Messaging Guide and integrates local learning standards and goals. This may include curriculum for field trips and classroom activities, evaluation techniques, etc. 
  • Further, exemplify our respect for Tribal partners by caring for the Plankhouse and preparing it for Tribal ceremonies and educational events. This may include cleaning, set up, and takedown of materials.
  • Support refuge community events, tours of the Plankhouse, and tours of Cathlapotle as appropriate and approved by the Refuge Manager.
  • Assist the Service’s cultural resource program staff in appropriately inventorying and cataloging onsite collections and artifacts.
  • Support Tribal harvests and tending of plant materials as appropriate and approved by the Refuge Manager.
  • As time allows, develop ethnobotany program trail interpretation for the Oaks to Wetlands trail, with potential for its use at other sites within the Complex.

This is an entry-level internship designed to give the candidate experiences focused on partnerships, organization, independent duties, working with teams, research, innovation, and content development. Candidates who are passionate about nature and conservation as well as serving and connecting with their local community but might not meet all desired qualifications are encouraged to apply. Work will be done in close collaboration and communication with the Refuge Manager.

  • Lived experience as a member of the Indigenous community OR personal experience working within this community.
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills.
  • Organizational skills.
  • Confidence in initiating communication and taking leadership initiative to follow through on assignments.
  • Ability to communicate effectively with diverse partners and affinity groups.
  • The ability to work independently and as part of a team.
  • A passion for connecting people with nature.
  • Ability to creatively solve problems.
  • Experience conducting research projects.
  • Previous community engagement or outreach experience (e.g., volunteering, canvassing, mutual aid, relationship-building, etc.).
  • Experience with content creation.


Who can apply: Candidates must be local to the Portland-Vancouver Metro Area and between the ages of 18-30. The position is open to all US residents; citizenship is not a requirement. USFWS will provide any reasonable accommodation as needed to perform work duties.
Independent access to transportation is required for this position. Public transportation fares can be reimbursed for on-duty travel. If transportation access presents a significant barrier, accommodations can be discussed (e.g., increased transportation allowance). Must submit to background check per SCA and USFWS policy.

Hours: 1700 hours total from January-December 2024, 32-40 hours per week, Monday-Thursday with occasional weekend work. Opportunities for some flexibility may be available throughout the internship term.

Intern Benefits:

  • $650 weekly living allowance (paid bi-weekly)
  • $500 Duty Related Travel or Member Expense reimbursement funding (Receipt required)
  • Monthly Health Insurance (Optional) 12 months total
  • Uniform (provided by SCA & Arborwear)
  • AmeriCorps Eligible (at fulfillment of 1700 service hours) valued at $6,895.

*All allowances subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes

Non-competitive hiring authority: This position will qualify the selected candidate for the Public Lands Corps Act hiring authority which grants candidates non-competitive hiring preference for federal jobs in the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Commerce for a period of two years after completing their internship. This hiring authority does require U.S. citizenship and is open to candidates aged 16-30 and up to 35 for veterans.

Training and development: Depending on your needs and interests, opportunities include:

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion training
  • Assist in fieldwork opportunities such as invasive plant removal, survey work, and restoration practices to gain further experience in the conservation field.
  • Networking with a wide variety of partners and USFWS staff
  • Assisting/shadowing habitat, communication, education, and cultural resource professionals
  • Opportunities to visit other local National Wildlife Refuges and natural spaces as well as community events.
  • Participation in USFWS employee resource and affinity groups

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is one of the world’s premiere conservation organizations with a mission to protect wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of current and future generations. Part of the United States federal government, USFWS employees are dedicated public servants who are unapologetic super-fans of plants, animals, and people who receive nature’s many benefits and contribute to its sustainability.

National Wildlife Refuges are a unique type of public land managed by the USFWS that focuses on ensuring both people and wildlife thrive in nature. In the Portland-Vancouver Metro Area, there are four National Wildlife Refuges: Ridgefield, Steigerwald Lake, Tualatin River, and Wapato Lake. We call them “urban” National Wildlife Refuges because they represent an awesome opportunity for nearby nature exploration for a large, diverse, and vibrant population.


Position ID: PO-00735587

Expected Dates: January 8, 2024 - January 5, 2025

28908 NW Main Avenue
Ridgefield, OR 98642-8366

Training Provided: •Diversity, equity and inclusion training •Assisting/shadowing habitat, communication, and education professionals •Participation in USFWS employee resource and affinity groups

Educational/Recreational Opportunities: •Networking with a wide variety of partners and USFWS staff •Opportunities to visit other local National Wildlife Refuges and natural spaces •Mentorship opportunities

Professional Development Opportunities: Training and development: Depending on your needs and interests, opportunities include:

  • Diversity, equity and inclusion training
  • Networking with a wide variety of partners and USFWS staff
  • Assisting/shadowing habitat, communication, and education professionals
  • Opportunities to visit other local National Wildlife Refuges and natural spaces as well as community events.
  • Participation in USFWS employee resource and affinity groups

Handicap Accessible?: Yes

Main Area of Focus: Education and Interpretation

Further Details

AmeriCorps Eligible: Eligible

Driving Logistics: Recommended

Public transportation does serve the refuge, but commuting daily to the site will be much easier with a personal vehicle.

Housing or Stipend Provided?
D. No housing is available

Indoor/Outdoor: Inside

US Citizenship: Yes

Student Conservation Association