Backcountry Biology Technicians

Expected Dates
May 9, 2022 to September 30, 2022
Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
Position ID
Beginning on 1/18/22, all new SCA volunteer program participants are required to be fully vaccinated for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized or FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine. Full vaccination is defined as having received a booster shot six months after the Pfizer and Moderna primary series and two months after the Johnson & Johnson primary series.

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is in southwest Montana along the Montana-Idaho border in the Centennial Mountain Valley approximately 50 miles west of Yellowstone National Park.  The Refuge comprises the largest wetland complex in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem at an approximate valley elevation of 6700 feet.  It resides in a wilderness area and is bordered on one side by the Centennial Mountains leveling out onto a mosaic of wetlands, and then into semi-arid grasslands and sagebrush.  

Grizzly bears are present on the landscape at the Refuge, along with elk, deer, wolves, mountain lions, pronghorn, moose, swans, and numerous waterfowl species.  
Summers are short and generally mild, with temperatures rarely exceeding the mid-80s, but with very chilly mornings sometimes dipping below freezing – it can snow during any month at the Refuge.  Mosquitos also abound during spring and summer months.
Due to its remoteness, shopping for groceries and immediate medical care are upwards of two hours away, with the closest communities being Idaho Falls, Idaho (110 miles), Rexburg, ID (102 miles), Dillon, Montana (84 Miles), and West Yellowstone, Montana (50 miles).  Housing is provided by the Refuge.

Expected entry on duty date will be 9 May through the end of September. 

 There are four (4) major work projects:

willow browse surveys:  designed to inform Refuge management team on severity of ungulate browse and impact on landscape carrying capacity; will be used to make a decision on whether to increase moose harvest numbers; will/can be intensive and require working in wet areas in intensive sun and mosquitos; will require complete and quality statistical analysis, graphs, charts, tables, figures, etc.; program R can be used in comparing this year’s data to previous years’, but likely not necessary – simple R2 / regression / correlation analysis will suffice; this data and report will be viewed by state biologist, Refuge management team, Refuge biologist, and zone biologist; this project will also require maintenance of browse exclosures by driving in loose stakes and reinforcing poly-fence to stakes – maintenance of these exclosures will be physically arduous; proficiency with a GPS, GIS map-making for onsite navigation, plotting points w/ GPS and uploading points into GIS, using AVENZA maps, using excel, and legibly recording data in the field is of paramount importance for this project

invasive species management:  designed to manage and prevent spread of invasives on the Refuge and inform the management team of problem areas; requires a MT Dept. of Ag. pesticide license; very labor intensive project requiring daily detailed notes taken, daily herbicide inventory and amounts used to be recorded, properly recorded data sheets whose data is regularly incorporated into GIS mapping; overseeing the safe and proper mixing and application of numerous different herbicides for different weed species; wearing a 4 gallon (45lb) backpack sprayer and traversing uneven and steep terrain 8+ hours a day; using an ATV/UTV to haul a pull-behind sprayer for herbicide application along roadsides; working in warm temperatures with biting mosquitos; proficiency with a GPS, GIS map-making for onsite navigation, plotting points w/ GPS and uploading points into GIS, using AVENZA maps, using Microsoft excel, and legibly recording data on worksheets is paramount; will regularly coordinate work logistics with the Refuge NGO partner – the CVA; ability to positively identify invasive weeds is a must; responsible for cleaning, organizing, and proper storage of all chemicals and equipment related to herbicide application; requires a highly detailed end of year report encompassing, but not limited to: outlining areas sprayed, herbicides used and amounts, area-type, weed type, next year’s recommendations, leftover herbicide inventory, and all things associated with herbicide application

mountain camera trap surveys:  designed to inventory forest megafauna with an emphasis on capturing carnivores – specifically: black and grizzly bears, wolves, mountain lions, lynx, pine martens, and wolverines; very rewarding but exceptionally arduous mountain work; entails camera placement/checking/baiting of 13 cameras once a month; categorization of/by species by/for each camera is required with each monthly check; further breaking down data includes, but is not limited to: time of day, number of distinct individuals of each species, number of same individuals on same and different cameras, number of visits of distinct and new individuals, sex of animals captured, weather/temperature conditions corresponding to captures; end of year report for this project will contain all categorized data for each camera in summary; previous years data will also be incorporated into end of year report

mountain bluebird nest box/survey:  designed to facilitate a better understanding of the needs, nest success, competition from swallows (and other birds), and placement of bluebird boxes at the Refuge; time intensive - requires checking miles of boxes for species, eggs, and fledglings that leave the nest, then recording observations and data on data sheets; requires transferring raw data from sheets into excel and subsequent minor statistical analysis; this project will be significantly supported by the aid of a volunteer(s); previous raw data and observations need to be incorporated into a/the final report as well and should be used as a kind of benchmark to understand the scope of this project before it begins; final report must entail all of above mentioned data for each box and reach a detailed conclusion based on data gathered and observations made as to how the Refuge will/should proceed with number of future boxes to put out, locations of current and future boxes, and the distance apart/together they should be for maximum bluebird nest success

In addition to these work projects, weather permitting, other duties may include but are not limited to:
  • temporary fence repair and installation (electric) and wildlife drop fence
  • aspen seed collection (if it’s a late spring and you get here in time – this sometimes happens in mid-late spring)
  • boundary sign replacement
  • maintenance of an interpretive native pollinator/wildflower “garden” for the visitor center
  • campground fee collection / maintenance
  • facilities maintenance – staining, painting, mowing, etc. (generally later in the year)
  • riparian creek restoration, songbird, and grouse projects
  • leg banding of waterfowl at a neighboring Refuge (late summer – generally after Labor Day in September)
  • some habitat/invasive plant work at a neighboring Refuge

*IMPORTANT*  The Refuge has a large population of grizzly bears on the landscape.  Work will be performed in areas where bears are known to be present.  If you feel you cannot overcome this danger and fear, you should not apply.

Please take the time to make an informed decision about working at the Refuge by performing an internet search to learn more about it and its location.
Compensation amounts:

  • $1,100 - one time RT travel allowance
  • $300- weekly living allowance
  • $100- Monthly housing allowance (paid to FWS)
  • AmeriCorps eligible ($2,417 education award)

*All allowances subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes
** It is SCA’s policy that all AmeriCorps-required background checks must return cleared results prior to the position’s start; this includes being fingerprinted for the FBI check. Otherwise, the AmeriCorps award will be removed or the position’s start date will be delayed due to non-compliance.

Conditions of Employment
Required to demonstrate full vaccination status for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized or FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine;
Receive from SCA a reasonable accommodation granting an exemption from vaccine requirements based on a medical disability or because of a sincerely held religious belief. Additional information and instructions regarding how to request a reasonable accommodation will be provided at the time of selection.

  • Lakeview, MT - Refuge HQ is located in the high elevation (6,700’) Centennial Mountain Valley with mountains at near 10K’. Mountains are forested and valley consists of lakes, wetlands, cool-season grasslands and sage-steppe. 15 miles south of Lima, MT and 28 miles east down a dirt/gravel road.
  • bear spray training
    ATV/UTV training
    wilderness first aid training
    hands-on training to perform biological projects
  • wildlife/bird/moose watching
    wilderness backpacking
    continental divide trail
    landscape/wildlife photography
    trail hiking
  • Yes
Main Area of Focus
Wildlife Mgmt
Education, Training & Skills Expected
degree major or professional experience
Earth Sciences
some coursework or experience
Mathematics & Data Analysis
some coursework or experience
competent without supervision
competent without supervision
Leadership Experience
competent with supervision
All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
competent without supervision
Orienteering compass skills
competent without supervision