Fire Ecology Intern

Expected Dates
May 11, 2020 to August 16, 2020
USFWS Alaska Region Office
Position ID
The intern will assist the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Regional Fire Ecologist on field projects and will be responsible for data entry into computer databases. This position provides a variety of experiences for the intern ranging from fieldwork in one of only two road-accessible National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) in Alaska to working in remote tundra in the southwestern part of the state. The position will be based in Anchorage, Alaska but field projects will be predominantly on the Kenai NWR based in Soldotna, AK and the Yukon Delta, based out of Bethel. The position will require mandatory training including bear safety, 12-gauge shotgun proficiency, and aviation safety. Applicants should have an interest in plant and/or fire ecology and the ability to work for extended periods out of a remote tent camp with no amenities, no cell phone/internet connectivity, and potentially limited ability to charge personal electronic devices.  

Candidates need to possess familiarity with botanical and other biological data collection protocols and should be comfortable hiking and camping in challenging environments with minimal support. 

The projects are as follows:
1. Post-fire plots on Kenai NWR. The intern will work in a group of 2-3 people to document the effects of the 2019 Swan Lake Fire on vegetation. Sampling will likely occur on pre-fire plots. A variety of vegetation sampling methods will be used to measure the following: burn severity point-intercept for plant cover, individual tree measurements using standard forestry techniques (density, diameter at breast height, height, crown radius, etc.), downed woody debris, shrub density, and seedling counts. 

2. Establishment of post-fire and unburned vegetation plots on Yukon Delta NWR. Permanent vegetation plots will be established in tundra burns that occurred in 2015 and in nearby unburned habitat. A point-intercept method will be used to quantify cover of different plant species. Active layer depth (depth of seasonally thawed soil above permafrost) will also be surveyed. Fieldwork may involve camping in primitive tent camps for up to 3 weeks. 

Fieldwork will involve working in sometimes difficult environmental conditions. Weather can be extremely variable, and the intern may be working in hot (up to 90 degrees F), or cold/wet/windy conditions. Mosquitos and biting flies can be plentiful, requiring the use of insect repellent and headnets. Fieldwork will be conducted in bear country, requiring all personnel to undergo bear and firearm safety training, pass a shooting test, and carry a 12 gauge shotgun and bear spray in the field. Additional safety training includes first aid, aviation safety, and aviation dunker training. 

Compensation amounts:
  • $1,300 - one time RT travel allowance
  • $1,000 - monthly housing allowance 
  • $200 - weekly living allowance

*All allowances subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes
*Please note this position is NOT eligible for an AmeriCorps education award

  • The position will be based in Anchorage, Alaska, but considerable time will be spent in the field. Anchorage is a mid-sized city of about 300,000 people. The FWS office is located in midtown. Summer weather is cool and often wet, with highs generally in the range of 60 - 70 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes reaching into the 80s. Housing is available in shared University of Alaska dorm suites or on the private market. For Kenai fieldwork, the refuge office is based in Soldotna, AK on the Kenai Peninsula, about 150 road miles south of Anchorage. The Kenai Peninsula Borough has approximately 58,000 residents, but tourists flood the area in summer, many attracted by the area’s world famous fishing opportunities. Housing while working on Kenai NWR will either be in refuge bunkhouse facilities or in a hotel with lodging costs covered by FWS. The Yukon Delta NWR is based in Bethel, a remote community of 6,250 people located about 400 miles from Anchorage; it serves as a regional hub for over 50 communities on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. There are no roads leading to Bethel or surrounding communities, so access is via plane or boat in summer. The population of Bethel and surrounding villages is primarily Native Alaskan. Fieldwork will likely be conducted out of tent camps approximately 75 miles northwest of Bethel.
  • Required training will be provided: Bear and firearm safety, CPR/First Aid, aviation and dunker training, Federal computer training. The intern will receive training in how to conduct fieldwork and enter data.
  • When in Anchorage, there are opportunities to engage in a variety of outdoor recreational activities: hiking, biking, fishing, frisbee-golf courses, and numerous city parks. Cultural activities are also abundant, including live music, restaurants, etc.
  • Yes
Main Area of Focus
Natural Resources Mgmt
Education, Training & Skills Expected
degree minor or extensive experience
some coursework or experience
Resource Management
some coursework or experience
competent with supervision
Data Entry
competent with supervision
Field Research
some experience
competent with supervision
Plant Identification
competent with supervision