Paint Rock Interns

Expected Dates
May 16, 2022 to November 13, 2022
Paint Rock Forest Research Center
Position ID
Participants will work with some of the world’s top evolutionary biologists to conduct a detailed census of trees in one of North America’s richest forests in the Paint Rock River Valley. The census protocol, developed in coordination with Smithsonian Institute by UCLA distinguished professor Stephen Hubbell and Chicago Field Museum’s Rick Condit, in essence creates a massive outdoor laboratory over 150 acres where the lives and fates of each tree can be followed for 50 years. Every stem bigger than a pencil is precisely geolocated, identified, measured, tagged and mapped — some 75,000 shrubs and trees in all, then re-censused ever 4 to 5 years. Data derived from this census will provide important new insights into how forests assemble, why rich forests have so many rare species, how forests will survive, and how forests mitigate and are affected by climate change and human impacts. It will be the largest and most biologically rich forest dynamics plot in North America when completed.

Teams of two to three students each will work in tandem to census the plot one quadrat at a time — each quadrat being about the size of a typical house lot. Sophisticated rangefinders will be combined with tried and true survey methods to determine the location of each tree, which will be measured, numbered and tentatively identified by species. Computer data entry will be done on days when field work is not appropriate. Training all be done by Condit, Hubbell and census veterans. There will be multiple opportunities to interact with top scientists from multiple universities doing research on the site — including UCLA, universities in Alabama and Georgia, Clemson, Yale and Maine. In September, a special symposium of top scientists will feature the work done on the plot, and students will be invited to participate free of charge. Comfortable on-campus housing will be made available to students a short walk from where the research plot is located.

The work is sometimes meticulous, but rewarding and often breathtaking, and the unusual mature forests of Paint Rock give students an opportunity to experience a forest and nature in a way few others can. The Paint Rock Valley sits in the center of deciduous forest diversity and cave diversity in North America, and the Paint Rock River is a global hotspot for aquatic diversity.

Living Allowance $400 per week
Relocation Travel Allowance $1,100 (one-time)

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
Beginning on 1/18/22, all new SCA volunteer program participants are required to be fully vaccinated. 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.

  • Paint Rock Forest Research Center, 3400 Jackson County Road 10, Garth, Alabama —-about 35 minutes from Huntsville and 1 hour and 15 minutes from Chattanooga. The preserve includes more than 4000 acres of forest, owned by The Nature Conservancy and The Paint Rock Forest Research Center
  • Students will be trained in the latest forest dynamics measuring techniques, using both traditional survey methods and state of the art range finding and mapping. Students will leave with a good foundation in identifying natural communities and species.
  • As noted, interactions with the nation’s top researchers, from UCLA, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Yale and Maine, will be a daily part of work on the site. The Valley is rich in natural recreational opportunities on the river and in the forests.
  • No
Main Area of Focus
Natural Resources Mgmt
Education, Training & Skills Expected
some coursework or experience
some coursework or experience
Earth Sciences
some coursework or experience
Data Entry
competent with supervision
Field Research
some experience
some experience
Plant Identification
some experience