Application deadline is Sunday January 24th, 11:59 PM EST
The National Park Service (NPS) is pleased to support the Scientists in Parks Fellows Program as a pathway for exemplary students in higher education (advanced undergraduate students and graduate students) to apply their skills and ideas to park-based challenges and solutions. The program offers 12-week paid positions which allow students to gain valuable work experience, explore career options, and develop leadership skills through mentorship and guidance while helping to advance NPS efforts on emerging management issues. Successful students may be eligible for non-competitive hire into federal positions for which they qualify following completion of all academic requirements.
Apply ecological research and develop communication tools for Sagebrush Steppe Restoration at Grand Teton National Park (Apply by Sunday, January 24th)
Grand Teton National Park
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change and evolve, project timelines and structure remain flexible and it may be necessary to postpone start dates, begin work remotely, or reformulate the project’s description. Should any development in the COVID-19 outbreak impair a project’s timeline or results, the SIP Team will work with the park and project mentors to assess the situation and determine the best course of action at that time.
POSITION PROJECT BACKGROUND
Grand Teton National Park’s Branch of Vegetation Ecology and Management (GRTE VEM) has been leading a large-scale and long-term habitat restoration of 4,500 ac of non-native pastureland to sagebrush steppe, which was identified as a park priority in its strategic planning effort—Grand Teton Next. Between 2009 and 2019, VEM removed smooth brome and seeded native species in 1,320 ac. The project has exceptional support from the park and park partners, with a financial and personnel commitment to continue restoration for years into the future. Because of this large investment, we recently entered a partnership with the University of Wyoming to fully evaluate the outcomes thus far using eleven years of monitoring data. This research is also examining functional traits as predictors of restoration outcome and of community stability in a changing climate. We anticipate these results will guide a redirection of management actions, indicators, and objectives. We want to ensure that this research is fully utilized to meet our management objectives by having a project focused on the following: 1) collecting targeted early-season monitoring data to fill the data gap of spring ephemerals—an ecologically important group 2) applying findings from the evaluation to guide future management options and revise the existing monitoring plan, including the incorporation of functional traits and 3) create and execute a science communication plan for this habitat restoration project.
This position is offered through the National Park Service’s Scientists in Parks Program in partnership with Ecological Society of America.
POSITION PROJECT DESCRIPTION
This position would work collaboratively with park vegetation ecologists to apply the results of recent research in sagebrush steppe habitat restoration at Grand Teton National Park to guide future restoration actions and monitoring. The project would also entail developing science communication tools appropriate for presenting results of the habitat restoration and future restoration plans to park managers, project partners, and the public. The responsibility level varies from following already-established protocols (a minor portion of the position), to recommending solutions from a range of options, to independently initiating and developing communication tools.
The SIP Fellow would work closely with the Branch Chief of Vegetation as well as other ecologists and biological science technicians in the division of Science and Resource Management. Some duties would be field-based to facilitate connection and understanding of the intact and restored sagebrush ecosystems and to fill identified data gaps. This would include early season monitoring sampling to record spring ephemerals, phenology monitoring, plant identification and vouchering, and collecting needed traits (seed mass, leaf area, plant height, etc.). The SIP Fellow would be responsible for accurate plant identification, following existing protocols, managing the data, and incorporating it into the analysis.
The SIP Fellow would examine statistical analyses of plant functional traits and composition and interpretation of implications for community stability to assist vegetation managers with developing an approach to future monitoring that includes functional traits. The SIP Fellow would use their technical expertise in ecology and ecological statistics to discuss and recommend options for optimizing study design, sampling, and revision of project objectives. This could also lead to the need to redevelop the monitoring plan (sampling protocols, the timing of sampling, analysis methods, writing R code for new analyses). The SIP Fellow would work with the supervisor to prioritize tasks as needed to revise a monitoring plan within the available three-month period.
The SIP Fellow would lead the development of a science communication plan for habitat restoration work. They would be responsible for coordinating with internal (e.g., Division of Interpretation and Partnerships) and external partners (e.g., The Nature Conservancy and University of Wyoming) to identify two or three communication tools and a plan to implement them. Examples of products could include blogs, short videos, or workshop development. A workshop for sagebrush managers is currently at the conceptual stage. The SIP Fellow will also likely develop the content during the summer season for finalization then —contingent upon COVID guidelines and scheduling— or in the near future.
Anticipated products include:
1) New field data would be compiled into existing monitoring data sets, special spring ephemeral project data, and an updated project plant species list; phenology data would be added to an existing multi-year dataset (administered by TNC).
2) A set of plant vouchers representing sagebrush steppe monitoring
3) Revised monitoring plan components including redefined objectives, sampling design, and new analysis methods based on traits.
4) Two or three science communication tools will be finalized, based on the intern’s selection of tools. These may include: a short video, a field blog, a Shiny App, a workshop integrating partners in restoration, or other tools.
5) A presentation on project outcomes–field or virtual–to park leadership and stakeholders
To be eligible for this position, applicants must be:
- U.S. citizen, 18 to 30 years of age (or a veteran up to age 35)
- Enrolled as an upper-level undergraduate (junior or senior) or graduate (Masters or Ph.D.) student that will not graduate prior to finishing your SIP Fellow Project (check each project descriptions to determine the estimated dates of completion)
- Applicant has already earned their undergraduate degree and is not currently enrolled, but has applied to attend graduate school beginning Fall 2021*
* In the event that you are selected as a SIP Fellow, proof of acceptance in the form of enrollment into a graduate program for Fall 2021 will be required before anything is awarded.
The successful candidate will be:
- Must have extensive understanding of ecological process, functional traits, and statistical methods to perform analyses of complex ecological datasets
- Proficient writing R code for data cleaning, management, analysis, and visualization
- Proficient with plant identification such that they can accurately identify sagebrush steppe grasses, forbs and shrubs to species
- Experience with various vegetation composition and trait sampling methods and study design
- Ability to collect vegetation data during long days in various weather conditions
- Knowledge of science communication tools and a self-starter attitude to develop ideas, propose tools to apply, and implement them
- Must have the ability to collaborate and build positive relationships with diverse people
The applicant must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. National between the ages of 18 and 30 years old inclusive, or veterans up to age 35. Prior to starting this position, a government security background clearance will be required.
The Branch Chief (supervisor) will mentor the fellow in park management processes and the integration of science and land management. The supervisor will share her professional network with the fellow, providing opportunities to build new relationships and collaborate with agency professionals and park partners. The fellow will be an expert in a sub-field and will be encouraged to share their perspective in interdisciplinary workgroups. The position will require frequent decision making, with the expectation that the fellow will learn to navigate when to make minor decisions independently in the field and when to bring the problem to the supervisor for collaborative solutions or prioritization.
The existing data and data to be collected is complex and could be analyzed in various ways as well as communicated to others through various story-based approaches. The fellow will apply critical thinking to select a path from a wide variety of options. The fellow will learn about processes for how the science and data results in the management outcome and will become an integral part of those processes as a technical expert. The supervisor would provide mentoring and coaching and would guide how the management questions and needs to drive the approach. In addition to the supervisor, the fellow would interact closely with and learn from park ecologists, physical scientists, and interpretation staff as well as ecologists from I&M, the regional and national office, and partnering TNC, Native Plant Society, and academia.
DATES OF POSITION
Approximate start date of the position: 5/17/2021
Eleven weeks of the internship will be in the park. A mandatory Professional Development Workshop will be held in Washington, D.C. from August 1 – 5, 2021.
This initiative supports one student at full time work for $500/week for 11-12 weeks. In order to meet DHA requirements, students must work a minimum of 440 total hours to qualify.
VEHICLE AND DRIVER LICENSE REQUIREMENTS
Applicant must have a valid drivers license and a good driving record.
A personal vehicle is RECOMMENDED but not required for this position.
HOUSING & TRAVEL
The SIP Fellows program provides a travel stipend to all fellows to supplement the cost of student travel to the park site.
Park housing is available and will be provided at no cost to the participant. Housing is likely a private bedroom with a shared kitchen and bathroom. A bed and basic furniture are provided. Fellow must bring all bedding, kitchenware, and cleaning supplies.
The SIP Fellow will work in Grand Teton National park in the sagebrush steppe ecosystem at 6,000 – 7,000’ elevation. The terrain is flat but uneven. The SIP Fellow will be expected to hike off-trail up to two miles from the road. There is high exposure to the sun with little shade. The weather can be cold and very windy, or hot and sunny. Hazards include driving or riding in a vehicle, poor footing on uneven terrain, heat, cold, thunderstorms, stinging insects, and large mammals (grizzly and black bears, moose, elk, bison). Additionally, the fellow will work in an office setting at a computer for extended periods of time.
Supervisor: Laura Jones
Application deadline is Sunday January 24th, 11:59 PM EST