UCSC Campus Natural Reserve Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI Fall 2015) interns measure tree growth rates.

"Through my experience on the reserve, I learned of my passion for field work. I am excited to say this internship has made me realize how much I really enjoy being out in the field and learning through hands-on teaching methods." -FERP intern, ENVS Freshman, Spring 2018

- FERP Intern, Freshman, Spring 2018

CNR intern observes tree growth rings in core sampleEach university quarter, UCSC undergraduates from a variety of majors intern with UC Santa Cruz Campus Natural Reserve staff. The UCSC Environmental Studies Internship Office and additional agencies across campus facilitate the ability for students to earn credit for taking part in our offerings. Students range from first-quarter freshman to graduating seniors and each spends between 6 and 15 hours a week working on a variety of projects on the reserve. Reserve staff and paid student crew leaders lead interns in a wide variety of field-based research and hands-on-learning experiences in and around our 409-acre Reserve; a unique living laboratory and outdoor classroom.


UCSC Campus Natural Reserve Internships - Winter 2019

An average of 6 hours per week of internship work (field and lab) will earn you 2-credits through the  ENVS Internship Office (see their website for other internship requirements beyond the 6-hour requirement). Internship shifts typically happen in one 6 hour block, one day per week. Our internships require a sense of adventure and willingness and ability to work off-trail in sometimes challenging terrain. Poison oak is abundant, and though we provide coverall suits, gloves, and Technu, participation isn’t recommended if you know you are highly sensitive to poison oak. To apply for any of the following internships, with the exception of the SMURF internship (see application instructions for SMURF below): send an email to describing your interest and ranking your choices. Also include your Winter 2019 course schedule. All Undergraduate UCSC students, regardless of major, are welcome to apply. Please contact us with your questions!

CNR Stewardship 2 interns---INTERNSHIP FULL

Plan and implement restoration and trail maintenance projects including vegetation monitoring, invasive species removal, erosion control, trail maintenance, forest trash clean-ups, and installation/removal of fences and signs.

Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) woody plant re-census 50 interns (!)


Mondays: 9-3
Tuesdays: 10:15-4:15
Wednesdays: 8-2
Thursdays: 9-3
Fridays: TBD

This is our biggest-need project of the upcoming year, as the re-census is a major undertaking! Work as a forest ecology field technician on the second woody plant re-census on the Forest Ecology Research Plot. Interns will work in small crews to remeasure the diameter of trees, shrubs, and saplings mapped in prior census work and add in new woody plant recruits as we build our understanding of forest dynamics on a local and global scale. Established in 2007, the FERP is the largest research project on UCSC lands, and is affiliated with a global network of forest plots administered by the Smithsonian Institute's Center for Tropical Forest Science. In addition to field work, interns will complete three FERP assignments: a mapping worksheet, complete a reading response of a peer-reviewed forest ecology paper, and create their own illustrated personal field guide to at least 5 species woody plants on the FERP (no drawing skills required).  Interns will be expected to complete full field shifts on 9 of the 10 weeks, and will use the remaining hours of their 60 hour internship requirement on their three FERP assignments. Visit for more information.

One of the FERP shifts (TBD) will also conduct monitoring for the two following projects on a bi-weekly basis (they will do re-census work one week, then monitoring work, alternating between these two projects for the Quarter:

Participate in ongoing bi-weekly surveys of a network of 115 phenology litter traps and reptile/amphibian coverboards across the UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot's 16 hectares. The litter traps capture fallen seeds, leaves, fruits, bark, etc. and allow us to track seasonal changes over time. Reptile and amphibian coverboards allow us to track distribution and relative abundance of herps within the FERP's mixed evergreen and redwood forests.  Interns working on these monitoring on this project will also participate in the FERP woody plant re-census on non-monitoring weeks. Additional work may include data entry.

Wildfire risk assessment---fuel load data collection  2 interns--INTERNSHIP FULL

Collect fuel load data by conducting Brown's Fuel Transects on a grid of Continuous Forest Inventory plots in UCSC's Upper Campus. Depending on your pre-existing GIS skill level, you might also be able to help with developing a fuel model that will allow us to assess the risk of wildfire in Upper Campus.


UCSC long-term photo point monitoring  2 interns

Develop a long-term photo monitoring project on UCSC main campus lands to visually document changing ecological and infrastructural conditions. Project will involve planning, visits to McHenry Library's historic photo archives, field work taking photographs, office work cataloging and editing photos, and the creation of a Goolge My Map (or GIS map) documenting the project. Prior experience with mapping software (ArcGIS and Google My Maps) and photography preferred.

Small Mammal Undergraduate Research in Forests (SMURF): 4-8 interns

The SMURF program is a collaboration between graduate students, the Ken Norris Center for Natural History, and the UCSC Natural Reserves that monitors long term small mammal population dynamics in the UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP). SMURF interns live-trap small mammals every quarter (including summer) and then use the data to examine environmental and ecological questions.

We offer 2-unit and 5-unit internships. All first-time volunteers must take the 2-unit course, which is an introduction to small mammal surveying and handling, data entry and management, and project organization. After completing the 2-unit course, interns can advance to the 5-unit course for the following quarter. The 5-unit course focuses on designing and conducting a research project, data analysis, scientific writing, and public speaking in addition to the further development of field skills.

Requirements for all SMURF interns:

  • Capable of working outdoors during hot or cold weather
  • Comfortable handling rodents
  • Willingness to be exposed to poison oak and ticks (coverall suits and gloves provided)
  • Capable of lifting and carrying ~20lbs of weight
  • Excellent communication and team work skills
  • Must be available to attend both trapping sessions on the following weekends:
    • TBD (Fort Ord Natural Reserve in Marina, CA)
    • TBD (UCSC Campus/FERP)

Requirements for 5-unit SMURF interns only:

  • Some background in scientific writing and statistics
  • Ability to work independently and formulate new ideas
  • A passion for conducting research in biology

How to Apply for SMURF: Please email Alex Jones (, Anna Nisi (, AND Chris Law ( with the following materials:

  • Your year, major, GPA, college, resume/CV, schedule of availability, and a brief paragraph describing your academic/career goals and what you hope to gain from this experience.

Additional Opportunities

In addition to our official offerings each quarter, we help students to design their own projects on the UCSC Campus Natural Reserve. Prospective applicants can contact our office with experiment, project, and thesis ideas. These opportunities are generally set up one or more quarters in advance, so that reserve staff can set aside appropriate time and resources. Select major programs allow for this work to apply toward degree credit. Contact our office for more details.