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, 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 - Spring 2020

NOTICE: As per communications from EVC Kletzer on 16 March 2020, all in-person academic activities, including field courses and field internships, are cancelled for Spring Quarter. We at the CNR will be working on options for remote-learning internships. Please check back in periodically or email Alex at for the latest information. In solidarity with public health!

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). 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. See internship descriptions below for directons on how to apply. All Undergraduate UCSC students, regardless of major, are welcome to apply. Please contact us with your questions!


CNR Stewardship 2 interns 

Shift times:

TBD (two 3-hour shifts per week)

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. You'll learn how to use a variety of hand tools while spending time in beautiful places and helping maintain our incredible campus.

Apply:  fill out this form


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

Shift times

TBD (one 6-hour shift per week)

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.

Apply: fill out this form


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

The SMURF program is a collaboration between graduate students and the UCSC Natural Reserves that monitors long term small mammal population dynamics in the UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) and other UCSC campus locations. SMURF interns live-trap small mammals each quarter, with some continuing on to 5 unit internships where they 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 (training provided)
  • 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 weekend and weekday dates:
    • TBD

Requirements for 5-unit SMURF interns only:

  • Previous participation in 2-unit SMURF internship
  • 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 ( and Anna Nisi (, with the following materials:

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


Long-term photo point monitoring 2 interns 

Shift times:

TBD (flexible)

Develop a long-term photo monitoring project on UCSC main campus lands to visually document changing ecological and infrastructural conditions. Both office and field work required. Prior experience with mapping software (ArcGIS and Google My Maps) and photography preferred.

Apply:  fill out this form


Plant monitoring: grassland and chaparral 2-6 interns 

Shift times:

TBD (likely two 3-hour shifts per week)

Assist with gathering baseline vegetation composition and cover data in recently burned northern maritime chaparral habitats. We will conduct line-intercept surveys along established transects. You will also be able to participate in baseline data collection in coastal prairie habitats, where we will be conducting an invasive perennial grass experiment this fall.

Apply:  fill out this form


Endangered species monitoring: Ohlone tiger beetle 2 interns 

Shift times:

TBD (likely two 3-hour shifts per week--~11 am-2 pm)

Assist with adult and larval burrow surveys for the federally endangered Ohlone tiger beetle (OTB). OTB are endemic to Santa Cruz County and breed in a couple areas of the UCSC campus. We are required to monitor OTB as part of the Habitat Conservation Plan that was established by UCSC and the US Fish and Wildlife Service with the Ranch View Terrace facutly/staff housing development was built in 2005. Interns will learn and participate in surveys, which involve repeatedly walking through beautiful wildflower filled meadows looking very carefully for and counting small, jewel-like tiger beetles and their small, circular larval burrows. Interns will also assist with creating text, maps, and graphs for an annual report on OTB monitoring. The internship will also involve reading and summarizing relevant OTB literature.

Apply:  fill out this form


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.