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

"This internship has succeeded in helping me feel part of the UCSC community. I am learning more about the different career paths one can pursue if they decide to major in environmental sciences or studies, and I am expanding my knowledge of flora and fauna and how to identify them."

- CNR remote-learning intern, First year, Fall 2020

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 2024

An average of 6 hours per week of internship work 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. 

Our general expectations for interns are as follows:
  • Use this experience as an opportunity to practice your professionalism: be punctual, communicate clearly/often/in advance about absences, show up prepared with food, water, and appropriate field gear (winter may be wet).
  • Work hard---be helpful, look for the next task, be attentive to work flow.
  • Be safe---learn the hazards of your tasks and be attentive to your own and your crew member's safety while performing your duties.
  • Cooperate and work as a team---communicate your needs, be inclusive of others' needs and talents, have fun with each other and get to know each other as you work efficiently on your tasks.
  • Be proactive---if you fall behind on hours check in with me to come up with a plan to make them up.
  • Be curious and have fun---there are so many amazing things to discover out there!

Please wait to apply to internships until you have signed up for your winter classes.

All undergraduate UCSC students, regardless of major, are welcome to apply. Please contact us with your questions!


CNR Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) woody plant recensus--50 interns needed

Shift times:  Our shifts run in a 6 hour block, once per week. You would work on one shift consistently, sticking with the same shift each week unless you needed to make up hours by joining another shift.
Shift times TBD
Does the idea of spending six hours per week in the forest with new friends, feeling the winter sun filtering through the canopy, catching occasional rain drops, witnessing the first blooms and birdsong of the year, and collecting data for a globally-connected research project sound appealing? If so, we invite you to participate in research on the Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) as a field technician on our long-term woody plant census project. The FERP is part of the Smithsonian Institute's ForestGEO network: a global network of forest plots that are allowing us to track the dynamics of forest structure and composition around the world. You will work in a small crew of fellow students to find and measure tagged trees and tag and map new stems as we begin a recensus of the 16 hectare plot.
The FERP is part of the UCSC Upper Campus and is about a 25 minute walk from Science Hill. As an intern you will earn 2 units of credit by enrolling in ENVS 84 via the ENVS Internship Office. You will complete 60 hours of project work: 9 of 10 field shifts during the Quarter (54 hours total) and a few simple FERP assignments (6 hours).  Read more about the internship here.
The internship is a convenient way to explore your interest in forest ecology while contributing to vital global research. We see something new every time and it's a great way to meet people with similar interests. 
Special notes:
  • Make sure you're prepared with gear, etc.: We will provide you with tools, gloves, and other equipment needed for your specific project, but you'll be responsible for keeping yourselves comfortable and nourished. This means dressing in layers, having rain gear if it's going to rain, having sturdy shoes or rain boots if it will rain, a hat if it's sunny, etc. We have a few sets of rain gear and several pairs of rain boots. If you want to get your own you can get a cheap pair of rain pants and rain jacket online--doesn't have to be fancy, can be ~$20.  Also make sure to bring enough water and food, including snacks and lunch if your shift straddles that time period. A good attitude, willingness to work hard and have fun, and lots of curiosity and enthusiasm are really helpful as well. If you have a beater pair of shoes or boots, best to wear those, as they will definitely be exposed to poison oak oils.
  • If you know you are highly sensitive to poison-oak oils, the FERP is not for you ---we wear gloves and full-body coveralls, but your footwear, and your skin if you're not careful, will be exposed to poison-oak oils. It is a woody plant, so it's actually part of our study and we do actually measure it!
  • We will be out in the woods for a full 6 hours! In addition to the above information about staying warm, fed and hydrated, you may want to bring other supplies to keep yourself comfortable out there. We have some extra toilet paper and sanitary products, but you should plan ahead and be prepared to spend 6 hours away from campus.


 ***No longer accepting applications for Winter 2024*** SMURF--Small Mammal Undergraduate Research in Forests--4-6 interns needed

Shift times:  Regular meetings TBD;
Two to three weekends with the following schedule:
Fridays: set traps ~4:00-6:30 pm
Saturdays: check traps 7:00 am-11:00 am; open traps 4:00-6:00 pm
Sundays: check traps 7:00 am-11:00 am; open traps 4:00-6:00 pm
Mondays: check and collect traps 7:00 am-11:00 am
Apply here: application period closed for Winter 2024

The Small Mammal Undergraduate Research in the Forest (SMURF) program monitors long term small mammal population dynamics in the UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) and possibly other locations in the Santa Cruz Mountains. SMURF undergraduate interns trap small mammals every quarter and then use the data to examine environmental and ecological questions.

Description of intern positions:

We offer 2-unit and 5-unit internship. All first-time interns 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 interns:

  • Capable of working outdoors during hot or cold weather

  • Comfortable handling rodents

  • Willingness to be exposed to poison oak and ticks (we provide coverall suits and gloves and have a few pairs of rain boots to lend)

  • Capable of lifting and carrying ~20lbs of weight

  • Excellent communication and team work skills

  • Must be available to attend scheduled trapping sessions

  • Must respond to all SMURF emails within 24 hours of receipt


 ***No longer accepting applications for Winter 2024***CNR Stewardship--2 interns needed

Shift times:  Tuesdays 9:30-3:30 (subject to change)
Apply here: application closed for Winter 2024

Assist with a wide variety of stewardship tasks on the Campus Natural Reserve and surrounding campus natural lands. Stewardship projects include the following: (1) woody plant removal from coastal prairie, (2) coastal prairie monitoring (3) management of invasive plant species, including surveillance, monitoring, identification, mapping, and removal, (4) trail maintenance and erosion control on reserve trails, (5) assisting with trail closures, (6) cleaning out abandoned camps and other forest and meadow trash piles, and (7) installing signs and fences.

We will spend a significant amount of time conducting habitat management and adult Ohlone tiger beetle surveys in coastal prairie habitats as well. This will provide you with a basic background on the ecology and management of this endemic endangered species.

Throughout the course of the Quarter interns will visit diverse habitats in various portions of the Campus Natural Reserve, and will pick up some natural history of various plants and animals along the way. Internships require punctuality, a strong work ethic, and the ability to work outside in all weather conditions in rough, uneven terrain and in dense thickets. Interns will gain experience with a wide variety of skills needed to manage and maintain a natural reserve that receives significant human use. Training on the safe use of hand tools will be provided. Interns should wear closed-toed shoes, long pants, and should have a long-sleeved upper layer they can put on when we work in dense vegetation. Interns should also bring lunch and enough water for the day (1 to 2 liters). Alex Jones, UCSC Campus Natural Reserve Manager, will communicate each week's meeting location via email or text, so it is extremely important to be diligent with checking your UCSC email account and phone.


Campus Natural Reserve Rapid Assessment

ENROLL IN CRSN 152-02 (K. Heady instructor; mandatory class meeting Tuesdays 11:40 am-1:15 pm)

Shift times:  Following training you will be able to determine your own schedule in conjunction with other interns or IDEASS students

After training with the Campus Natural Reserve manager, you will work with fellow students from IDEASS (CRSN 152-03) to survey the newly expanded Campus Natural Reserve. The rapid assessment will include navigating on and off-trail and using a mobile data collection platform (you know, an offline app, not some kind of cool hovering and scooting platform that you'd sit on and cruise through the forest whilst collecting data) to record photographs, a variety of human impacts, rare species, invasive species, and more, within 50m2 grid cells across the reserve. Field work will be done in groups of two or more students. This will be an excellent way to get to know campus natural lands while contributing valuable information that will inform reserve management.

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.