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 - Fall 2021

NOTICE: We expect to hold in-person internships for Fall 2021, but it will depend on where we are at with the COVID-19 pandemic. In solidarity with public health!

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!

To apply to any of the projects below, please fill out this form. All undergraduate UCSC students, regardless of major, are welcome to apply. Please contact us with your questions!


Internship Descriptions

Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) woody plant recensus--50+ interns needed
Shift times:  Our shifts run in a 6 hour block, once per week. 
Schedule TBD
Participate in research on the Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) as a technician responsible for gathering data on our long-term woody plant census project. You will work in a small crew of fellow students, find tagged trees, measuring their diameter, and tag and map new-recruit stems. The majority of the work will be field work. You will go out into the forest of Upper Campus for 9 of the 10 weeks in the quarter for 6 hours at a time. The final 6 hour shift will be made up of various assignments throughout the quarter: a short trigonometry worksheet describing how we map trees on the plot, a reading response to a peer-reviewed paper about the FERP, and creation of an illustrated field guide to at least 5 of the common FERP woody plant species. 
Your field crew will be approximately 3-6 or more people, depending on how many folks we're able to recruit, and would likely be led by an undergraduate student with experience on the FERP or on other forest ecology projects on UCSC's Upper Campus. The internship is a great way to explore your interest in forest ecology in a really convenient way---it's right on campus and is only a 60 hour commitment, plus the ENVS Internship Office's requirements (see below). 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, but not enough for everyone. 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.


Stewardship internship--2-3 interns needed

Shift times:  Our shifts run in a 6 hour block, once per week (potentially two 3 hour blocks per week) 
Schedule TBD

Assist with a wide variety of stewardship tasks on the Campus Natural Reserve and surrounding campus natural lands. Projects include the following: (1) woody plant removal from coastal prairie, (2) coastal prairie monitoring pre-prescribed burn management; (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, (7) grazing monitoring in coastal prairie (residual dry matter data collection), and (8) installing signs and fences. 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.

Small Mammal Undergraduate Research in Forests (SMURF)--4-6 interns needed

Shift times:  Variable schedule spread out through the Quarter, with most hours coming from two or more 3-day trapping sessions.
Schedule TBD

The Small Mammal Undergraduate Research in the Forest (SMURF) program is a collaboration between EEB and ENVS graduate students, UCSC undergraduates, the UC Natural Reserve System, and The UCSC Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History that monitors long term small mammal population dynamics in the UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) and occasionally other UCSC Natural Reserves. 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 project organization. In addition to field work, students complete assignments allowing them to gain experience observing small mammal specimens and writing a short grant proposal. 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

  • Capable of lifting and carrying ~20lbs of weight

  • Excellent communication and team work skills

  • Must be available to attend scheduled trapping sessions, which occur on ~ two weekends per Quarter

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


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.