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. You would work on one of the following shifts, sticking with the same shift each week.
Monday 8 am-2 pm
Tuesdays 11:30 am-5:30 pm
Wednesdays 11:00 am-5:00 pm
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.


Field Inquiry Nature Exploration Mentors--8-12 independent study students needed

We’re inviting you to apply to join us as a peer mentor to help lead introductory nature explorations for Merrill College and Rachel Carson College. Field experiences will focus on nature observation and inquiry skills.  

Now in its third year, this project brings together a great team of campus faculty and staff, including the teaching teams of Rachel Carson College and Merrill College Core Classes, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the UCSC Campus Natural Reserve, and the Ken Norris Center for Natural History.

There is no specific background set of skills or experiences that are required to be a student mentor. That said, having some familiarity facilitating and teaching groups and some knowledge of ecology/natural history. Please don’t shy away if you are lacking experience in these categories-- we will provide you with training to get you up to speed. Regardless of your background, we’re very excited to teach you these skills and we’re confident that you will be an awesome member of our teaching team.Unless COVID comes roaring back, we are planning on having our program happen primarily in-person in Fall 2021, with the probably inclusion of a single remote section for each college.

Here are a few benefits that we think you’ll gain through this experience:

--Valuable transferable skills in group leadership, management, and teaching
--How to facilitate the core skills of observation and inquiry.  We’ll apply these skills to exploring the natural world, but ultimately these are fundamental critical thinking skills used in many disciplines.
--Basic ecology and natural history
--Work with other amazing student mentors and UCSC staff/faculty

Here are the main requirements of each student mentor:

1) View the introductory plenary session of the Merrill or Rachel Carson College core class

2) Participate in mentor training near the start of Fall Quarter 2021to practice and learn techniques of teaching/facilitating nature observation and inquiry, how to engage in nature observation yourselves, and how to manage groups.

--Sunday, October 3rd 10am-4pm
--One skill-building meeting during the day in Week 1
--Saturday, October 9th 1-5 pm
--One skill-building meeting during the day in Week 2
--Mid-quarter check-in meeting
--Final week potluck and eval and appreciation meeting

3) Lead, either solo or in pairs, several groups of students on outdoor nature explorations

There are several ways you can be involved in this project:

--2-unit Independent Study
--As part of CRSN 55 (2nd year CRSN 55 students)
--As part of your work as a CITL Undergraduate Fellow or Merrill Core Course Assistant (if you are already part of those programs)
--Volunteer (hours requirement flexible, but you must attend all mentor trainings, meetings, and lead the assigned number of FINE student/mentor meetings)

We look forward to hearing from you!

Alex Jones, UCSC Campus Natural Reserve
Chris Lay, Ken Norris Center for Natural History
Susan Watrous, Rachel Carson College Core Class
Jessie Dubreuil, Center for Teaching and Learning & Merrill College Core Class


Mammalogy internship--FULL

Shift times:  Variable schedule spread out through the Quarter
Schedule TBD

This quarter we will be piloting a new mammal internship that will allow interns to gain experience with natural history museum mammal specimens; participate in on-campus field trips focusing on mammal habitats, behavioral observation, tracking, camera trapping, and small mammal trapping; read topical literature and participate in seminar-style discussions. Interns will be supervised by Alex Jones, Campus Natural Reserve Manager, and Gizelle Hurtado, instructor for BIOE 124/L Mammalogy and Assistant Director of.  the UCSC Ken Norris Center for Natural History. They will assist Gizelle by helping to pull specimens for Mammalogy lab, and can sit in on some of the Mammalogy lectures and on-campus class field trips. Additionally, interns will learn skills of small mammal trapping through two training sessions and a 3-day trapping session.

Requirements of interns:

  • Flexible schedule with some M/W availablity between 1:30-5 pm, ideally some afternoon time on Tues and Thurs
  • Weekly Thursday 10:00-11:00 am meeting
  • Available to trap small mammals on campus on the following dates (times are negotiable depending on your class schedule):
    • Monday, Oct 25th: set traps ~3:30-5 pm
    • Tuesday, Oct 26th: check traps ~7:00-9:00 am
    • Wednesday, Oct 27th: set traps ~3:30-5 pm
    • Thursday, Oct 28th: check traps ~7:00-9:00 am
    • Friday, Nov 5th: set traps ~3:00-5:00 pm
    • Saturday, Nov 6th: check traps ~7:00-10:00 am
    • Saturday, Nov 6th: open traps ~4:00-5:00 pm
    • Sunday, Nov 7th: check traps ~7:00-10:00 am
    • Sunday, Nov 7th: open traps ~4:00-5:00 pm
    • Monday, Nov 8th: check and collect traps ~7:00-10:00 am


  • Capable of working outdoors during hot or cold weather

  • Comfortable handling rodents

  • Willingness to be exposed to poison oak and ticks (we will avoid as much as possible!)

  • Capable of lifting and carrying ~20lbs of weight

  • Excellent communication and team work skills

  • Must respond to all project 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.