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 - Spring 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). 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 Spring 2019 course schedule. All Undergraduate UCSC students, regardless of major, are welcome to apply. Please contact us with your questions!


Grassland vegetation monitoring internship 2 interns
Assist Campus Natural Reserve staff with spring grassland and coastal prairie vegetation montoring for a variety of projects: 
  • Monitoring two lower campus grasslands as part of our campus's compliance with a Habitat Conservation Plan created when the Ranch View Terrace (faculty/staff housing by the Farm) was built in 2005. We will be collecting coverage, composition and plant height data along transects in an attempt to quantify habitat quality for the federally endangered Ohlone tiger beetle.
  • Monitoring post-burn coastal prairie vegetation in Lower Marshall Field as we investigate the effects of a fall 2018 prescribed burn.
  • Pre-burn vegetation surveys in West Marshall Field and Marshall Field prior to fall 2019 prescribed burns.
  • Monitoring plant coverage along Lower Moore Creek in an area that was replanted following in-drainage stormwater improvement work.
No prior experience is required, but we would prefer students with some interest and prior experience with plant identificaiton and data collection.
2 unit internships require 60 project hours over the course of the Quarter, in addition to several requirements from the ENVS Internship Office.
Much of the vegetation monitoring work would happen around the middle of the Quarter---late April through early May.
To apply, please send a statement of your interest and experience and a copy of your Spring Quarter schedule to Alex Jones at

CNR Stewardship 2 interns 

Shift times:

Mondays/Wednesdays 8:30-11:30 am
Fridays  10:45 am-4:45 pm

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.

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

Shift times

Mondays 12:00-6:00 pm
Wednesdays 8:00 am-2:00 pm
Wednesdays 11:00 am-5:00 pm
Thursdays 7:00 am-1:00 pm
Fridays 12:00-6:00 pm

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.


Natural History Education Practicum--Independent Study  4+ students

The Natural History Education Practicum (NHEP) will allow undergraduate students an opportunity to lead field sections for KRSG 3--Natural History Practicum, a 2-unit undergraduate course offered in Spring Quarter 2019. Up to 100 students will enroll in this 2-unit class, which will consist of a weekly evening seminar, a weekly field section, and indepedent field exercises. Each section will have 20-25 students. 
NHEP participants will complete an average of 6 hours per week to earn 2 units of credit as an Independent Study. Their time will consist of the following:
  • attend a weekly lecture (Tuesdays 7:10-8:45 pm in Kresge Classroom 321)
  • lead one weekly field section of up to 25 undergraduate peers (curriculum provided, with individual tweaks encouraged); co-leading will be an option if we get enough leaders
         Section times:
         Tuesdays 8:00-9:35 am
         Tuesdays 5:20-6:55 pm
         Thursdays 8:00-9:35 am
         Thursdays 5:20-6:55 pm
  • develop a field lesson plan and activities for one field section
  • participate in NHEP mentoring sessions, during which you will learn common environmental education techniques and tools of the trade, and debrief field section experiences (led primarily by Alex Jones, UCSC Campus Natural Reserve Manager)
  • the opportunity to provide feedback on student field journals may also arise
****Please note that you do not need to be experienced with Natural History to do this! The most important thing is that you are comfortable facilitating discussion, and role-modeling enthusiasm and exploration!***
To apply, please fill out this application form by Friday, March 1st at 5 pm, but email Alex Jones ( to indicate your interest as soon as possible.
Contact Alex Jones with any questions, or if you need an application deadline extension because you will not know your Spring Quarter schedule by March 1st.


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:
    • April 12-15 (UCSC Campus/FERP)
    • April 26-29 (UCSC Fort Ord Natural Reserve---Marina, CA; camping option)

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.