Biological Science Technician

 In Mosaics in Science
A Mosaics Intern is an entry level natural resource science internship that focuses on career exploration and building fundamental natural resource science skills. Each Mosaics Intern will receive a weekly stipend of $400, park-provided housing or a housing allowance and paid travel expenses. Interns who successfully complete 640 hours of work in one or more eligible internships and are under the age of 26 will be eligible for the Public Land Corps Non-competitive Hiring Authority for 120 days following the completion of the internship. Successful completion of a Mosaics in Science internship does not guarantee that the participant will be hired in to a federal position.  

The Mosaics in Science Program is focused on persons that are under-represented in STEM fields. Students and recent graduates that are African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American are encouraged to apply for these internships. In order to be eligible for a MIS intern position, applicants must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent legal resident ("green-card-holder”) between the ages of 18 and 35 years old.  

Position Description:
The National Park Service (NPS) in collaboration with the University of Florida (UF) will assess the potential ecological impacts of recovering green turtle populations at Buck Island Reef National Monument (BUIS), St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Mosaics intern will assist academic researchers and resource managers during Spring 2017 to evaluate:

1. Responses of Caribbean seagrass pastures to increased turtle grazing intensity (simulated by artificial grazing) and changes in environmental nutrient availability.
2. Behavioral responses of green turtles to experimental manipulations in seagrass productivity in naturally grazed pastures, using stationary video cameras. This Client research project pairs interns with exceptional mentors from the National Park Service and a high caliber academic institution.

 
This opportunity will provide the intern with precisely the kind of "on-the-job” training and career development guidance necessary to succeed in a competitive job market.

Background: As sea turtle conservation efforts succeed and populations recover, we need to evaluate the potential impacts of increasing populations on ecosystem resources.  Despite being severely over-exploited over the last two centuries, recent studies have shown that many populations of the endangered green sea turtle have been increasing over the last two decades (Chaloupka et al. 2010).  Green turtles, a marine mega-herbivore, are the primary consumers of seagrass worldwide (Bjorndal 1980). However, seagrasses and populations of key predators of sea turtles, large sharks, are rapidly declining globally, resulting in loss of resources and top-down control of grazing in seagrass ecosystems (McLeod et al 2011, Jackson et al. 2001).  A recent study conducted in Indonesia revealed that the intensive grazing by a high-density green turtle population resulted in habitat collapse (Christianen et al. 2013).  Increasing green turtle populations may have similar impacts in other regions in which they are abundant, including the Caribbean.

Understanding the role of green turtles in seagrass ecosystem processes is critical to developing ecosystembased management plans, and requires an experimental approach that evaluates both resource and behavior responses to changes in green turtle abundance. Resource managers at Buck Island Reef National Monument (BUIS) have documented increases in both nesting (adult) and foraging (juvenile and adult) green turtle populations since 1994 (Hart et al. 2013) but have not assessed seagrass coverage or composition within BUIS since 1999 (Kendall et al. 2004).  Long-term, landscape-level changes in seagrass biomass and green turtle abundance has yet to be investigated.  Researchers will model this interaction to assess ecosystem function and create management tools.  It is also critical that resource managers establish a new baseline for the seagrass ecosystem prior to the impending invasion of the invasive seagrass species Halophila stipulacea (which has already been documented in nearby parks and waters). The proposed project will address a critical conservation issue that will provide important insights into the potential ecological impacts of a recovering endangered species on seagrass ecosystem function and community dynamics. The results will provide a foundation for new conceptual models that will aid the development of ecosystem-based approaches to conservation.  Furthermore, without these data resource managers cannot accurately assess the carrying capacity of the current (or projected park) to support green turtles and therefore are unable to implement effective management action.

This position is offered through the National Park Service's Mosaics in Science Internship Program in partnership with Environment for the Americas and Greening Youth Foundation.

Work Products: The Mosaics intern participating in this project will: 1) assist Park Service personnel and external research collaborators with the monitoring of endangered species populations within park boundaries and the assessment of vulnerable marine habitats and natural resources, 2) promote community awareness of Park Service objectives and local resource management issues and actions that are applicable to other National Parks, 3) provide an opportunity for aspiring young environmental stewards to become engaged in scientific research, hands on experience, and leadership training as they ascend through their careers, 4) allow the Park Service to cultivate the next generation of natural resource managers by passing on institutional knowledge critical to the success of the agency mission. The agency mission is realized by engaging young creative minds that can assist with the development of broad outreach materials to effectively educate and connect with a diverse community.

In addition, data collected during this research project will also be used to develop predictive models that can be used to test/project the effect of various management action and climate change scenarios on endangered and threatened species and associated habitat. We also fully expect multiple peer reviewed publications to stem from this research.

Housing will be close enough for the Mosaics intern to walk to park headquarters where they will then have access to NPS vehicles. HOUSING Park housing is not provided. Although the park cannot offer housing, interns can confidently rely on the NPS network of support within this small Caribbean community.  The intern will share an apartment in downtown Christiansted. We have successfully worked with a local realtor for over 20+ years to provide housing arrangements for a wide variety of NPS affiliates. These arrangements ensure that the intern have lodging in a safe neighbor and are within walking distance to the NPS headquarters, grocery stores, post offices, banking, and other necessities. Lodgings are furnished and typically have Wi-Fi access. We are requesting a subsidy for housing costs associated with the high cost of lodging accommodations in remote/urban areas. Adequate housing typically costs $600-$800 per month and is more affordable and logistically advantageous when compared to NPS housing.

Physical/Natural Environment: Low elevation, coastal parks located within the tropical/semi-tropical Caribbean. This internship would overlap with Hurricane season. The Mosaics intern would participate in mandatory annual adverse/extreme weather training and incident command workshop (July).  The intern will have lodging in a safe neighbor located within walking distance to the NPS headquarters, grocery stores, post offices, banking, and other necessities. Lodgings are furnished and typically have Wi-Fi access.

Work Environment: The intern will be trained and then responsible for a variety of tasks including fieldwork and office/laboratory assignments. The Mosaics intern will be conducting scientific dives within the Monument and must adhere to NPS regulations and safety standards. The working environment is beautiful but needs to be respected. The field work is strenuous and is physically and mentally demanding. NPS has JHAs for each task and these will be reviewed with the intern prior to implementation. The intern will also be tasked with office and laboratory assignments such as data entry, video review, sample processing and preparation, and presentation development. 

Mentoring: The intern will be supervised by Clayton Pollock, Biologist and Park Dive Officer & Dive Examiner. Clayton has served as program manager for the RM division over the last 3 years and has provided mentorship and guidance for numerous youth volunteers, divers, and 3-5 interns annually during that time. Clayton started working for the NPS in 2008 as an SCA intern for the Buck Island Sea Turtle Research Program (BISTRP). He earned his Master's Degree from the University of the Virgin Islands in 2013 while participating in the Student Career Employment Program (SCEP; now known as Pathways) and was converted to a Biological Science Technician using the Students and Recent Graduates Hiring Authority. Clayton can relate to the challenges that a young person faces when entering the career field, share his experience and knowledge, and is motivated to assist interns as they develop their careers. In complementary contrast, the intern will also be able to learn from Zandy Hillis-Starr, Chief of RM, who has 30+ years of experience in natural resource management.  

Furthermore, the intern will also be mentored by Alexandra Gulick, a Ph.D. Candidate in Zoology at the University of Florida, Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research (ACCSTR). Alexandra will serve as the site host and guide for the new interns. Alexandra brings a wealth of experience in marine science and research, having held positions and conducted multiple projects with the federal government, universities, NGOs, and international research programs. She currently mentors multiple undergraduates assisting with projects conducted by the ACCSTR. In addition, she mentored an undergraduate student in the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates Program, whom has since designed, implemented, and published the results from an independent research project. In short, Alexandra has previous experience as a Biological Science intern for BISTRP, has served as a field leader at BUIS for subsequent Biological Science interns, and is consequently familiar with the resources and the island of St. Croix. Alexandra is an exemplary example for interns (particularly young women) looking for guidance as they pursue the next step in their professional development. We have the utmost confidence that intern involved in this project will be better prepared for advanced graduate degrees and/or careers with the Federal government.

Learning Goals:  

1. The intern will implement standardized protocol to evaluate critical marine habitat for threatened and endangered species. The intern will collect seagrass samples to assess changes in productivity and biomass, conduct surveys that assess seagrass community composition, record and analyze data related to experimental treatments, and execute laboratory techniques to analyze seagrass nutrient content. The Mosaics intern will also assess the ecological impacts of the green sea turtle recovery by evaluating the behavioral response of green sea turtles to simulated increases in grazing intensity. These responses will be assessed and quantified by analyzing video footage from stationary video cameras placed in turtle foraging plots in seagrass meadows.
2. The intern will contribute to the development of project education / outreach materials including the development of web-based interactive materials using the video footage they have reviewed. The Mosaics intern will also participate in presentations at local K-12 schools, hotels / resorts, and community seminars provided by the local Park Service and UF researchers.
3. The intern will become proficient scientific divers and adhere to NPS diving regulations and safety standards.  
4. The intern will participate in a mid-term and final evaluation modeled after the NPS employee performance and appraisal plans to simulate/train for employment with NPS.
5. The Mosaics intern will participate in multiple professional development workshops and seminars. Trainings will include resume/CV building, job application procedures and best practices, and guidance on presenting research for public outreach and education. 
 

QUALIFICATIONS
Education: Biology Degree (or related field; Zoology, Natural Resource Management, etc.) and/or professional experience required. Resource Management – some course work or experience preferred

Skills:

  • Boating – some experience (preferred)
  • Data Entry – competent with supervision
  • Field Research – competent with supervision
  • Swimming – competent without supervision

Once the intern have been selected for this position we will work with them to ensure they achieve the appropriate AAUS scientific diving certification/training. If absolutely necessary, NPS can bring the intern into their dive program. Prior to starting this position a government security background clearance will be required.

Applicant must have a valid driver's license and a good driving record in order to operate U.S. government vehicles. Use of government vehicles will be authorized for work related activities only. Activities include transportation to park property, field sites, and vendors.
 

Apply at mosaicsinscience.org! Questions? Email contact@mosaicsinscience.org.
 
Greening Youth Foundation (GYF, www.gyfoundation.org) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is to nurture environmental stewardship among diverse youth and young adults, while exposing them to conservation careers.
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