Resource Conservation Assistant (DHA)

 In Mosaics in Science
The DHA Resource Assistant internship (DHA-RA) is a unique internship opportunity within the Department of the Interior (DOI). The objective is to build a pathway to employment in the DOI for exemplary students in higher education.  DHA-RA interns will apply natural resource science expertise to NPS management and build a network with federal employees throughout the internship. These rigorous internships require specialized expertise and typically are available to upper level undergraduate or graduate students or recent graduates. The internships are designed to develop the participant's technical and creative thinking abilities, leadership skills, and problem-solving capabilities.  DHA-RA interns will receive a weekly stipend of $480, park-provided housing or a housing allowance, and paid travel expenses.  DHA-RA interns who successfully complete the internship requirements receive a 2-year eligibility period starting from the date of their degree during which they can be non-competitively hired by the DOI. Successful completion of the internship does not guarantee that the participant will be hired in to a federal position.  

The DHA-RA internship is focused on full representation of women and participants from Historically Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific Islander, and Native American schools or other schools with diverse student populations. In order to be eligible for a DHA–RA Internship, applicants must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent legal resident ("green-card-holder”) and enrolled or within one year of graduating from an institution of higher education.  

Position Description: This internship will provide students with a practical experience in natural resource management while contributing to the collection of data and implementation of projects that benefit will resources at 2 national parks (Valley Forge NHP and Hopewell Furnace NHS). The intern will be involved with a variety of activities including habitat enhancement and conservation projects to protect rare or significant native populations, participation in the park planning process and work with summer youth crews and outreach. Interns will assist in data collection and management, including but not limited to, mapping distribution and abundance of target species (both native and non-native) using GPS units (both Trimble and Garmin), collecting data on wildlife, uploading and managing data files to GIS, and input and QA/QC process for species monitoring databases.  

This position will work closely with volunteers and may have the opportunity to serve in a co-leadership role during volunteer projects that run throughout the summer. The Conservation Assistant will also be required to complete two independent research projects by the end of the position. The first project will be to evaluate the native and non-native (specifically cabbage white) butterfly response to different field treatments that target non-native garlic mustard at Valley Forge. As a taxa dependent on specific host plants for survival, understanding butterfly diversity and response to treatment is a key part of our management strategy in both parks. The intern will review past data and research conducted in the parks as well as other sources, develop an  approved study proposal is based on scientifically sound principles, produce a final report, and prepare and present project findings for staff. Throughout the experience, the intern will also assist in developing social media content for the Facebook and Instagram accounts as well as other media for public distribution with specific content related to his/her research project.

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:

  • Completion of a research project on the response of non-native cabbage white butterfly density to various host plant treatments including written project proposal, final paper, presentation, and all associated metadata  
  • 3 social media posts for park sites related to experiences as an intern or the research project  

Physical/Natural Environment: Valley Forge National Historical Park (VAFO) is home to over 1,300 species of vascular plants and vertebrates, contains a variety of vegetation communities (e.g. forest, meadows, wetlands), and includes significant water resources (e.g. Schuylkill River, Valley Creek). Located approximately 20 miles northwest of center city Philadelphia, Valley Forge is the site of the 1777-1778 winter encampment of the Continental Army. The position will be based at VAFO. Hopewell Furnace NHP is the best example of an early iron forge and is a mix of agricultural fields and forests. It is situated in the 13,000 acre Hopewell Big Woods region and contains significant natural resources. Climate is typical mid-Atlantic Summers with high humidity and temperatures ranging from the low 80s to high 90s. Grocery store is within a short drive as are other facilities, including King of Prussia mall.

Work Environment: This position will require a mix of field and office work and the ability to walk over varied terrain. The parks have some low mounts that contain trails for hiking and field work.  Intern should expect field work to continue in hot weather as well as rain, except during conditions deemed unsafe (high winds, lightening). Exposure to stinging insects and plants (poison ivy, nettle) and other general field conditions should be expected. The parks have one venomous snake species however, encounters are unlikely.

Mentoring: Interns will work closely with natural resources staff and other division staff (GIS specialist, Chief of Planning and Resource Management) throughout the internship experience and will report directly to the natural resource manager. At a minimum, will meet daily with the resource manager or ecologist to review duties, tasks, and project progress and meet weekly with the natural resource manager to discuss internship progress. The intern will work in the shared office space with the natural resource staff and will be afforded the opportunity to participate in a variety of resource management activities as part of the learning experience. They will be assigned a peer mentor that will also help with orientation and training throughout their experience. During orientation, interns are asked to complete a personal growth / internship goals and expectations form and discuss it with their supervisor. These goals and expectations will help the resource manager connect the intern with opportunities that arise within their interests. A mid-point check-in will assess progress toward those goals and also provide an opportunity to modify these goals based on his/her experience. Opportunities will be provided for intern involvement in planning efforts such as the Meadow management plan and attendance at meetings with partners and community groups as well as promoting cross-training with other divisions (e.g. participate in living history programs, attending federal court) and interaction with other seasonal staff, volunteers, and youth crews to diversify their experience.

Learning Goals: Interns will receive both training/education and job experience. All interns will begin their experience with an orientation period that will include time to familiarize themselves with the mission and values of the NPS, the park, and local community partners through various formal and informal learning opportunities. Task-related training will also occur both formally and informally to ensure understanding of why, what, when, and how a project will be implemented.  Youth will also gain skills and experience in multiple natural resource related career fields including integrated pest management (invasive plants and animals), vegetation and wildlife management, water resource management, natural resource interpretation, resource inventory and monitoring, data management, and park planning. This experience will provide a job experience that will facilitate obtaining future full-time employment in their field of choice as well as developing leadership and teamwork skills. Interactions with multiple natural resource related career fields and opportunities to work with partner scientists will also expand professional development opportunities.

Leadership Development: The project supervisor in collaboration with the selected DHA intern will develop a Mentoring and Leadership Development Plan catered to the intern's specific interests and skills. The intern will work closely with an assigned mentor who will work to foster success with training and project goals. Additional NPS training opportunities will be made available as time and schedules allow.

Intern will work closely with the natural resource manager to develop the independent research project; however, the project will be the responsibility of the intern. S/he will be expected to establish a project timeline and to meet goals and objectives as appropriate. The intern will be largely responsible for managing and presenting their own projects with the help of staff. Performance evaluations will be conducted at the mid-point and end of their experience and regular progress meetings will help the park identify how we can contribute toward personal development goals and to improve the experience for future applicants. A leadership and mentoring development plan will be prepared and reviewed with the intern.  

Presenting Project Results: The intern will be required to prepare a final paper that will be uploaded to IRMA as well as included in the park archives. Additionally, s/he will prepare a PowerPoint presentation of results to park staff and interested affiliates (meadow management planning team, Academy of Natural Science partners) before the end of the term. 


  • A degree or major in a field of study related to biological science (e.g. wildlife and fisheries science, biology, forestry, environmental science etc.) with a minimum GPA of 2.5 – preference for entomological experience
  • Must possess a valid driver's license
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Applicants must pass a criminal background check that will require fingerprinting
  • Ability to hike over varied terrain and operate basic equipment (GPS, compass, cellphone)
  • Experience with Microsoft Office Products (e.g. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)

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. A driver's license is required. A government vehicle will be provided to move around and between parks. A personal vehicle is recommended but not required if living in the park – public transportation is available within walking distance of housing but has a limited schedule. 

Park housing is available. Dorm-style housing, you may have a roommate. Housing has a communal kitchen, living room and bathroom. Kitchen appliances and furnishings are provided, bedding not provided, WiFi, TV / Video available. Housing is within walking distance to office. NRM bicycle provided. Personal vehicle is recommended but not required. One bus stop is located within a short distance to housing; however, no other public transportation links are in the park.

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Greening Youth Foundation (GYF, 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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