Illilouette Creek Basin, Yosemite National Park

Fire Ecology Field Technician & Botanist Positions Now Open

Job Description:

The Stephens Wildland Fire Lab at UC Berkeley is seeking a field crew of six employees to conduct fire ecology, forestry, botany, and bat acoustic surveys for the summer of 2022. The work will support two fire ecology studies and represent an opportunity to gain varied experience in some of California’s most dynamic and beautiful landscapes. 


Project 1: Managed wildfire in Sierra Nevada Wilderness

The study will investigate how the restoration of wildland fire in long fire-excluded areas influences forest structure, aboveground carbon, and plant and bat biodiversity in Yosemite National Park and the Ansel Adams Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest. Yosemite National Park has a nearly 50-year history of restoring natural fire for ecological benefit. Restoration of natural wildfire patterns through managed wildfire are being expanded to other areas including the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Results from this study may guide policy and fire management strategies in the Sierra Nevada intended to increase ecosystem resilience in a rapidly changing world. Backcountry forest inventories will be conducted along with acoustic monitoring of bat populations.


The crew will be hired for May through early August, with potential extension into September. We seek 2 technicians plus one experienced botanist. The crew will assist in field preparation, data management, and data collection. Work will primarily consist of five- to eight-day backpacking trips into each wilderness area, but may also include front country camping while assisting project 2 (below) early in the season depending on snow pack and wilderness access. Crew members must be able to carry a backpack weighing up to 50 pounds for up to 10 miles, have experience and willingness to work in inclement weather conditions, and be familiar with, or willing to learn, backcountry navigation and safety procedures.


Project 2: Calibrating post-fire field measurements with remotely sensed fire severity assessments in non-conifer dominated vegetation types.


The goal of this study is to improve understanding of post-fire conditions in non-conifer-dominated ecosystems. This project will focus on calibrating and validating remotely sensed fire severity indices with post-fire field data collected in shrub and mixed-hardwood-dominated ecosystems to determine how they relate to post-fire mortality and recovery dynamics. Remotely-sensed post-fire assessments have become a critical tool in determining the ecological impacts of wildfires, especially in conifer forests, and results from this study may help improve ecological understanding and inform post-fire management in other relatively understudied, yet critically important, ecosystems in California.

We seek 3 technicians, preferably with some general field work and plant identification experience. The field season will run from approximately mid-May through mid-August.  During this time, crew members will assist in field preparation, as well as data collection, management, and entry. Field work will mostly be conducted in shrub and mixed-hardwood sampling sites for Project 2 as described above, but may include assisting with sampling for other lab projects throughout the summer field season as needed. Work will primarily consist of front country camping in four-to eight- day excursions in remote sampling areas throughout California, but may include backpacking trips to assist with other lab projects. Crew members must be able to carry a backpack weighing up to 50 pounds for up to 10 miles, have experience and willingness to work in steep terrain and  inclement weather conditions, and be familiar with, or willing to learn and follow, field safety procedures.   


Please apply by 1/21/2022 for full consideration. Interviews will occur in late January and continue until applicants are selected. Please send cover letter, resume, and contact information for two references as a single PDF to zlsteel[at]berkeley.edu and hmfertel[at]berkeley.edu with the subject “Fire Ecology Position”. Please specify which project(s) you would like to be considered for, whether you are applying for a technician and/or botanist position and whether you would like to be considered for the role of crew leader. Pay rate will be approximately $16-18/hour, depending on prior experience and demonstrated ability to lead a field crew. Additional information can be found at https://nature.berkeley.edu/stephenslab/ or by email inquiry. University of California students (including graduating seniors) are especially encouraged to apply.


The Stephens lab is committed to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion and in fostering a sense of belonging for all its members. We will work to build field crew communities free of discrimination and harassment and expect all crew members to actively participate in fostering safe working environments for all.


Employee’s Qualifications

Candidates must have a strong interest and demonstrated skill in: fire, forests, shrubland, and/or wildlife ecology, and data management; Attention to detail and on-the-fly problem solving in the field, with computers, and in a team setting; Inter-personal skills and desire to work in a team; Backpacking for many days at a time; Spending long physically challenging hours in the field, often in rough terrain and variable weather conditions; Enjoying the perks of backcountry field work (alpine sun-sets and swimming in creeks) and hardships (mosquitos and bushwhacking through shrublands) alike. 


Required qualifications

  • Coursework in either forestry, botany, wildlife, fire ecology, or related fields
  • Strong teamwork skills, ability to work well with colleagues from diverse backgrounds, and flexibility are a must.
  • Must be able to operate a vehicle safely.
  • Basic equipment and data management skills.
  • Flexibility will be essential; schedules will be variable across the season due to different responsibilities and project priorities.
  • Adherence to COVID-related public health and UC Berkeley guidelines.

Preferred qualifications

  • Medical training such as Wilderness First Responder, and experience applying these skills in field settings.
  • For technician positions, at least two full years of undergraduate work completed
  • Leadership or managerial experience, especially in field situations
  • Wilderness experiences including, but not restricted to backpacking (project 1).
  • For botanist position, practical botany experience especially with Sierra Nevada plants, or demonstrated ability to quickly gain proficiency identifying new plants to species (project 1).