Dinosaur National Monument

Science Communication and Resource Monitoring Intern  -  Jensen, UT

Position Type: LHIP Internship
Primary Field: Interpretation/Education

This internship will provide opportunities to observe, develop, and practice science communication strategies through a multidisciplinary project that combines interpretation/education with invertebrate research at Dinosaur National Monument (DNM).

The interpretation/education component of the internship focuses on researching, developing and presenting interpretive programs that integrate citizen science into the visitor experience. Interpretation at DNM includes well-established programs to communicate topics of geology, paleontology, and dark skies to a variety of audiences, especially children. This internship will include participating in the established interpretive schedule of providing visitor services and public programs at the Quarry Visitor Center, Quarry Exhibit Hall, and Campgrounds alongside other interpretive staff. This internship will also include developing new interpretive programs or products that support a new natural resource study on two butterfly species that began in 2019.

The natural resource monitoring and research component of the internship focus on a status assessment of two butterfly species of concern, the monarch and Great Basin silverspot butterflies. The intern will be responsible for conducting field surveys to collect baseline data on milkweed presence and monarch and silverspot butterfly occurrence and habitat preference. Surveys will occur at both established/designated plots and in "opportunistic" plots at both DNM and the greater Uinta Basin. Standardized citizen science-based protocols will be used for milkweed and nectar plant surveys, egg and larvae, and adult surveys, and tracking parasitism and survival. The intern will also be made available to assist other local federal and state agencies with similar data collection as requested. There may also be an opportunity to conduct these same surveys across eastern Utah in partnership with the State of Utah.

The primary final product will be the submission of all project data to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to inform listing considerations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) via the citizen science-driven Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program. Tagging and parasite data collected during the project are provided to Southwest Monarch Study and Project Monarch Health.

Other final products include a summary report of monarch and silverspot activity for DNM resource management archives and a presentation of findings to partners and staff. Additionally, an opportunity to co-author a peer-reviewed paper on the western monarch population may exist in cooperation with Southwest Monarch Study following the internship.

Background on Monarch and Great Basin Silverspot in DNM

The monarch is currently proposed to be listed as a federally “threatened” species under the ESA. As such, the USFWS is gathering data on the monarch’s range, population numbers, habitat, breeding success, and threats. A listing decision is expected in December 2020. While monarchs in the eastern United States are well understood, less is known about monarchs west of the Continental Divide. Of specific interest is understanding where western monarchs migrate to for the winter and what route they take. DNM is located in the easternmost portion of the western monarch population's range. DNM began limited monitoring of monarchs in 2017-2018 as a result of a new partnership with the Southwest Monarch Study. A comprehensive monitoring program began in earnest in 2019 with the award of an LHIP intern to DNM. This 2020 internship will continue the foundational work completed in 2019, with the possibility to expand surveys to more locations throughout eastern Utah, the Uinta Basin, and on private lands. DNM is a lead partner in a regional effort of federal, state, and local agencies dedicated to pollinator conservation and education of the local community, with a focus on monarchs.

The Great Basin silverspot butterfly is also under consideration for protected status under the ESA in 2021. Little is known about the silverspot’s biology and habits but has been documented in DNM in the recent past during an informal survey. There were no silverspot butterflies found in DNM during a limited 2019 survey. However, additional sites with perennial water and the larval host plant need to be surveyed in 2020.

Qualifications

  • Applicants should have a strong desire to work with a wide range of public audiences, especially children. Public speaking skills or a background in education or interpretation is not required. Candidates who are able to balance the careful following of protocols with creative thinking are encouraged to apply.
  • Fieldwork will involve using a butterfly net, field guide, camera, Samsung tablet, GPS unit, and binoculars. Successful applicants do not need to be an invertebrate expert but will have basic fieldwork experience and a strong interest in applied species conservation. Applicants should be able to hike short to medium (up to 2 miles) distances over easy to moderate terrain and be comfortable moving about independently in front country environments. Limited backcountry fieldwork may occur but will always be with a companion.

Work Environment

The work is split between the field (60%) and office (40%). Fieldwork can include exposure to extreme weather conditions and terrain, biting insects, domestic livestock, and wild animals. DNM regularly hosts summer interns and volunteers for projects such as trail building and maintenance, cultural surveys, various natural resource projects, paleontology research, and general visitor and interpretive services.

Driver's License

Transportation to DNM and for personal needs requires a personal vehicle and valid driver's license. An appropriate government vehicle for the intern to use for field work will be provided. A driving record search will be performed and the intern’s ability to drive a park vehicle will be contingent upon the results. Examples that will preclude an intern from driving a park vehicle include DUIs, multiple moving vehicle violations, suspended or revoked license, or three or more accidents (regardless of fault) in the last 3 years.