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Ecological Monitoring Field Lead

The Great Basin Institute is an interdisciplinary field studies organization that promotes environmental research, education, and service through the West. The Institute’s mission is to advance applied science and ecological literacy through community engagement and agency partnerships, supporting national parks, forests, open spaces, and public lands.

The Ecological Monitoring Program at GBI serves as an excellent professional development opportunity for natural resource professionals looking for experience in botanical, soil, and rangeland surveying. This Program is a component of our well-established Research Associate Program, which focuses on the conservation and management of natural, cultural, and recreation resources in the Intermountain West while providing emerging professionals opportunities to begin or enhance their careers.

GBI’s Ecological Monitoring Program is dedicated to providing hands-on survey, inventory, monitoring, and reporting experience. Extensive training and technical field skills development offers employees a unique opportunity to obtain valuable experience in performing a variety of monitoring protocols that will increase future success. 

In one component of the Program, participants implement the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) strategy for terrestrial systems, targeted at collecting standardized ecological information and long-term vegetation data at multiple scales across western BLM districts. In some instances participants may perform supplemental protocols such as Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health (IIRH) and Habitat Assessment Framework (HAF) (to inform conservation approaches for sage-grouse). Supplemental sampling may also include collecting data on forb diversity and pollinators, among other indicators. Select locations will apply AIM sampling to post-wildfire Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (ESR) monitoring.

This video ( highlights the national BLM AIM strategy for landscape-scale data collection across western states. 

GBI is recruiting Ecological Monitoring Field Technicians to work with GBI and BLM staff. Each Field Tech will work with one other tech under the supervision of a Field Lead to characterize vegetation using the terrestrial AIM protocols. In some instances, Describing/Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health (D/IIRH), Habitat Assessment Framework (HAF), and/or other supplemental protocols will be performed, for which training will be provided. Aside from core AIM sampling, any supplemental protocols implemented will vary by location.

Duties include following established field protocols to perform vegetation sampling and field data collection at new and existing sampling plots. Data will be used by resource specialists and land managers to inform decisions regarding land management at various temporal and spatial scales. During field work, car camping for 7 night “hitches” in remote location will be typically be required.
Dependent on performance and completion of work term this position can qualify for Public Lands Corps (PLC) status given that the applicant is 30 years old or younger at the time of GBI employment. This status will last two years from the end of GBI employment.

Field work will include:
- Maintaining safety awareness and practices;
- Extensive 4x4 driving on unmaintained roads and navigating off-trail to sampling sites;
- Establishing sampling plots and transects;
- Identifying and describing soil horizons to help verify ecological site descriptions (ESDs);
- Collecting vegetation data (including species inventory, forb frequency, sagebrush shape, foliar cover, canopy gap, and herbaceous and woody heights);
- Making qualitative range assessments; and
- Taking photo-points.

Additional duties include:
- Regular communication with GBI support staff and BLM staff;
- Participation in GBI and agency trainings;
- Entering data into both Arc Collector and Survey 123 software;
- Managing ArcGIS Online databases;
- Identifying plants to species and subspecies using dichotomous keys; and
- Employing extensive quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) data checks.

Leadership duties:
- Supporting and managing a field crew;
- Coordinating field logistics and scheduling; and
- Report writing and completing administrative paperwork

Contract Timeline:
Locations and timelines listed below are tentative, some with potential for extension. Crews will be based out of either the Las Vegas or Reno GBI Offices but work in the following BLM Field Office (FO’s) areas:

Based in Reno, NV
- Ukiah, California: March - July 2021
- Bishop, California: April - September 2021
- Northern Nevada: April to October 2021

Based in Las Vegas, NV
- Southern Nevada: February to July or September 2021

Multiple locations available depending on start date and length of contract. Please reference Contract Timeline details.

Compensation and Benefits:
Total approximate compensation: $3278.30/month before taxes (approximate hourly equivalent: $20.49), plus health insurance (monthly premiums fully paid by GBI) and paid time off.

$1,368 bi-weekly salary
$150 bi-weekly untaxed housing stipend to be used at your discretion
$15 per diem for every night camping (up to 7 units in an 8 day work week)
$16.15 bi-weekly cell phone reimbursement
Health insurance including vision and dental at no cost to the employee
Paid federal holidays
Paid personal time off (amount dependent on contract length)

Job Qualifications:
General and educational requirements:
- Crew Leads should have education and experience in plant identification and/or soil characterization, as well as leadership experience, including supervising field crews and managing multiple projects simultaneously.
- Bachelor’s degree in botany, biology, ecology, or rangeland ecology, or other natural resources field, with at least 9 semester hours in plant or biological sciences, or a minimum of 1 year of field data collection and plant identification;


- Bachelor’s degree in plant biology or soil science or similar with at least 9 semester hours in soils or a minimum of 1 year field data collection describing soils. Any of the four certifications from the Soil Science Society of America may substitute for education or experience.
Technical requirements:
- Coursework or equivalent experience in plant taxonomy and/or systematics
- Experience identifying plants in the field and using a dichotomous key;
- Experience describing and identifying soil horizons (familiarity with NRCS soil databases and Ecological Site Description concepts preferred);
- Experience conducting plant surveys using various monitoring protocols, including standard rangeland monitoring protocols, photo plots, and site observations;
- Experience with data entry and management;
- Experience with technical writing and/or producing written project summary reports;
- Ability to read, interpret and navigate using topographic maps;
- Experience navigating and collecting coordinates with hand-held GPS units;
- Experience creating maps and performing basic functions with GIS software (ArcMap); and
- Experience with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Access), ArcCollector, Survey 123, and ArcGIS Online.
- Willingness to safely operate a 4WD truck on paved and unpaved surfaces, often in remote areas with unpredictable road conditions;
- Willingness to safely operate a UTV in remote areas; 
- Ability to live, work, and supervise crews in remote locations for prolonged periods of time; 
- Ability to maintain a positive working environment during difficult working conditions.
Additional requirements:
- Willingness and ability to work in a fast-paced, dynamic setting, and to consistently meet high performance standards. This includes maintaining a strong work and team ethic in support of the goals and objectives of the AIM program and the mission of GBI;
- Valid, state-issued driver’s license and clean driving record;
- Ability to complete a Department of Interior (DOI) Background Investigation (BI) and submit paperwork prior to employment indicating that an active or fully adjudicated BI has been started or completed;
- Familiarity with native and invasive plants of the sampling area and associated natural resource issues preferred;
- Ability to work productively as part of a team to accomplish mutual goals;
- Ability to work independently;
- Ability to communicate effectively with team members, agency staff, and a diverse public;
- Ability to accurately complete administrative tasks on time i.e. timesheets, paperwork, etc.
- Excellent organizational skills;
- Familiarity with best practices for field safety and Leave No Trace principles;
- Willingness to spend multiple days camping in the field;
- Willingness to work irregular hours (e.g., early mornings, late nights);
- Ability to work in harsh and rapidly changing environments and all types of weather, traverse uneven terrain, carry upwards of 40 pounds in a backpack, and otherwise maintain good physical condition; and
- Provide personal camping equipment, backpack, field clothes and hiking boots.
Please indicate your availability and top three location preferences in your cover letter when applying. Application review will continue until all positions are filled. We encourage applying early to gain the best chance of getting top-choice locations. Only qualified candidates will be contacted.