Ricketts Conservation Foundation (RCF) is conducting comprehensive monitoring, management, and research of the small and isolated population of Common Loons (Gavia immer) located in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). This study aims to understand the status of loons in the GYE as well as identify and understand threats against the population. Based on our findings we create solutions that mitigate anthropogenic threats and strengthen the population.
RCF also works with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Bridger-Teton National Forest on a long-term project to assess the impact of aspen regeneration projects and wildfires on songbird and small mammal communities. RCF will conduct Monitoring of Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) banding, small mammal trapping, vegetation surveys, and game monitoring via trail camera in the Monument Ridge area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
RCF will conduct this work with one crew of 5 operating across the GYE landscape and with time split as approximately 70% loon work and 30% MAPS/small mammal work. We will be hiring 1-2 new technicians in 2021. For the position running one of our two MAPS stations, see “Lead MAPS Bander/Biological Technician: Common Loons, MAPS Banding, and Small Mammals” position posted on TAMU and Ornithology Exchange.
Seasonal technicians will conduct the following tasks:
- Conduct loon surveys via shoreline, canoe, and motorboat to collect data related to loon demographics, nesting, behavior, habitat, and threats to nesting and survivorship
- Assist with the operations of a MAPS station: setting up and taking down nets, extracting and banding birds, overseeing volunteers, recording and entering field data
- Assist with running small mammal trapping grids: placing and baiting traps, checking traps, identifying and marking trapped animals, recording and entering data
- Deploy and collect trail cameras and review photos
- Conduct vegetation surveys corresponding to small mammal grids
- Participate in designing and implementing closures of lakes, shorelines, coves, campsites, trails, and access roads to protect nesting loons
- Assist in deploying or maintaining floating nest rafts for loons
- Participate in the capture and banding of loons
- Re-sight previously banded and color-marked loons
- Participate in qualitative habitat data collection
- Participate in data entry and analysis as needed
- Participate in or lead presentations on loons and the GYE loon project
- Coordinate, communicate, and collaborate with state, federal, industry, and NGO researchers as needed to ensure project goals
- Assist with other species work in the GYE
- All other duties as directed or assigned
Hours/Schedule: This is a full-time, seasonal position. Ideally, technicians will begin between April 15 and May 1 (with some flexibility in start date) and end August 31. Depending on the COVID-19 conditions at the time, we may ask technicians to quarantine in provided housing before beginning work. Weather and other factors will determine the work schedule, although a 40-hour workweek is required; some weeks may exceed 40 hours. We will work some nights and weekends. There will also be overnight backcountry travel up to 3-4 days in duration. MAPS banding and small mammal trapping will follow the MAPS 10-day period schedule.
Field Conditions: Seasonal Technicians will endure long hot days as well as long cold days. The majority of the work requires long hikes (2-8 miles one way, 0-2k ft elevation gain) as well as long hours in a vehicle to access trailheads. Some work requires traveling by canoe for extended periods of time. Technicians will encounter biting insects, including mosquitoes, which at times will be horrible. Weather is unpredictable even in the summer, and technicians will work in heat, thunderstorms, rain, sleet, hail, and snow. Some hiking will be off trail and over rough terrain. Technicians will need to work in marshes often requiring wading through water or mud. We encounter bears (black and grizzly) almost annually with this study but take appropriate bear safety precautions (training will be conducted and reinforced) and have never had any issues. Other dangerous wildlife we encounter include bison, elk, and moose. Non-wildlife hazards will be encountered in the field, but we strive to be safe and cautious in our approach to work as well as provide training on backcountry safety. We take a “Leave No Trace” approach to our work in the GYE and use other responsible backcountry practices.
Housing/Gear: Shared housing and transportation for work are provided. Technicians may live in a shared room for all or part of the field season. Technicians may sometimes use a personal vehicle for work purposes and will have mileage reimbursed. Applicants must be comfortable living in a rural area with few services nearby (an hour to the nearest grocery store) in a house without internet. There is cell service at our main housing unit. Applicants should be able to supply their own field gear for working in this area including, boots for hiking, gear for snow and rain, etc. Some field gear will be provided including bear spray, bug head nets, and safety equipment/gear. Technicians are expected to bring most of the gear required to camp in the backcountry. Technicians will need to secure their own transportation to and from field housing (Bondurant, WY), but RCF offers some assistance with travel costs.
Requirements: Applicants should have a degree in wildlife biology, wildlife management, biology, zoology, ecology, or a related discipline or be working towards completing a degree program. A valid driver's license and acceptable driving record is required. Priority will be given to applicants that have passerine banding/handling/mist net extraction experience and/or show an enthusiasm for the project and species as well as a strong desire to live and work in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Experience working and camping in the GYE, other remote backcountry locations, and/or grizzly habitat is a plus. Applicants should have a strong work ethic, be a quick learner, have good navigational skills, be an excellent team player while living and working with others for weeks on end, and be willing to do new and often difficult tasks. Prior experience with loons or waterbirds is preferred, but not required. Small mammal and vegetation survey experience is preferred but not required; training will be provided.
Preferred Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:
- Courses and/or work experience in wildlife biology and conservation, preferably with avian or aquatic species
- Experience identifying birds found in the Rockies/western North America
- Ability to work with a team of other researchers as well as work independently
- Ability and willingness to go on overnight backcountry camping trips in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
- Ability and willingness to live and work in close quarters with team members for long stretches of time
- A professional and positive approach to fieldwork and interacting with state and federal agencies, study collaborators, and the public
- Ability and willingness to work in adverse weather and environmental conditions
- Experience paddling canoes and/or operating motorboats
- Attention to detail and willingness to observe birds for long periods of time
- Excellent note-taking and organizational skills
- Boating skill and experience
- Experience using trail cameras for wildlife studies
- A genuine interest in learning about loons and the GYE
- Working knowledge of Microsoft Office programs, including Word, Excel, and Access
- Willingness and ability to work in a study area with the potential for bear encounters
Physical Demands: This is physically demanding work requiring long hours in the field. Technicians must be in excellent physical condition and must possess the ability to tolerate early mornings, weather extremes, rough water, hiking into remote lakes, long canoe trips, and the company of relentless mosquitoes while not using mosquito repellant. Applicants should be able to lift up to 50 lbs, carry a heavy backpack for up to 15 miles off trail in rough heavily-forested terrain, be comfortable working at altitude (6,000 – 10,000’), and have strong swimming skills. Applicants should be able to sit in a vehicle for long periods of time.
To apply please send a letter of interest, resume or CV, and at least 2 references to Arcata Leavitt (firstname.lastname@example.org). Applications must be received by February 19th, interviews may begin in January and early application is encouraged. The final candidates will have completed at least two rounds of interviews before hiring.