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  • Waterbird Breeding Ecology Study at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


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    • Employer: USFWS - Arctic NWR
      Location: Fairbanks, AK and Arctic Refuge
      Country: United States
      Last Date to Apply: 03/01/2019
      Open Until Filled: Yes

    Description of Work:

    Multiple positions are available and we are currently accepting applications for two field projects with Arctic Refuge. The first is investigating the breeding ecology and limiting factors to reproduction of tundra nesting birds (including shorebirds, geese, eiders, loons, gulls, and passerines) along the Canning River Delta and the second is investigating the breeding ecology and limiting factors of common eiders on barrier islands along the Beaufort Sea coast.

    Canning River Delta Project:

    Work will occur at a remote research camp along the Canning River in Arctic Refuge which offers amazing birding and arctic wildlife viewing opportunities. The position will begin mid-late May for training in Fairbanks before leaving for the field around the first week of June. Field work will conclude in late July to be followed by data management and equipment organization in Fairbanks until the beginning of August. Positions have the possibility for extension into the fall or spring depending on applicant’s interest, project necessity, and funding.

    The Canning River Delta study site in Arctic Refuge was established in the late 1970s and has since become the primary tundra nesting bird research station for the refuge. This is a collaborative project, and the crew will include up to 10 scientists and technicians from Manomet Inc. (https://www.manomet.org), ANWR (https://www.fws.gov/refuge/arctic), graduate students from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and technicians / volunteers. Field work will involve setup and maintenance of the remote camp, nest searching, trapping, measuring, and banding shorebirds and waterfowl, collecting tissue samples, and monitoring nests with time-lapse cameras. There will also be opportunities to engage with scientists working at the camp on lemmings, Arctic foxes, water quality, and botany projects. Field assistants typically work 10-12 hours/day, 7 days/week while in the field and 8-10 hours/day, 5-6 days/week while in the Fairbanks office. Technicians will be treated as a member of the broader team and will be involved in all aspects of the project.

    Field Conditions: The technician will be at the remote field camp from early June through mid-July and there will not be opportunities to take leave during that period. Conditions will generally be cold, windy, and buggy. Access to the site is by small single engine aircraft or helicopter. Camp life will be remote and primitive (tents only). During periods of bad weather, staff can be cut-off from any outside help for several days. Assistants will be required to carry firearms in the field for bear protection. Excellent physical condition is necessary to meet the strenuous demands. Crews will be exposed to long days hiking (up to 15-20 miles per day) in waders over very uneven tundra and wetlands while carrying a heavy backpack (30+ lbs); it will also be necessary to wade through icy ponds to access nests. The weather will be cold, wet, and windy (daytime highs in early June are generally around freezing and winds usually a constant 15-25 mph with many gusty days of constant 25-30 mph winds). There will also be LOTS of mosquitoes later in June and July. Candidates should have a strong interest in bird ecology, a desire to live in a remote field camp with almost no contact with the outside world for 6 weeks, and the ability to maintain a positive attitude and work well with others under difficult field conditions. 

    Common Eider Project:

    This project is investigating the breeding ecology and limiting factors of common eiders breeding on barrier islands along the Beaufort Sea coast. The position will begin in late May or early June and continue through August.  There may also be an opportunity to extend the position through spring 2020 depending on interest, necessity, and funding. Field work will occur both at remote spike camps along the Beaufort Sea coast and from the village of Kaktovik, Alaska.  All field work will be done by accessing islands using small (16-20’) inflatable boats. 
     
    The crew will consist of 1 University of Alaska graduate student, refuge staff, and 1-2 technicians. Field work will involve daily travel by boat to and from islands, nest searching, trapping breeding hens, measuring and banding birds, collecting tissue samples, and monitoring nests with time-lapse cameras. We may also capture post-breeding sea ducks using floating mist-nets to screen for disease. Field assistants typically work 7 days/week, 12 hours/day while in the field and 5-6 days/week while in the Fairbanks office. Technicians will be involved in all aspects of the project, including field work as well as setup and maintenance of camps and gear at remote sites. Before the field season, technicians will attend training, organize gear, and help with logistics at the Fairbanks office. After the field season, technicians will assist with data entry, video analysis, and maintenance of field gear at the Fairbanks office.
     
    Field conditions: It will be cold, windy, and wet. Boating will involve navigating the ice-choked Beaufort Sea in small inflatable boats up to 100 km from the nearest village. Crews will generally travel along the coast for 1-2 weeks at a time camping along the way. Spike camp life will be remote and primitive with no access to the outside world except for a satellite phone. During periods of bad weather, staff can be cut-off from any outside help for several days. Assistants will be required to carry firearms in the field for bear protection. Excellent physical condition is necessary to meet the strenuous demands. Crews will be exposed to long days hiking in waders (up to 15+ miles per day), cold, wet, windy weather, and traveling in unpredictable seas.

    Living Stipend: Technicians will be provided a living stipend which is also intended to cover food and housing costs in Fairbanks pre and post field deployment and airline costs to and from Fairbanks, Alaska.

    Food and Accommodations: While in Fairbanks technicians will be accommodated at the Fish and Wildlife Service Bunkhouse and BLM Fire Barracks. Food is the responsibility of the technician. While in the field, technicians will sleep in tents at remote camps where all food is provided.

    Requirements for both projects:

    ·       Strong interest in avian ecology

    ·       A desire to live in a remote field setting

    ·       The ability to maintain a positive attitude and work well with others under difficult, very isolated  field conditions

    ·       Willingness, physical ability, and desire to hike over uneven terrain carrying a 50 lb pack for 15 miles+ per day, 7 days a week. 

    ·       Available late May to early-mid August 2019

    ·       US Citizen, Permanent Resident, or otherwise permissible to work in the US

    Desired Qualifications:

    ·       Knowledge of the principles of waterfowl and shorebird biology and ecology, sufficient to complete field projects.

    ·       Marine boating experience

    ·       Electrical and mechanical skills, survival training, and extensive backcountry experience

    ·       Knowledge of nest searching, capturing, handling, banding, and collecting blood samples from waterfowl and shorebirds.

    ·       Experience working in field crews on avian biology studies or extensive subsistence hunting and fishing.

    ·       Experience living and working in remote field camps for extended periods where work conditions are hazardous and there is no immediate access to medical assistance.

    ·       Experience using a firearm for hunting, in the military, or for bear defense while conducting field work.

     

    Process: To apply, please email a letter of interest, resume, contact information for three references, unofficial transcripts, and completed questionnaire in a single pdf or word document to Elyssa Watford (emwatford@alaska.edu) and Laura Makielski (lkmakielski@alaska.edu). Please label the document “lastname_2019ArcticApplication”. Example: “Watford_2019Arctic Application”. Please title the email, “Interest in 2019 Arctic Refuge Projects”. In the body of your email, please indicate if you are interested in the Canning River Delta Project, Common Eider Project, or both. Only one application is required for those interested in both projects. Applications will be reviewed as they are received so we encourage those interested in the positions to send their documents AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Please feel free to contact Elyssa or Laura with any questions.

    Questionnaire:

    A. Do you have any reason to believe you will be unable to pass an FBI background check (necessary for partner computer access and carrying a firearm); this would include being convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?

     

    B. For each task in the following group, please BRIEFLY state your level of experience/expertise. For questions about animal handling, please state the number of individuals handled for that activity.

    1.     Identify North American waterfowl by sight.

     

    2.     Identify North American shorebirds by sight.

     

    3.     Use eBird for keeping daily species checklists.

     

    4.     Use a shotgun or rifle.

     

    5.     Conduct nest searching for waterfowl and shorebirds.

     

    6.     Trap waterfowl with bow nets, noose poles, and drop nets.

     

    7.     Trap shorebirds with bow nets.

     

    8.     Band waterfowl with leg bands and neck collars.

     

    9.     Band shorebirds with metal and plastic leg bands and flags.

     

    10.  Collect blood samples from birds.

     

    11.  Use nest cameras to collect bird behavior data.

     

    12.  Conduct small mammal and mesocarnivore trapping.

     

    13.  Enter and proof field data into a tablet (e.g. using Arc Collector, Trimble Terrasync, etc).

     

    14.  Work as part of a small team to collect biological data.

     

    15.  Follow detailed data collection protocols for research projects.

     

    16.  Work in remote and primitive field camps.

     

    17.  Operate outboard motorboats in unpredictable seas.

     

     



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