Sierra Nevada Forest Research Fellow – Pacific Southwest Research Station (USDA Forest Service)

Placerville, California

USFS Office/Lab and Location:

Fellowship opportunities are available with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (USFS) within the Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSWRS) located in Placerville, California.

At the heart of the U.S. Forest Service’s mission is their purpose. Everything they do is intended to help sustain forests and grasslands for present and future generations. Why? Because their stewardship work supports nature in sustaining life. This is the purpose that drives the agency’s mission and motivates their work across the agency. It’s been there from the agency’s very beginning, and it still drives them. To advance the mission and serve their purpose, the U.S. Forest Service balances the short and long-term needs of people and nature by: working in collaboration with communities and our partners; providing access to resources and experiences that promote economic, ecological, and social vitality; connecting people to the land and one another; and delivering world-class science, technology and land management.

The USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station leads research and development to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of forests and grasslands. The Pacific Southwest Research Station, along with its many partners, advances science to support sustainability and biodiversity of ecosystems, hydrologic functioning of watersheds, and the livability and provisioning of services across the wildland to urban gradient in California, Hawai‘i, the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands, as well as across the United States and around the world.

Research Project:

The USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station is seeking post-baccalaureate fellows to join a team researching vegetation and wildlife characteristics across forests of the Sierra Nevada in California. The field observations of our team will support a new project examining the effects of frequent fire on mature and old growth forest processes in an era of changing climate and disturbance. In the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU), observations will provide a modern comparison with historical datasets. Fellows will collaborate with forest and wildlife ecologists from multiple USFS research stations and universities. Teams will conduct field surveys from the LTBMU and the Plumas, Tahoe, Eldorado, Stanislaus, and Sierra national forests, during Spring-Fall 2024 in support of a two-year research effort (2024-2025). Team objectives may vary across the monitoring season to accommodate a range of research priorities, including the phenological patterns of observed systems (e.g. greater emphasis on avian wildlife monitoring during nesting season). The appointment will initially be for 20 weeks, but may be extended past the field season upon recommendation of USFS and is contingent on the availability of funds.

Learning Objectives:

Participants will gain hands-on experience alongside our team on a forest ecology research project. Participants will develop vegetation identification and monitoring skills, with an emphasis on evaluation of forest function in the context of disturbance. Participants will also learn wildlife data collection techniques for biodiversity assessments, including the deployment, retrieval, and maintenance of cameras and acoustic units. Fellows will gain experience in data management, project planning, and collaboration with research scientists and land managers across government agencies and universities. The participant will learn about the effects of frequent fire on individual trees, stands, and landscapes in the Sierra Nevada. Additional opportunities may include data analysis, data summarization, and delivering results to collaborators and the research community.


The mentors for this opportunity are Jeffrey Stenzel ( and Shale Hunter ( If you have questions about the nature of the research, please contact the mentor.

Anticipated Appointment Start Date:

May 15, 2024. Start date is flexible and will depend on a variety of factors.

Appointment Length:

The appointment will initially be for 20 weeks but may be extended upon recommendation of USFS and is contingent on the availability of funds.

Level of Participation:

The appointment is full time.

Participant Stipend:

The participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience.

Citizenship Requirements:

This opportunity is available to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), and foreign nationals. Non-U.S. citizen applicants should refer to the Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens Details page of the program website for information about the valid immigration statuses that are acceptable for program participation.

ORISE Information:

This program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and USFS. Participants do not become employees of USDA, USFS, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits. Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. Health insurance can be obtained through ORISE.


Please visit our Program Website. After reading, if you have additional questions about the application process please email and include the reference code for this opportunity.


The qualified candidate should be currently pursuing or have received an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in the one of the relevant fields (e.g. Forest Science, Ecology, Botany, Environmental studies).

Preferred skills:

  • Ability to hike and carry equipment (20 lbs) off-trail up to 2 miles.
  • A valid driver’s license.
  • Experience being outdoors and camping outdoors.
  • Forest ecological field research experience. Experience with forest mensuration and plant identification techniques.
  • Experience organizing field research schedules, data collection, and data processing.
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Computing & analysis proficiencies, including Excel, R, or GIS software. Experience with mobile data collection.

Click here for more information and to apply.

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