Position Title: Ecology Assistant
Park Unit: Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Number of positions available: 1
Can this position be fully remote: NO

Duration: 26 Weeks

Start Date: 3/4/2024
Flexible Start Date:

Weekly Stipend: $625.00
Relocation Allowance: $400.00

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST, or A.T.) is 2,194 miles long, traversing 14 states from Georgia to the Maine. From its northern terminus at Katahdin in Maine, the Trail follows the hills and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States to its southern terminus at Springer Mountain in Georgia. The A.T. and its surrounding land protects a wide range of habitats, species, watersheds, views, and historic sites. For generations, people who live nearby or visit from afar have valued it as a place for recreation, solitude, biological diversity, clean air and water, nature study, and connection to the land and one another. Because the Trail spans 11° of latitude in the temperate zone and over 6,500 feet of elevation, it is also an excellent area for understanding how species’ phenology is related to climate and how phenological change is related to climate change. A number of ongoing NPS monitoring efforts provide valuable datasets to evaluate such natural resources conditions. However, an inventory of plants, animals, and other lifeforms along the full length of the A.T. corridor would be useful to Park managers in evaluating biodiversity of this resource and to track the health of ecosystems in the face of accelerating climate change. Building on an iNaturalist project called the Flowers and Fauna along the Appalachian Trail Corridor launched in 2019 we can leverage mobile technology, crowdsourcing tools and techniques to amass helpful and robust data for resource managers and research scientists. The A.T. community science intern will continue to promote this long-term iNaturalist project as part of a set of mountain focused phenology projects overseen by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). These projects will focus on plant phenology, adding to a growing mountain database that AMC is using to examine the flowering and fruiting time of a set of bioindicator plants in the context of changing climate. The intern project will assist AMC researchers as they develop recommendations and educational outreach content for A.T. resource managers that can be shared with other park units. Additionally, the intern will update the dataset that is the foundation for tracking climate change bioindicator species, plant flowering distributions across latitudes and elevation based on A.T. trail wide data. The intern will: (1) perform field surveys in their local areas using the iNaturalist app themselves; (2) recruit and train hikers to participate at 2-3 planned events; (3) curate iNaturalist observations to maximize the usability of phenology data, (4) update a report with AMC researchers including identifying and incorporating (as feasible) other National Park units phenology data that are within the corridor. Trainings will be done both in person (as allowed under local COVID restrictions) and via webinars. Observations on iNaturalist will be curated by the intern with a focus on plant identification, plant phenology bioindicators, and descriptive fields for phenology. This will allow comparison with other AMC iNaturalist projects (e.g. NET) that are tracking these same plants and phenophases. Data can also be curated by the iNaturalist community and other trained project managers. The intern will promote the program through partners networks such as blog posts, web page content that links to the iNaturalist project, and contributions to social media.


This position will build on an existing community science monitoring program that will inventory biological resources along the A.T. corridor. The National Park Service (NPS) preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. Recently, NPS has recognized the importance of understanding biodiversity and preparing for change in these protected lands; long-distance corridors like the A.T. provide a useful gradient for assessing habitats and potential for shifting assemblages as climate changes. Building on an iNaturalist project called the Flowers and Fauna along the A.T. Corridor launched in 2019 we can leverage mobile technology and crowdsourcing tools to make this approach feasible, and also provide a conduit for public engagement and education, making it easier and more efficient to meet our NPS mission. While NPS units collect natural resource information generally, trail wide data collection is cumbersome due to resource availability. The A.T. community science intern’s contributions to the A.T. iNaturalist project will help the trail managers learn more about the trail’s biological resources and how they may be impacted by climate change through collaboration with the AMC’s phenology work. Data and a report updated by the intern will also be used to educate the public about the biodiversity of the region and the importance of preserving mountain ecosystems and landscape connectivity in the face of climate change.


At the completion of this internship, the intern will have expanded the A.T. iNaturalist project that will continue after the term of this project in collaboration with the AMC, generated participation, trained partners, and curated and summarized data collected during the intern’s term in a template form that can be updated. The intern will have conducted analysis for the project that will inform which species are the strongest bioindicators of climate change and updated the report for this long-term monitoring effort for future contributions, an important management resource and educational engagement tool.


  • Strong independent work skills, outdoor hiking experience; presentation or public speaking experience; upper level undergraduate or graduate student with at least 9-12 credit hours of environmental sciences with an outdoor field component.
  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent legal resident (“green-card-holder”). Prior to starting this position, a government security background clearance will be required.

Physical/Natural Environment: Work location will be at Gorham, NH or at intern's home base in New England. The Appalachian Scenic Trail is 2,194 miles long, traversing 14 states from Georgia to the Maine. However, the intern is not expected to visit the full trail extent and will have a more local focal area and work with partners to address other regions of the trail. Summers in the region can be hot and humid. Work Environment: Work will be a combination of field and office base. When collecting data in the field or doing on site trainings, intern may be spending considerable time standing and hiking. Intern may be subject to rain, full sun, high heat, biting and stinging insects, poison ivy and the potential for dehydration during field work. Some regions are remote.


  • Yes, applicant will need a valid driver's license in order to drive a government vehicle.
  • A personal vehicle is RECOMMENDED but not required for this position.

No. Park housing is NOT availabe. The intern will be responsible for finding housing in the nearby area.
AMC anticipates that recruitment could occur locally, and that SIP housing may not be needed. However, AMC has had success in helping interns and seasonal employees find affordable and safe housing in the area. AMC also connects interns and other incoming personnel to onsite employees and other local housing resources such as nearby college campuses and organization partners. Flexibilities exist for the intern to work on site, remotely, or a hybrid combination.

biological monitoring, climate change, biodiversity, community science, plant phenology